Thursday, March 08, 2018

The Braid Hills Ladies

The Clydesdale Bank was for many years a great supporter of women's curling in Scotland. The bank first came aboard in October 1977, when the national competition was to find a team to represent Scotland at the European Championship. The European playdown the following year was called the Clydesdale Bank Scottish Ladies Curling Championship. In 1979 this competition was to lead to a world ladies championship, for the first time. The Clydesdale Bank's sponsorship of the national championship continued. For the 1987-88 season, a new trophy was commissioned. That's it above, from the February 1988 Scottish Curler, without photo credit.

For its time it was rather unusual. On the glass slab on the top of the trophy was etched an old photograph, more about which below. At the time of the presentation of the new trophy Ian McLellan was Public Relations Manager for the Clydesdale Bank, and his 'assistant' was Alan Sloan, who is still well known to curlers today as the chair of the Glynhill organising committee. The Clydesdale Bank sponsorship came to an end in 1992, after sixteen years.

Here are the first winners of the new trophy in 1988, from the February 1988 Scottish Curler, uncredited: (L-R) Sheena Drummie, Kimmie Brown, Margaret Scott and Christine Allison (skip), who beat Jane Gallagher and her team of Kathy Cameron, Billie-May Muirhead and Jennifer Blair, 6-3 in the final at Kirkcaldy.

The curling historian will want to know more of the old photograph etched onto the new trophy.  It shows women on the ice at the Braid Estate Recreation Grounds, Edinburgh on a rink on the tennis courts. The Braid Tennis Club occupies the site today. The use of tennis courts for winter curling was not uncommon in the early years of the twentieth century.

The photo can be found in the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual for 1902-03. It was reproduced in the Scottish Curler magazine of September 1955, from which this image is scanned. Unfortunately, the photographer is not recorded in either the Annual nor the magazine. But it can be dated fairly accurately, most likely to the winter of 1901-02.

Here is what is recorded in the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual for 1902-03:


THIS club, composed of three rinks, was formed in the winter of 1901-2, at a meeting held in the Tennis Club Pavilion, the use of which is kindly granted to the club during the curling season.

A president (Miss E W Hardy), vice-president, secretary, and executive committee were appointed. The club is under the patronage of Lady Gordon Cathcart, proprietrix of the Cluny estate.

The ice is made by means of spraying the ash tennis courts; and within six to eight hours a beautiful sheet of ice is obtained. At the close of each day's play the ice is renewed by spraying, which only occupies about fifteen minutes, and 'new leads' are ready for the morning. The rinks are arranged to run across the tennis courts, which, being over fifty yards in breadth, give full-length tees.

A new use is thus shown for tennis courts, which previously lay useless during the winter months. This is a suggestion which is worthy of being taken up by country clubs who have difficulty in finding good and safe ice. School play-grounds could be largely utilised for skating and sliding-places for the children. As the ice is from a quarter of an inch to any thickness, resting on the solid ground, there is no fear of a ducking!

Ice curtains are hung round the rinks, and do good service in keeping off the rays of the sun, which is often more powerful in winter than in summer now-a-days. The Braid Estate Recreation Grounds are beautifully situated near the Braid Hills, and at the foot of Blackford Hill, the scene which Sir Walter Scott spoke of as so dear to him in his boyhood. It is three minutes walk from train and car.

A gentleman's club has been in existence for two or three years, and some roaring games have been enjoyed. The use of the tennis pavilion is a great boon, for there is a capital gas stove where hot soup, coffee, etc, call be easily made. Several exciting games and matches were played by the ladies, and the club received challenges from the Hamilton and Broughty Ferry ladies' clubs. A thaw unfortunately prevented them being accepted, but the Braid Ladies hope to meet them both next season.

A pair of stones presented by Mrs Forrest, the vice-president, were played for by the club, and won by Miss E Dunn, who was also presented with a pair of silver-mounted handles by Edward Bayley, Esq."

I was excited when first reading the above, not only because it records the use of the tennis courts in some details, but it also seemed to record another pioneering women's curling club, joining the list of Hercules Ladies, Boghead Ladies, Balyarrow Ladies and Cambo Ladies as well as the 'ladies section' of the Broughty Ferry CC, not forgetting Henrietta Gilmour and her team, from Lundin and Montrave CC, see here, all active on the ice at the beginning of the twentieth century.

But all is not what it seems. The Braid Hills Ladies did not exist as a separate club for long, and perhaps never had an identity separate from the men.

You see, the Braid Estate Recreation Grounds Curling Club was not admitted to the Royal Club until the Annual Meeting of the Representative Members of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, held in the Royal Hotel, Edinburgh on July 30, 1903. The Braid Hills Estate club was proposed by Colin Moffat, of the Waverley CC, seconded by the Reverend John Kerr, and was one of eleven new clubs joining the national body that year.

But this was not a women's club. The club membership roster in the 1903-04 Annual shows there were twenty-seven male Regular and Occasional members, with an additional fifteen women, listed as 'Occasional' Lady Members. One has to ask why the original aspirations of the women to form their own club, as recounted two years earlier, had not been realised. What had happened to the secretary and executive committee mentioned in the 1902-03 Annual? If there had been a women's club, why had this not lasted on its own for more than a year or two? And had the women decided to join the men's club willingly? I don't know the answers.

Here are the names of the women on the club roster in 1903. The Miss Hardie could be the 'Miss E W Hardie' who was named President in 1901-02. The 'Mrs Forrest', the Vice-president who had presented stones to be played for by the club, could be the 'Miss Forrest' on the list. There are two members named 'Miss Dun' (sic), and one of these must be the Miss E Dunn who won the stones.

The Braid Estate CC prospered, simplifying its name to the Braid CC in 1905. It constructed another pond, with four rinks, not far away from the tennis club, at the east end of Cluny Drive, at the foot of Blackford Hill. The two locations can be found on the Scottish map on the Historical Curling Places website, here.

By the outbreak of the Great War, the Braid CC had twenty-seven male members and just four women. One of these, Miss Brander, was a very accomplished player, skipping her rink of Mrs Armour, Miss Mackintosh and Miss Taylor to the final of the first competition for Sir John Gilmour's Cup in January 1914, where eight women's teams took part in the event at the Edinburgh Ice Rink, Haymarket, that indoor rink having opened in 1911. The Gilmour Cup can be identified as the first open women's competition in Scotland, see here. The Cup was won by the Balerno rink skipped by Mrs Brodie. The runners-up were entered under the Braid CC name. Three of the team are three of the four names recorded in the Braid CC's membership roster in 1914 - Miss Brander, Miss Mackintosh and Miss Taylor. All had been club members since 1903. They may even have been in the 1901 photograph! The other member of the Brander rink was a Mrs Armour, who was one of seven 'Occasional Lady Members' listed in 1912.

I do not know the whereabouts of the original image of the lady curlers on the Braid Hills pond in 1901, nor what happened to the Clydesdale Bank trophy after 1992. If you know, do email me with the details. Images are as identified in the text.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Clash of the Champions 2002

The season 2001-02 was a great one for the women curlers of Scotland. Not only did Rhona Martin, Debbie Knox, Fiona MacDonald, Janice Rankin and Margaret Morton win Olympic Gold in Ogden, Utah, representing Great Britain, but just weeks later Jackie Lockhart, Sheila Swan, Katriona Fairweather, Anne Laird and Edith Loudon, carrying Scotland's colours, became the World Champions at Bismarck, North Dakota.

On December 1, 2002, a match was arranged between these two sides.

Christine Stewart takes up the story, writing in the Scottish Curler. "Sunday 1st December, and thousands of shoppers poured into Braehead Shopping Centre near Glasgow to start the serious business of Christmas shopping. Mingling with the shoppers were 600 eager curling fans. They had come from far and wide. Andrew Dodd and Ian Brooks who had got hooked on curling during the Olympics travelled all the way from Brighton. They had been lucky enough to get hold of tickets for what was billed as 'The Clash of the Champions'.

The event was promoted by the British Olympic Association, who had brokered the deal with TV and put up the £10,000 prize pot for a skins game, that type of match still rather uncommon in Scotland at the time. The BOA's involvement was hailed as 'an entrepreneurial first' for the organisation, and it was suggested that their involvement, if successful, 'may herald their arrival as a new player in UK sport promotion'.

Philip Pope, the BOA Press Officer, explained, in an article in The Herald written by Doug Gillon, "We are doing this in the interests of the sport, and not as a commercial enterprise. We have tried to find a mechanism to make it as competitive as possible, to celebrate and showcase a great British achievement which may never happen again."

Mike Hay, at that time the Scottish Institute of Sport's national curling coach, was instrumental in putting the match together. In the years since, Mike joined the BOA in 2006, and has risen in the organisation to be Head of Sport Engagement. He was the Chef de Mission of Team GB at the recent Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang.

A simple four page programme was produced for the event, and this contained detailed biographies of the two teams, and of the individual players.

Christine Stewart again. "The curling hall at Braehead had been transformed into a television set. Only one sheet of ice was visible, complete with BOA logo in the ice. The other seven ice sheets were covered in blue flooring, and 600 seats had been installed along one side of the curling hall.

Soup, coffee, drinks, sandwiches and snacks were being dispensed from table behind the seats. The bar windows were draped with blackout material enclosing the playing area, setting the stage for 'The Clash'. Opposite, BBC television with all its gizmos and gadgets was set up, and cameras at either end on long jibs were set to catch every stone and every sweeping call.

A gantry had been erected to house the commentators, the Olympic team of Dougie Donnelly and Kirsty Hay. Hazel Irvine was on hand for the introductions and interviews."

Sandy Forrest, from Cumbrae Primary School, and Alison Howie from Craigholme School, had won a competition to be the flag-bearers for the teams. Sixteen year old Jack Sillito, a fifth year pupil at Glasgow Academy, piped in the teams. 

How did the game go? At the halfway point the Olympians had £2,100 in the bag. Playing the final end Rhona's team had already won the match but £3,500 was still available.

Christine Stewart describes the climax. "Jackie lay two shots, Rhona had the choice, go for the double takeout and the money, or play a safe draw and take the game to an extra end. The crowd wanted the double, and she went for it, but lifted one stone only, leaving Jackie's team winning the end.

Final score was Olympic Champions £5,300, World Champions £4,700, not bad just a few weeks before Christmas. (Added later: In fact the curlers did not receive cash, but goods to the value.)

The crowd in the curling hall voted the event a huge success, and the fans left wanting more of this type of curling."

The match received good coverage in the print newspapers of the time, as the three articles above, written by Doug Gillon and Neil Drysdale, demonstrate. The year 2002 seems not long ago, but this was still before the days of smart phones and social media!

They make great reading now. Drysdale's preview in the 'Weekend Sport' section of The Herald had a number of provocative quotes from Jackie Lockhart. And we learned a little about her team. Drysdale writes, "Her rink comprises a rich mix of diverse characters. There's Kat Fairweather, 24, 'the shy, quiet one'; Anne Laird, 31, 'who popped out to the toilet in Bismarck and had her flush televised live on the show'; Sheila Swan, 23, 'the cheeky extrovert with a flair for karaoke and dancing to YMCA'; and Lockhart herself, who doesn't seem overly interested in the standing on ceremony or mincing her words."

At the big match at the Braehead rink, everyone was dancing to YMCA between ends!

The two photos of the match at Braehead, showing the Martin team in action, and Debbie Knox in the head with Jackie and Sheila behind, are by Hugh Stewart. The other material is from my own archive.

Does anyone have video of the BBC transmission of the game?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

When Pingu went curling

Did you know that Pingu went curling in January 1991 with his friend Robby the Seal? The episode was called 'Pingu's Curling Party'. The five minute animation was one of the episodes in Series 2 of Pingu's exploits. You can watch a remastered version on YouTube here, the highlight of which (for me) is Robby sweeping. Top marks to the designer here!

Who was Pingu? He is the lead character of the animations, 'a typically playful, sometimes naughty, little boy penguin', created by Otmar Gutmann originally for Swiss Television. Pingu became a worldwide hit (see here). Before the Web, you could buy the episodes for viewing at home, originally on VHS tape, and later on DVD. And yes, I do have a copy of the DVD in my curling library!

IMDB's plot summary for 'Pingu's Curling Party' states, "Pingu and Robby are curling. Pingu is using Father's bed bottle as a curling stone, but there is small mishap. The neighbour, who has had his reading interrupted, wants to show the two troublemakers how it is done. But to the amusement of the two youngsters, it turns out that the adults can't do any better themselves."

This article is dedicated to all GB curling fans watching the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, and who may be needing something to relieve the stress! Image are screenshots from Pingu's Curling Party.

Friday, February 09, 2018

The hunt for the 1924 diploma

It is not as well known as it should be that when you win an Olympic medal you also receive a diploma which recognises the fact. Initially it was only winners of medals who received these, but nowadays those finishing in the first eight places in an event receive a diploma. What was the case back in 1924? Although the Games in Chamonix were not recognised officially until later as the first Olympic Winter Games, they were held under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee, and many of the traditions of the summer games were incorporated in that first 'Winter Sports Week'. The award of a diploma was one of these traditions.

I suspected that the GB curlers had received diplomas. In his book Beginner's Guide to Curling (Pelham Books, London, 1969), Robin Welsh had written of the successful Willie Jackson rink. Robin's father, also called Robin Welsh, had been a member of the GB team in Chamonix, as Jackson's third player. Robin writes, in a chapter on 'Curling Prizes', "The British curling deputation at the Games, led by Colonel Robertson Aikman, President of the Royal Club, were as proud of the medals and diplomas won, as the four Scots who had won them." (My emphasis)

The official report of the 1924 Games at Chamonix is included with that of the 1924 (Summer) Olympic Games held in Paris, in May-July, after the Chamonix competitions. The official record of the games, published by the French Olympic Committee, Les Jeux de la VIIIe Olympiade, Paris 1924, Rapport Officiel is online and can be downloaded as a (large) pdf file from here. It's written in French and may be referred to as the 'French Official Report'. 

It is in the French Official Report that one can find an illustration of the diploma awarded to the medallists at the Chamonix Games in 1924.

This is the image in the report. The diploma for the 1924 Winter Games was not the subject of a competition, as it had been for previous Summer Games. The task of designing the diploma was simply given to the printing company which had already been used by the French Olympic Committee and had designed their stationery.

This image in the French Official Report is in black and white. Four years ago, when writing about the 1924 Games (see here), I searched for more information and images of this diploma, without success. Had the members of the GB Olympic curling team each received a diploma? No-one seemed to know. Other items of Olympic memorabilia, such as the competitor's badge, and Willie Jackson's identity card, were known (see here) but I concluded that the diplomas, if they had ever existed, must now be lost.

The 2014 Olympics were over, and time had moved on, but one evening when looking again at a book in my curling library, I almost screamed with excitement! There, in a book I had known about since it was published, was a colour photo of the diploma!

The Joy of Curling: A Celebration by Ed Lukowich, Eigil Ramsfjell and Bud Somerville, was first published in 1990 by McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada. Well produced, well illustrated books, heavy on imagery, used to be known as 'coffee table' books, those that would sit on a table to impress visitors, rather than on shelves in a bookcase. And remember 1990 was well before the Internet Age. 'The Joy' is a wonderful publication to peruse. It has 160 pages, with wonderful photos throughout.

The book contains a chapter on 'Curling at the Olympics', all of six pages. Note again the year that this book was published - 1990. The sport of curling had just been included, as a demonstration sport, in 1988, at Calgary, where all three authors had skipped their country's teams!

Look at the small image at the foot of page 97.

I've scanned the image to show it here, something I would not normally do, but I do think it is of such significance and deserves wider recognition, for the reasons forthcoming.

The legend to this image in the book reads, "The VIIIth Olympiad diploma and gold medal won by Willie Jackson, who was on the team representing Great Britain."

Yes, there is a gold medal, propped against a framed diploma! Some of the printing on the diploma can be easily read and translated, "Given on the occasion of the games of the VIII Olympiad under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee."

It is clearly signed by the President of the International Olympic Committee, Baron de Coubertin and the President of the French Olympic Committee, Count Clary.

Studying the image in the book with a magnifying glass I can make out the name 'Jackson' written after 'Presented to', but not what is written on the line under that. I presume this states which sport the recipient had won.

Looking at the Credits and the Acknowledgements pages of the book, it would seem that the image of the diploma and gold medal had been supplied by "Robin Welsh of Edinburgh, Editor, 'The Scottish Curler'." Had Robin used this photograph himself at some point?

Robin, who edited the Scottish Curler magazine from 1954 through to 1998, had also been Secretary to the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, a post he had retired from in 1985, allowing him more time to concentrate on the magazine. As already mentioned, his father had been on the team which won the Olympic Gold Medals in 1924. He had rare access to Olympic memorabilia and information. He authored two books about curling. I have already mentioned one of these, Beginner's Guide to Curling, from 1969.

His second book, International Guide to Curling, was again published by Pelham Books, London, in 1985. I thought I knew the contents of this book well enough, but I looked at it again. And yes, in a chapter about 'Curling Prizes' is the same photo of the diploma and medal, in black and white. It is captioned "The Olympic gold medal and certificate won by the British curling team at the 1924 Winter Olympic Games at Chamonix. Curling will be included as a demonstration sport at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary." The image in Robin's book is of lesser quality than that in The Joy of Curling, so it is not possible to read what is written on the diploma. The photograph is not acknowledged so I conclude that it was taken by Robin himself, or that he had arranged for it to be taken, sometime before 1985.

What has happened to the diploma in this photograph since then? I don't know. Robin died in 2006.

We do know that the Scottish Curling Trust purchased two of the gold medals, those of Willie Jackson and his son Laurence, the team's lead player, see here. Were the diplomas among other material purchased, I don't know.

Does the photograph reproduced in the books, which Robin Welsh must have sent to the authors or publishers, still exist? Had it been used elsewhere? Again, perhaps someone will know, and if it can be found, just what it says about the recipient can be read.

Perhaps this article will allow those accessing the Scottish Curling Trust's treasures, all currently in store, to look out for the diploma, and be able to identify it if it's there. It's a rare item indeed, and must be of immense value, given how collectible Olympic memorabilia has become, worldwide.

Other questions arise. Did the members of the curling teams from Sweden and France who participated in 1924 also receive diplomas, and, if so, have any of these survived? And perhaps there are Olympic historians out there who will know if the medallists in other sports in 1924 received similar diplomas.

Lukowich, Ramsfjell and Somerville, writing in their 1990 book say, "Curling is pencilled in again as a demonstration sport at Albertville, France in 1992, but its Olympic future after that is uncertain." No-one could have predicted back then just how our sport would have become so popular and widespread throughout the world, and interest in the Olympic Winter Games curling competitions become so intense as it is today!

Images above are as identified in the text.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Great Britain's Olympic Curlers

With the 2018 Olympic Winter Games almost upon us, here are some photos to remind you of those who have represented Great Britain at the Games in years past. Just how all these teams fared on the ice can be found in the World Curling Federation's Historical Results pages, here.


L-R: Willie Jackson, Robin Welsh, Tom Murray and Laurence Jackson were the GB team in 1924 in Chamonix at the 'Semaine Internationale des Sports d'Hiver' (International Winter Sports Week) winning gold.

Following the success of the event, the International Olympic Committee decided, during their 1925 Congress in Prague, to hold similar winter events every four years, which would be known as Olympic Winter Games. The Chamonix International Winter Sports Week was then retrospectively recognised as the first Olympic Winter Games. Only three countries participated in the curling competition, which only involved men's teams. More about this competition, including who were the four 'reserves' on the GB squad, here, and the other teams involved here. The photo above is uncredited and comes from Les Jeux de la VIIIe Olympiade, Paris 1924, Rapport Officiel. 


Curling was a Demonstration Sport at the 1932 Olympic Winter games in Lake Placid, USA. There was no GB team. Indeed, only Canada and the USA took part, see here. 


Curling was a Demonstration Sport at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary. GB was represented in the men's event by the team that won the Johnnie Walker Scottish Championship, as in the photo above. L-R: Robin Brechin (RCCC President), Hammy McMillan (3rd), David Smith (skip), Mike Hay (2nd), Rob Hermans (presenting the trophy), Peter Smith (lead), and the event sponsor! David Hay would be the team's 5th man in Calgary. Bill Smith was the team's coach/manager. The photo which appeared on the cover of the February 1988 Scottish Curler is not credited.

There was no GB women's team in Calgary in 1988, Team Scotland, on whom qualification depended, having failed to finish in the top eight at the 1987 Glayva World Championship in Lake Forest.


Curling was again a Demonstration Sport at the 1992 Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, France. The venue for the curling was a four sheet rink at the resort of Pralognan-la-Vanoise.

The GB men's team was L-R: Hammy McMillan (skip), Norman Brown (3rd), Gordon Muirhead (2nd), Roger McIntyre (lead), with Bob Kelly (alternate). The photo, without Bob, is by Erwin Sautter and shows the team at the World Championship later in 1992.

The women's team was Jackie Lockhart (skip), Debbie Knox (3rd), Judith Stobbie (2nd), Wendy Bell (lead), and Isobel Torrance (alternate). That's the girls above, with their coach Peter Loudon, in a photo taken by Erwin Sautter that featured in the April 1992 Scottish Curler. L-R: Debbie, Peter, Isobel, Jackie, Wendy and Judith. Is there a better photo of the team anywhere?


Curling became a full medal sport again at the Nagano Olympic Winter Games in 1998. The curling competition was held in the arena at Karuizawa, Japan.
Here is the GB men's team, (L-R) Douglas Dryburgh (skip), Peter Wilson, Philip Wilson and Ronnie Napier. James Dryburgh (not in the photo) was listed as the 5th player. Alex Torrance was the team's coach.

Here are the 1998 women L-R: Kirsty Hay (skip), Jackie Lockhart, Edith Loudon, Katie Loudon, and Fiona Bayne (5th). Coach was Jane Sanderson.

Both these photos were taken by Louis Flood and appeared in the February 1998, Scottish Curler.


The GB men's squad at the Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games, where the curling competition was held at Ogden, was Hammy McMillan (skip), Warwick Smith, Ewan MacDonald, Peter Loudon, and Norman Brown. The photo above, without Peter, is by Hugh Stewart, taken at the 2001 European Championships, Vierumaki, Finland, and was published in the January 2002 Scottish Curler.

The GB women's squad at Ogden was skipped by Rhona Martin with Debbie Knox, Fiona MacDonald, Janice Rankin and Margaret Morton. Their team coach was Russell Keiller. This photo of the team, by Hugh Stewart, is from the 2001 European Championships at Vierumaki, Finland, and was published in the January 2002 Scottish Curler. L-R: Fiona, Debbie, Rhona, Margaret, and Janice.

Rhona's team won GOLD of course in Ogden. Her final stone can be watched here. The Scottish Sports Hall of Fame photo of the team is here.


The curling competition at the 2006 Torino Olympic Winter Games was held in the Pinerolo Palaghiaccio, Pinerolo, Italy.

The GB men's squad was David Murdoch, with Ewan MacDonald, Warwick Smith, Euan Byers and Craig Wilson. Derek Brown was the coach. Photo is by Hugh Stewart and appeared in the March 2006 Scottish Curler.

The GB women's squad in 2006 comprised Rhona Martin (skip), Jackie Lockhart, Kelly Wood, Lynn Cameron, and Debbie Knox. Russell Keiller was coach. Photo is by Hugh Stewart and appeared in the March 2006 Scottish Curler.


The curling competition at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games was held in the Vancouver Olympic Centre, Vancouver, Canada. The GB men's squad was David Murdoch (skip), Ewan MacDonald, Peter Smith, Euan Byers, and Graeme Connal. Coach was David Hay. In the photo above with sportscotland chair Louise Martin and Sports Minister Shona Robison and are (L-R) Euan, Ewan, David H, David M, Peter, and Graeme. This photo by Hugh Stewart featured in the February 2010 Scottish Curler. Here's another of the team in their curling gear.

The GB women's squad was Eve Muirhead (skip), Jackie Lockhart, Kelly Wood, Lorna Vevers, and Annie Laird (a late replacement for Karen Kennedy who was deselected late on in the process). Coach was Nancy Murdoch. Here's a photo of (L-R) Kelly, Lorna, Jackie, Eve and Nancy, with Shona Robison and Louise Martin. This photo by Hugh Stewart featured in the February 2010 Scottish Curler. I am sorry that I do not have a photo of the team including 5th player Annie Laird to put up here.


The 2014 Olympic Winter Games were held in Sochi, Russia, with the curling in the Ice Cube Curling Centre. The GB men's squad was David Murdoch (skip), Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow, and Tom Brewster. Soren Gran was their coach. The GB women's squad was Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Claire Hamilton, and Lauren Gray. Dave Hay was their coach.

There are lots of photos online of our two teams, the men winning silver medals, and the women bronzes. But I rather like this one of both squads together which appeared (uncredited, though probably should be to WCF/Richard Gray) in the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Member Ezine Your Curler, in February 2014. This can be found online here. L-R: Claire, David, Michael, Vicki, Eve, Anna, Scott, Kerr, Tom, and Lauren.

All the results and statistics for the Olympic curling competitions can be found on the World Curling Federation's 'Historical Results' pages here.

In just a few days time, the members of the GB sqads for the 2018 Games will have to be added to this list.

I've not included here the other opportunities that curlers have had to represent Great Britain, such as in the European Youth Olympic Winter Festival or at the Winter Youth Olympic Games. And of course in wheelchair curling at the Winter Paralympic Games. All for another article!

In putting this article together I am reminded just how the inclusion of curling at the Olympics in recent years has changed the sport in so many ways - in its perception by the non-curling public, the rise of the 'elite' curler and the role of the 'performance director', the athleticism of the players today, the way the sport is funded and the knock-on effects on the traditional competitions and the grass roots of the sport here in Scotland. And in the rest of the world, the increased interest and growth of the sport is a direct result of curling being an Olympic sport. There is already a lot for the curling historian of the future to write about!

Photo sources and credits are indicated after each pic above.

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Battle of Carthula: Was this the first international curling match?

There is a rather odd reference to a bonspiel between Scottish and English curlers, said to have occurred in 1795 at Kirtlebridge. I wondered if this actually took place, so I set out to examine the evidence.

The match is referred to in History of Curling and Fifty Years of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club by the Reverend John Kerr, published in 1890. But it appeared in print much earlier than that.

An account of 'The Battle of Carthula' can be found in Memorabilia Curliana Mabenensia, published anonymously in 1830 but now known to have been written by Richard Broun. Broun was born in Lochmaben in 1801, so he would have been in his twenties when writing 'Memorabilia'. In 1829-30 he was Secretary of the Lochmaben Curling Society. His father Sir James Broun was the Seventh Baronet of Colstoun, and at the time the President of the Lochmaben Curling Society.

The reference to the Scotland v England encounter can be found in Chapter 12, 'Poetical'. This states,
"The following Ossianic description of a celebrated Bonspiel, played at Kirtle Bridge, in the year 1795, is by Dr Clapperton, of antiquarian memory, Lochmaben; and was found among the MSS of the late WDWH Somerville, Esq of Whitecroft."

This is how part of the text looks in Memorabilia Curliana Mabenensia.

Ossianic simply means that Clapperton's work is in the style of the of epic poems published by the Scottish poet James Macpherson from 1760. Dr Clapperton was probably the Robert Clapperton who studied medicine at Edinburgh and Paris, and married Elizabeth Campbell at Elgin. The couple eventually settled in Lochmaben. Robert Clapperton was the grandfather of Hugh Clapperton, the African explorer. In A Sailor in the Sahara: The Life and Travels in Africa of Hugh Clapperton, Commander RN, published in 2007, Jamie Bruce Lockhart writes abouts Hugh's grandfather, "A highly respected doctor, family patriarch, and prominent member of the local well-to-do gentry, Robert Clapperton was a man of parts - amateur expert in minerology, compulsive collector of objects of natural history, and tireless investigator of Roman remains and early churches in the district, with a passion for local history and traditional ballads."

A 'passion for traditional ballads' sits well with Dr Clapperton having collected, or even written himself, the 'Battle of Carthula'. There is no evidence that I can see that Robert was a curler, but other members of the Clapperton family were - Hugh Clapperton became a member of the Lochmaben Curling Society in 1780, and Alex Clapperton in 1876, according to the minute book of the society, as transcribed by Lynne Longmore in Minutes of Note, 2012.

It remains conjecture how the poem ended up in the possession of William David Wightman Henderson Somerville, the Deputy Lieutenant of Dumfries and Galloway. He died in the 1820s, with considerable debts, these being subject to legal actions still unresolved in 1841. Just where these manuscripts are now, I do not know.

Here's the full text of the poem.

"Terrible was the day when we met on the face of the deep - when the sons of the Arctic pole glided along, like the vernal bird, when he skims the surface and dips his pinions in the slow-running river.

We passed over CARTHULA with a stride - the waters congealed under us, and the rocks trembled at our approach. Criffel and Burnswark fled before us, like the ship from the distant land before the blast of the boisterous west. The Tennis-hill leaped, like the bounding roe, over Whita, that lay as lies the hill of the mole under the belly of the wing-footed greyhound.

The Hart stood aghast, the spectators were wrapped in silence when the leaders advanced, like the roar of the mountain stream. Great was the strife of the heroes, and loud the clang of their arms, until the gloomy south dropped apace, and covered us with the mist of the Solway. Then it was that we spoke the words of peace, and retired to the Den of the Lion where the feast was spread - the feast of joy and mirth. The Druid of Patrick's-cell sat by the flame of the Flow, whilst the car-borne Knight of Springkell accosts the Chief of Tarras. 'The actions of my youthful years' (says he) recoil on my memory with joy; when I tossed the flying ball against the sons of mighty England, my hand returned victorious, and gladness dwelt on the face of my father. 'I too (says the chief) have been in battle against the sons of the south. Three days we fought on the face of the deep. On the fourth, the Sassenachs fled, the banks of Esk rang with joy, and we too had our fame.'

The King of the Ice sat by the exhilarating bowl, and pushed round the sparkling glass, whilst a chieftain hoary with years recounts the tales of other times. 'Often have I been famed in the fight' (says he), and my arm was strong in the battle; but my years have rushed upon me like a torrent, and I'm now numbered with the aged.' The grey-headed bard touched the tuneful string, and sent the melody of other times to our ears.

Great were your actions, O ye heroes! and mighty the deeds of the days of old. Here shall your sons meet; here, shall they say, met our fathers. O that our actions were as theirs - and that our deeds were recorded in the song, and should our grey-hairs go with joy to the house of silence.

Where art thou fled, O north-wind? Return and dispel the clouds of the gloomy south - art thou sporting with the whales of Greenland? Or liest thou dormant in the snowy caverns of Zembla? Return, O salutiferous north-wind and dispel the clouds of the gloomy south.

We feasted, we drank, and we sang, and spent the night in joy."

The poem is accompanied by several explanatory footnotes. These could have been added by the poet, although perhaps they were inserted by the author of Memorabilia. These state that:

(1) 'Carthula - The river of Kirtle, then frozen; it rises at the troch of Kirtle and falls into the Solway Firth at Lochmaben Stone.'

(2) Criffel, Burnswark, Tennis-hill, Whita and the Hart were all names of channel-stones (early curling stones)

(3) The Den of the Lion was a public house in Kirtlebridge. 

(4) The 'Druid of Patrick's-cell' was the Reverend Craig, minister of Kirkpatrick-Fleming.

(5) The 'car-borne Knight of Sprinkell' was Sir William Maxwell of Springkell, 'who, when young, about the year 1747, with some others from the Scotch side, won a cricket match near the Greenbed or Roslin Nurse, betwixt Esk and Sark, where the best players in the north of England were beat.'

(6) the 'Chief of Tarras' was 'John Maxwell, Esq, of Broomholm, who was one of a bonspiel played by the borderers of both nations for three days at Liddlefoot, where, if the English had gained, bonfires were to have been lighted all over Cumberland.'

(7) The 'King of the Ice' was Patrick Smith of Craigshaws.

(8) The 'chieftain, hoary with years' was William Irving of Allerbeck.

(9) The 'grey-headed bard' was (Old) Robin Elliot, the fiddler.

The location of Kirtlebridge makes good sense for a curling match between players from both sides of the border from which it is but a few miles distant. It was on the main route north into Scotland from Carlisle. Today, the A74(M) runs to the east of the village, and the West Coast Main Line takes the railway just to the west.

Curling was certainly being played with 'channel-stones' in the eighteenth century, and it was not unusual for these to have names, see here.

The names mentioned in the story are those of real people, but whether they actually ever curled is a good question.

The Kirtlebridge match was said to have taken place in 1795. That there is mention of an even earlier Scotland v England bonspiel at 'Liddle-foot', over three days, makes me wonder if the whole thing is a fiction, and a made-up story. It is implied that there was a population of curlers just over the border in England, in Cumberland, at the time. I'm unaware of any evidence for this.

There are doubts about other information in the poem. Yes, William Maxwell of Springkell was real enough, but did he actually take part in a cricket match in 1747? The earliest recorded cricket in Scotland was in September 1785, according to the Cricket Scotland website here.

I remain sceptical of the story. But the fact that the participants of the Kirtlebridge match in 1795 are said to have feasted, drank, sang, and 'spent the night in joy' in a local hostelry, perhaps even the one in the village today (above), has a resonance with what I know of the history of our sport. It would be great to have corroborating evidence that this early 'international' match really did take place!

So, was Kirtlebridge the location of an international match between Scottish and English curlers? Fact or fiction? YOU decide!

Postscript: The English men beat Scotland at the Four Nations at the North West Castle rink, Stranraer, January 20-21, 2018. No bonfires were lit to celebrate this victory, as far as I am aware! 

Photos © Bob Cowan

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Thank You For The Music: Curling Songs 1792 - 2018

Curlers have always liked to sing. Not necessarily on the ice of course, but at post-match festivities, and club dinners. Or on friendship tours, and at international competitions. At the 2004 Ford World Curling Championships in Gavle, Sweden, alternative lyrics to ABBA's 'Thank You For The Music' made an appearance:

Thank you for the curling, indeed! Beware the ear worm, but the ABBA original is here, and a karaoke track is here, if you want to sing the curling lyrics, above!

Yes, curlers have always like to sing. If proof were needed of this statement, one only has to consult the Curlers' Library, where the very first printed publication about the sport is Songs for the Curling-Club held at Canonmills. By a Member. This little 16-page booklet was published in Edinburgh in 1792. So, the history of curling songs spans more than 200 years!

In the days before the Internet, and the various social media platforms, the spread of curling songs was on the printed page, and the best vehicle for this was the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual. In the 1845-46 Annual, for example, one finds, under Miscellaneous, a section containing six curling songs, where lyrics have been written to accompany well known tunes of the time.

Here's just the first verse (of four) from one song submitted by 'A Keen, Keen Curler' from Chryston.

Fifty years on, the Annual for 1895-96 has a large selection of curling songs, now spread over 15 pages. The above is the first of three verses of 'Patlid: The Stane Upon the Tee'.

Curling songs regularly appeared in Royal Club Annuals each year.

In the month (January 2018) that a Canadian side has arrived in Scotland to contest the Strathcona Cup, it would seem to be appropriate to reprint verses written by R Menzies Fergusson, the Chaplain of the Airthrey Castle Curling Club, recording the first such Tour, when Scots curlers visited Canada and the USA in the winter of 1902-03. D Bentley Murray, a member of the Airthey Castle CC, had been one of the tour party.

Here are Fergusson's verses on 'The Curlin' Scots in Canada', from the Royal Club Annual of 1903-04:

Twa dizzen men a-curlin',
We sent across the sea,
To set their stanes a-birlin'
'Gainst chiels o' Canadie.

A-curlin', a-curlin',
A-curlin' they did go;
Their cowes a' a-twirlin'
To soop Canadian snow.

Upon the broad Atlantic
They got an awfu' blast.
It sent them nearly frantic
To reach the land at last.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

And when they got transported
Frae boat to Halifax,
Their faces were contorted,
Their knees seemed made o' wax.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

But sleep and aqua vitae
Soon put them on their. feet,
And a' were keen to meet ae
Wee rink that they micht beat.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

When on the ice they planted
Their feet and threw a stane,
They fain would ha'e levanted,
And left the game alane.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin, etc.

They got an awfu' dressin'
Frae Nova Scotian men,
But lickin' wadna lessen,
Their hopes to win again.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

Then Captain Kerr uprisin',
Declared they'd no be beat,
Though this was maist surprisin',
And so resumed his seat.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

They chose their skips, selectin'
With caution and wi' care,
Resolved that by reflectin'
They'd try the game ance mair.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

They drew, they wick'd, they curled in,
They cracked an egg to lie;
But aye the foe cam' birlin',
And counted shots forbye.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

Wi practice and wi' patience
They managed whiles to score;
Enjoyed the handsome rations,
And drank the best, galore.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

But when the leddies sported
Their cowes upon the rink,
The lads seemed a' transported
Wi' love, instead o' drink.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

And up the howe cam' jumpin'
Each Tam o' Shanter'd loon,
And oot the hoose gaed bumpin'
The shots they had sent down.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

They lost their heids, and endin',
The game was lost as weel ;
Maybe their hearts need mendin',
For hame they canna steal.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

The hack was gey confusin',
As crampit men aloo',
But by and by tho' losin',
They won a game or two.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

The ice was keen and brittle,
Far keener than at hame;
The play was unco kittle,
'Twas hard to win a game.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

Guid men they were and michty,
The twal' stane bank they'd turn ;
At soopin' they were michty,
And played each rink a kurn.

Churus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

Wi Doctor Kirk and Gibson,
Twa Provosts and a Prain,
Murray, Husband, Henderson,
And ithers in their train.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

Braid Scots was what they shouted,
'Ca' cannie, up the howe,'
And then the foe was routed
At soopin' wi' the cowe.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

At nicht wi sang and clatter,
They spent the time in glee;
Their friends across the watter
They drank in brews o' tea (?)

Chorus - A-curlin' a-curlin,' etc.

'Whit wey,' speers wee MacGreegor,
'Did oor chaps no' win a',
When playin' wi' sic veegor
On ice without the snaw?'

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin , etc.

'Wheesht ! Wheesht ! Ye little deevil;
Yer better no' to ken
They just were far over ceevil
To thae Canadian men.'

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

'They gaed a'e Sabbath jauntin',
To see a waterfa',
When they'd been better chantin'
A Psalm, or maybe twa.'

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

The Scots were always feted
Where'er they chanced to be,
And some were nearly mated
Wi' leedies at the tee.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

Now since their trip is ended,
And hame they've come ance mair,
We hope their play has 'tended
Good fellowship to share.

A-curlin', a-curlin',
A-curlin', they have been;
Their cowes a' a-twirlin' -
Sic play was never seen.

Note that the games against the Canadian women do get a mention (verses eleven to thirteen). More about these games here. And the team's controversial visit to see the Niagara Falls on a Sunday is not ignored!

The practice of printing curling songs, and poems, in Royal Club Annuals had died away by the 1950s. But, for the researcher, the collection of such material (many hundreds of songs) over more than a hundred years, must surely be worth academic study, if only for showing how the vocabulary associated with the sport has changed over the years.

Original songs about curling can be found online today, and in many cases are now accompanied by video. My favourites? The Number 1 best curling song of all time, in my opinion, is 'Tournament of Hearts' by The Weakerthans. Listen to that, with the video, here. From the 'Reunion Tour' album, released in 2007, John K Samson on vocals.

Number 2 of my favourites, because of the curling connection, is 'Silver Road' by Sarah Harmer and the Tragically Hip, from the soundtrack of the wonderful Men With Brooms film. This dates from 2002, and is online here.

Rounding off my top three is Alexander Morrison's renditions of 'The Silver Broom' and 'The Grand Bonspiel', composed by Alan Cairney, Kelty Records, 1985. The description of the 7" vinyl recording is here. No longer available to listen to online, as far as I am aware.

Other curling songs to note are Andrew Murdison's 'The Curling Song' (here); Bowser and Blue's 'The Curling Song' (here); 'The Sweep Song' by Laura Melnick (here); Satch Summerland's 'The Real Curling Song' (here); and 'That Curling Song' (here). There will be others. Do let me know of other favourite curling songs that should be listed here.

Added later: 'Curl' by Jonathan Coulton (here); 'It's a shore thing', produced by Rod Palson for the 2003 Nokia Brier (listen here). The Douglas Curling Club apparently has its own song (thanks Robin Scott). The ice rink at Lockerbie has a number of curling songs (thanks to Andrew Dalgleish for passing these on), and Airleywight Ladies CC has a booklet of songs (thanks to Dot Moran for the info).

And what about The Zambonis, with 'Sweep Me Over The Hogline', 'Curling Girl', and Vista Blue, with 'Curling Round the USA' and 'Girl Who Can Curl' (all four here). And there's now (15/1/18) a video to go with Vista Blue's 'Girl Who Can Curl' here!

But coming right up to date is the music video 'Teach Me How To Curl', here, where Cheetos snacks, a Frito-Lay North America product, promotes the US Olympic curling teams in the run up to the 2018 Games. That's Chester Cheetah explaining things in the screenshot from the video above!

Just wonderful, and great fun! Thank you for the music (video)! #DoTheCurl


The visiting Canadian Strathcona Cup team with their version of 'We will rock you', January 12, 2018, at the Lanarkshire Ice Rink, listen here!

Thanks to Christine and Hugh Stewart for the Gavle lyrics to Abba's 'Thank you for the music', which provided the seed for this article. I do not know the provenance of these alternative lyrics, as yet. Other images are scans of Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annuals in my archive, or are screenshots of online videos. And thanks to those who have forwarded links to other curling songs, see 'Added later' above.