Friday, September 30, 2011

Curling Stone Whisky Miniature Decanters Part 1

Whisky curling stone miniature decanters, like these, are common items in any collection of curling memorabilia. The two above were produced by Peter Thomson of Perth Ltd, wholesale wine and spirit merchants, and contained Beneagles Scotch whisky. I believe these will date from the 1970s.

Importantly, the handle is the stopper, the container being filled, and emptied, from the top!

This photo shows the stopper and a colour variation with the same marks on the bases.

These may be earlier. The description is stamped on the base. The stone on the left still has its original ribbon and seal.

Putting a date on exactly when these decanters were manufactured is difficult, but here is one produced and sold when the Air Canada Silver Broom World Curling Championship came to Perth in 1975. The stopper is the handle.

Similar commemorative stones were produced for the 1980 and 1981 world championships, but these had a different design with the stopper in the bottom of the stone, see below.

The stones were packaged in card boxes. I believe this is the earlier of the two in my collection.

Two more colour variations, again with the handles as the stoppers. No markings on the bases.

Here are two with the Beneagles eagle, and description of the contents, stamped on the side of the containers.

By 1980, the design of the ceramic container had changed, the stopper now being at the bottom of the stone, and the handle and the body of the stone being molded as one piece.

These containers are clearly marked WADE.

This container is marked Carlton Ware.

I believe these later containers were packaged in boxes like this.

That's not the end of the story, and a lot more questions remain to be answered.

Here's a container, with a bottom stopper but no markings on the base, yet it appears to have been constructed in two pieces, the body, and separate handle.

These two containers are made from a similar design mold but may not contain Beneagles whisky. The sticker covering the stopper simply says Scotch Whisky Souvenir.

Here are two containers, with handle stoppers, clearly stamped with the mark of the Govancroft Pottery. I do not know what whisky they contained. The Govancroft Pottery in Glasgow existed from 1911-1976, on London Road, at the corner of Potter Street.

In more recent years, into the 21st century, curling stone whisky miniatures containing Glen Calder Scotch have been marketed by Gordon and MacPhail of Elgin. The containers have the mark WTK 50 ml on the base. Although very similar to the Beneagles miniatures, the design of these containers, apparently manufactured in Italy, has reverted to the stopper being the stone handle.

These are the most valuable in my collection, as they retain their original contents!

Yes there will be a Part 2, which will describe whisky decanters of different shape. To follow!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Historical Curling Places

There is hardly a community in Scotland that does not have somewhere - a custom rink or pond, a loch, a river, or even part of a flooded field - where curling was played outside in past years. Documenting these places was initially a lone effort by David B Smith, co-author of this blog. David gleaned information from archives, Royal Club Annuals, and club minute books to create a list of Scottish 'curling places'. This list was originally a Word document, but thanks to Lindsay Scotland, and more recently Harold Forrester, the information has been put into a database and via that database into a map. The map entries link to the underlying database which records the original references, and where possible there are links to photographs and old maps.

We have talked about the project in this blog before, see here. Until now the information has all been hidden away deep in the layers of the old Royal Club website. Today's post is to advertise the fact that 'Historical Curling Places' now has its own identity at Click on the link to visit, and zoom into where you live! There is a tips and hints page if you are new to the interactive site.

Lindsay and Harold would love to hear from you if you can add any information to what they have on file about any curling place that you know or is near where you live.

I was fascinated to see that the mapping exercise has expanded to encompass a database and map for England. It is often said that the sport of curling in the nineteenth century stopped at the Scotland - England border. Not true, as the English Curling Places map shows.

And a similar exercise is underway to document all the ice rinks and curling rinks that are now closed. This project has just recently begun. Why not get involved with it?

Curling places in England screenshot.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Parliamentary Curling

One of the features of curling throughout its history has been that it is what social workers of the present day would call 'socially inclusive'. You might be the laird and provide the pond on your land but unless you could curl well you couldn’t aspire to skipping a rink.

We historians of the game like to emphasise its egalitarianism. There’s the famous story – perhaps even spurious – about the poacher and the sheriff, both members of Peebles Curling Club in the early years of the nineteenth century. They played in the same rink. The poacher was the skip because of his skill on the ice. Sadly, from time to time it fell to the sheriff to have to jail him for unlawfully taking red fish during the summer. The story goes that during one bonspiel the poacher skip shouted down the ice to the sheriff, “Shirra, do you see this stane?” “Aye”, said the sheriff. “Weel, just gie it sixty days!”

I was delighted recently to come across two newspaper reports that showed that even far from home the Scot took what opportunity he could to indulge his passion for his favourite, national game.

The first appeared in the Aberdeen Weekly Journal of February 7, 1895.

“Parliamentary curling is at present popular among members of Parliament. Mr Graham Murray, at the Crystal Palace, has won the point medal with a capital score of 23. The Parliamentary players include Mr G. Whitelaw, Mr William Whitelaw, Sir John Kinloch, Mr Cochrane, Mr H. Anstruther, Mr Thorburn, and Mr Ramsay.”

The second appeared in the pages of the Glasgow Herald of February 12, 1895.

“A curling match between certain members of the House of Commons and the curling club was held at Wimbledon on Saturday. Of two Parliamentary rinks one was composed of Mr Bruce Wentworth, Sir John Kinloch, Mr William Whitelaw, and Mr Parker Smith; while the other consisted of Mr Graham Murray, Mr J.A. Baird, Mr Anstruther, and Mr Graham Whitelaw. But the Wimbledon Club won by three points.”

The lake at Wimbledon, which still exists close to the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s headquarters, had been used for some time by curlers, mainly of the expatriate Scots type. The Wimbledon CC had joined the RCCC as recently as 1893, but the Crystal Palace CC had been on the go since 1870.

Of the Parliamentary curlers:-

A Graham Murray, was MP for Bute,
William Whitelaw was MP for Perth City,
Sir John Kinloch was MP for East Perthshire,
Thomas Cochrane was MP for North Ayrshire,
Henry Anstruther was MP for St Andrews, and
Walter Thorburn was MP for Peebles and Selkirk,
The Hon. Charles Maule Ramsay was MP for Forfar,
Bruce Vernon Wentworth was MP for Brighton, and
John Parker Smith was MP for Partick.
The geographical spread is notable.

Graham Murray was, perhaps, the most distinguished of these curlers. He became an advocate in 1874, and his career blossomed. He was appointed an Advocate Depute in 1888-90, Sheriff of Perthshire in 1890-1, QC in 1891, was Member of Parliament for Bute from 1891 to 1905, Solicitor General in 1891-2 and 1895-6, Lord Advocate 1896-1903, Secretary of State for Scotland 1903-5, Lord Justice General and Lord President of the Court of Session, 1905-13. He was created a peer as Lord Dunedin in 1905, and was a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (that is, a judge of the House of Lords) from 1913 to 1932. In fact, he is regarded as one of the most important and famous of Scots judges.

Despite these onerous offices he kept up his interest in curling. In 1897 we find him writing the Sport of the Month article, on curling, in The Pall Mall Magazine. Until he moved to London in connection with his Lords appointment he was an active member of the club which was the successor to the ancient but defunct Duddingston Curling Society, namely Coates CC. He was a member of Crystal Palace CC.

When he was made president-elect of the Royal Club in 1908-9 the editor of the Annual wrote: “It is also pleasing for us to have as President-elect at such an interesting juncture, the Right Hon. Lord Dunedin, who throughout his career of strenuous activity in the profession of which he is now the honoured head, never missed a day on the ice when a game was available, and as a ‘keen, keen curler’ discarded his ‘briefs’ for the nonce when he heard the curlers’ war-cry and the sound of the channel-stane.”

In the next year he succeeded Lord Strathcona as the Club’s President.

As for the other Parliamentarians’ curling connections in the year 1895, so far as I have been able to find them:-

William Whitelaw was president of Perth CC,
Sir John Kinloch was a member of Strathmore CC,
Thomas Cochrane was a member of Dalry Union CC,
Walter Thorburn was vice-president of Peebles CC,
The Hon. Charles Ramsay was a member of Brechin Castle CC,
Bruce Vernon Wentworth was vice-president of the family club, Dall CC, at their estate of Dall on Loch Rannoch, and
John Parker Smith was a patron and member of Partick CC.

David B Smith.

Top: Curling on Wimbledon Lake, January, 1891, from a private album.

Graham Murray, also known as Lord Dunedin, as president-elect of the Royal Club. From the programme of the dinner held by the Royal Club to honour the first team of Canadian curlers to visit Scotland in 1909.

A sketch from The Penny Illustrated Paper of January 14, 1893. The accompanying article commented on how seldom the Scottish game of curling could be played in the south of England and also remarked that Wimbledon because of curling had become a sort of Scottish colony.

All illustrations are courtesy of David B Smith.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Greenacres 1987

Here is a short videoclip from the final of the Greenacres Junior Ladies Invitation in 1987. The game matched Diane Lyle's Inverness team of Jane Calder (3rd), Karen Smith (2nd) and Lorna Matheson (lead) against Eva Andersson's Swedish side. Eva skipped and played third, Katarina Oberg played the last stones, with Maria Karlsson (2nd) and Malin Linquist (lead).

The YouTube link is:

or simply click on either of the images above which are screenshots showing the two teams in the final. Richard Courtney, of sponsor Goudies Garage, is in the photo with the Swedish girls.

There is no commentary. The background music was on the original tape. And who filmed this? Image Video Production was by Ron and Jen? Who were they? Can you help?

(Added later: Gordon McIntyre has been in touch to say that the couple that were involved with the video were Ron and Jen Graham from Bishopton, who were later to video weddings with their Image Videos business. Thanks Gordon.)

See if you can spot Jane Sanderson and Elizabeth Paterson-Brown watching in the gallery.

The second video is of the presentation ceremonies. Look out for many well known junior curlers of the day including Marion and Janice Miller, Kirsty and Karen Addison (to name just four) and future Olympians Debbie Knox and Margaret Morton, and a certain Rhona Howie. I wonder what future she would have in the sport!? Christine and Hugh Stewart as well as Kerr Graham from the organising committee are there. If you were around at the time you will recognise others I'm sure, such as Gordon McIntyre who became the Greenacres ACDO for many years.

Yes the 'master of ceremonies' with all the facial hair is indeed me, Bob Cowan. Apologies about that. It is hard to come to terms with the fact that this was twenty-four years ago. There was a great surprise in store for the runners-up!

The link is here:

or just click on the image below.