Monday, April 17, 2017

One problem of growing old

Back in the eighteenth century, when it was not possible to travel far, curlers would only have had the opportunity to play against those from the neighbouring parish. These were the days before railways, and even getting to a neutral venue for a bonspiel involving players from two or more parishes would involve considerable effort. Later, when the train allowed curlers to travel further, horse and cart still provided the assistance to get the stones to the ponds, see here.

In some cases it is known that curlers walked considerable distances to take part in matches. Some reports describe players wrapping their stone in their plaids and walking to the pond to meet the opposition. The reference to plaids is just romantic nonsense, I would suggest. But just how would you carry your curling stone over a long distance?

Back then it would be a single stone that would be carried, as 'one curler - one stone' was the way the game was played.

The most likely scenario would be that the player put the stone in a bag, or more likely just a sack, and carried it over his shoulder. Or her shoulder, see below!

The suggestion that a single stone could be carried in a bag over your shoulder is backed up in a little story that has appeared in different places in the curling literature. The transcript below is from an 1884 book, Curling: The Ancient Scottish Game, by James Taylor. The incident described took place in Lanarkshire in the early years of the nineteenth century. A veteran 'knight of the channel-stane' had acquired great celebrity as a skilful skip, but he was growing old.

Taylor writes, "The announcement of a parish bonspiel fired the spirit of the veteran curler, but his failing strength made it impossible for him to carry his curling stone over a rough worn track two long miles to the scene of the action.

"I'm no able," he was often heard to mutter on the evening before the match and on the morning of the eventful day. The burden of the old man's song was, "I needna try't, I canna carry't."

"Could you do ony gude, gin ye were there?" inquired his wife, who was several years younger than her husband.

"Ay, that could I! was his ready rejoinder.

"My certie, ye's be there then," was her prompt reply; and forthwith tumbling the stone into a bag, the faithful matron heaved it on her shoulder, and followed by her husband halted not, till she deposited her load on the ice at the loch where the match was to be played.

"There, my bonnie man," she said, "play ye'r part, and gif ye win, my faith, ye's get some-thing gude and warm to ye'r supper the night," and home the courageous dame wended her way.

The result was that both the rink of her husband and his parish gained a victory to which the skilful play of the old curler contributed not a little. And many a good bicker has since been quaffed, first to the health and now to the memory of this model curler's wife."

It should be remembered that this was written in Victorian times, undoubtedly for a male readership, and would no doubt have brought a smile in that male-dominated society.

More seriously, the story does imply that, back in the day, your curling stone was a personal item, for your use alone. There was no consideration that the old skip could just turn up at the pond, and play with a borrowed stone. And you kept your own stone at home, and not at a curling hut beside the rink, presumably because it was such a valuable item. One problem of growing old would be that you weren't as able as you once were to carry your curling stone to the local pond!

But it is difficult to imagine the very large boulders, such as the Grannies, see here, or the Jubilee stone, below, being carried over any distance!

This stone was presented to the Royal Club in 1888 by John Wilson of Chapelhill, Cockburnspath, and we can assume that it had been used in that part of the country in years past. It may have had a name before 1888, but, as it was exhibited at the 50th anniversary meeting of the Royal Club, it became known as 'The Jubilee Stone'. It weighs 117 lbs (53 kg). Read more about named stones here.

The illustration by W J R Cheshire accompanied the story in Curling: The Ancient Scottish Game by James Taylor, 2nd edition, 1887. The photo of the Jubilee Stone is from my archive. It still belongs to the Scottish Curling Trust, see here.

Monday, April 03, 2017

There wasn't always a house

Curling these days is very colourful, and the painted circles at each end of the sheet contribute to making the game look attractive to those who are seeing it for the first time. The circles, the head, or the house, is that area which stones have to touch, or be within, if they are to be considered at the completion of an end of play. It may be a surprise to many that such a 'counting area' has not always been a feature of the sport.

The earliest rules of play, such as those of the Duddingston Club from 1811, show no requirement for circles of any sort. The only marks that were needed on outside ice were the tees - simply small holes in the ice at each end of a sheet - and the hogline, called the hog-score back then. This was defined in the Duddingston rules as, 'The hog-score to be one sixth part of the length of the rink distant from the tee'. Shots counted, as now, if they were closer to the tee than any of the opposition, but it seems that as long as they had crossed the hog, they were eligible to count. They did not have to be within any circles. (For those familiar with lawn bowls, this is not a strange concept.)

Such rules were essentially those adopted by the Grand Caledonian Curling club at its inception in 1838. By 1841, some ninety clubs had already joined, accounting for about three thousand members. The Annual of the Grand Caledonian Curling Club for 1841-42 records, "The Constitution of the Grand Club has this year been carefully revised. The adoption of a uniform system of playing, and the total abolition of local peculiarities, have been strongly recommended, for the purpose of preventing all sources of dispute."

In the Rules of the Game, in 1841, we find, "No stone to be counted which does not lie within seven feet from the tee, unless it be previously otherwise mutually agreed upon." The italics are in the publication, to emphasise that this was a new inclusion in the rules. Note too that the rule makers allowed an exception, that the 'counting area' could be ignored if both competing sides chose to do so. One has to think that the introduction of this regulation was somewhat controversial, and not all agreed with it, if such an exception was included.

There was still no requirement to scratch a circle on the ice.

How then did players know if stones lay within the fourteen feet diameter 'counting area'? One can speculate that, as play was usually the 'drawing game' and towards the tee, rarely would stones far from the tee need to be considered. Perhaps they kept a seven foot measuring stick on hand to check. Or perhaps a seven-foot radius circle was indeed scratched on the ice, even though this was not a requirement of the rules.

The Grand Caledonian Curling Club received its 'Royal' accolade in 1843. Ten years later, in the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual for 1853-54, we learn that a Committee had been appointed to revise the Laws of the Royal Club, and that that Committee, after having the experience of the winter season, were to report to the General Meeting the following July.

 
This duly happened, and in the Annual for 1854-55 a diagram of the curling rink was printed for the first time, part of which is shown above. The rules of play had been amended to read, "A circle of seven feet radius, to be described from each Tee as a centre, and no stone to count which is wholly without this circle."

The diagram shows other lines. For the first time we see a 'sweeping score', and a 'foot circle', this latter an early definition of where and how a player should stand when delivering their stone, discussions about which would occupy the Club's rule makers for many years to follow.

Note that the 1854-55 diagram shows other circles within the fourteen foot diameter 'counting circle'. These were optional and only there to facilitate measurement as was (eventually) made clear in the Annual for 1879-80 when the rule was amended to read, "Around each tee as a centre, a circle of seven feet radius shall be drawn. (In order to facilitate measurements, two feet and four feet circles may be laid down.)"

 
This woodcut illustration shows how the circles would have been inscribed on outside ice, the process known as 'tee-ringing'. It's a two person job. One curler holds one end of the marker in place over the tee, the other pushes the marker around, scraping the circles into the ice.

A fourteen-foot diameter circle remained officially the size of the house until 1938, when the Royal Club amended the Rules to make the circles just twelve feet in diameter, a measurement that Canadian curlers were already well used to. I have already written about that change in 'The day the house got smaller', see here.

In summary then, there was no 'counting area' of any sort until 1841, and no requirement for a fourteen-foot diameter circle to be scratched on to the ice until 1854. So that year is the date when it can be said that curling got its first 'house'!

There's a 'But ...'!

Keen curling historians will know the first description of our sport came from the pen of James Graeme (1749-72). In his Poems on Several Occasions, publish posthumously in 1773, Graeme writes about curling. Actually, the poem was first published in 1771 in the Weekly Magazine. The lines which are relevant here are:

'The goals are marked out; the centre each
Of a large random circle ...'

What was this 'random circle'? Graeme was certainly describing something marked on the ice, but this was not a house or 'counting area' as we know today. The use of 'random' would not be appropriate if he was referring to a fixed diameter 'counting area'. These circles on the ice were sometimes referred to as 'broughs', and various clubs had their own rules which required circles, large and small, to be scratched on to the playing surface. The Peebles curling club rules suggested a circle just six feet in diameter, whereas the Abdie club required only a circle just two feet in diameter - an area this small could not possibly define a 'counting area'. 

Broughs then were not the 'counting area'.

In An Account of the Game of Curling, published in 1811, the Reverend John Ramsay writes, 'The place for the rink being chosen, a mark is made at each end called a tee, toesee, or witter. It is a small hole made in the ice, round which two circles of different diameters are drawn, that the relative distances of the stones from the tee may be calculated at sight, as actual measurement is not permitted till the playing at each end be finished."

The term 'brough' is mentioned by James Bicket, Secretary to the Toronto Curling Club, in The Canadian Curler's Manual: or An Account of Curling, as practised in Canada: with remarks on the History of the Game. This was published in 1840. Bicket writes, "Round the tee, two or more circular lines are drawn, the largest having a diameter of about five feet, the others smaller and at intermediate distances. The space within the largest circle is called the 'brough'. The use of the circular lines is to shew, while the game is being played, the comparative nearness of the stones to the tee; actual measurement not being allowed until all the stones have been played to one end of the rink." Note that Bicket refers to the 'brough' being the space within the largest circle, and not to the circle itself. However, this did not define a 'counting area'.

Illustrations of broughs are rare. This little vignette by Charles Altamont Doyle was included in the Rev John Kerr's History of Curling, and entitled 'Making the Broughs'. Doyle's scribed circles are not even six feet in diameter. Indeed, the circles seen in his larger paintings (here) are small in diameter.

Tee-ringing is a job that still has to be done whenever ice becomes available for play outside. Here two members of the Troon Portland club are caught in the act, using - as current rules decree - a six foot marker! The date was January 20, 2001, at Coodham.

A final thought about measuring. If which stone was nearer the tee could not be determined by eye, some sort of measuring device would have been used to find which was closer. This could have been as simple as a length of string. But some clubs had large dividers like those above, preserved at the Fife Folk Museum in Ceres, as an elegant solution for making the measurements. Exactly when these were in use is not known, but John Cairnie used similar at Largs in the early years of the nineteenth century.

As curling moved indoors, colouring the circles became possible. But that's another story!

The top illustration is a screenshot from a World Curling Federation video of the recent CPT World Women's Curling Championship 2017. The diagram of the rink is from the 1854-55 Annual of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. The tee-ringing image is from History of Curling, by the Reverend John Kerr, as is the Charles Altamont Doyle vignette. The Troon Portland CC photo is from my own archive, passed on to me by David Smith. It was taken by the Troon CC President Finlay Buchan, at Coodham in 2001. Thanks to Ian Mackin for this information. The photo of the dividers at the Fife Folk Museum was taken by me.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

More from 1979. To see ourselves ... as others see us

I wrote recently about the Royal Bank Ladies World Curling Championship in 1979 (the first world women's championship, see here) and noted that the programme contained two pages with a montage of cartoons entitled 'To see ourselves ... as others see us'. I rather liked these, and, as they are not well known, I've extracted them to reproduce here.

 
 Who drew these? I don't know.  The signature looks like A. I 79. Can anyone identify the artist? 

It raises a smile to see these now, and I hope no-one is offended by them. It is important to remember that just thirty-some years ago, there were many in the media and in the general populace making disparaging comments about curling. Women's curling especially was seen as something of a joke. How things have changed!

But it seems that back in 1979 when the programme was being put together before the event itself got underway, the women on the Scottish organising committee were happy to poke fun at themselves in this way, and they were very aware of how (some) others saw them!

I wonder if all the foreign competitors and visitors appreciated the Scottish sense of humour!

Did the artist have someone specific in mind when drawing the figures!

OK, so one figure is sweeping, but what's the other doing?

I'm not quite sure I understand this one! Surely you are not 'satisfied' if your opposition throws one through the house?

We've all been here!

 
There's a hidden meaning here, I'm sure!

 How things have changed.

 
Optimism, indeed!

No throwing brushes into the air back in 1979.

And a nod to the even more distant past!

The images have all been scanned from the event programme.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The First World Women's Curling Championship

 
Recognise the curlers on the photo above? This is a photograph of a Swiss women's curling squad, from a promotional postcard, duly autographed by all involved. They were Swiss champions, and about to take part in the first women's world curling championship in 1979. The names of those in the photo (L-R) are Jurg Geiler (coach), Christine Seeger, Rosi Manger, Linda Thommen, Betty Bourquin, and Gaby Casanova (skip). They were from CC Albeina, Basel.

It was of course the team skipped by Gaby Casanova that was to go on to win the Royal Bank Ladies World Curling Championship (as the first world women's event was called), in Perth, Scotland, March 18-23, 1979.

Although the International Curling Federation (now the World Curling Federation) had been formed in 1966, it was not until March 1976 that a woman's voice was heard at ICF meetings. The voice was that of Mabel Margaret deWare, a Canadian politician from New Brunswick, and an accomplished curler, having skipped her team to the Canadian ladies' title in 1963. deWare reported on discussions that had been held between Scottish and Canadian ladies on proposals to launch a Ladies World Championship. According to Robin Welsh (then the ICF secretary, in his book International Guide to Curling, published in 1985), "The meeting agreed that the ladies would try to find a sponsor and then make a formal proposal to the Federation."

Things moved quickly thereafter. In 1977 the ICF approved the formation of a Ladies Committee of the Federation. At Winnipeg in 1978, Canada's Dorothy New, the chair of the Ladies Committee, reported plans to stage the first world women's championship the following year. Frances Brodie was Scotland's representative at that meeting, and she reported that the venue would be Perth, Scotland. Work had been going on behind the scenes, with Frances Brodie and Dinkie Stewart, a popular Edinburgh lady curler, securing sponsorship from the Royal Bank of Scotland, and the Bank's support was soon officially announced. The Royal Bank Ladies World Curling Championship would be held March 18-23, 1979.

Curling, and women's curling in particular, has come a long way since 1979, and with the 2017 Championship currently underway in Beijing, China, I don't imagine that many fans of the sport will be thinking much about what happened back in 1979 in the old ice rink in Perth. But, with the reason that our roots should not be forgotten, here is some information I've gathered together about that 1979 competition.

I am fortunate to have kept a copy of the event programme. It ran to forty-two pages, with the usual welcome messages from the Provost of Perth (Norman Renfrew), the President of the Ladies Branch of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club (Lucy Fleming), the President of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club (Jack Anderson) and the Managing Director of the Royal Bank of Scotland (John Burke).

As well as the competition draw, and the competing teams (see below), Chuck Hay had written a two-page article on 'From Crampit to Hack', Bett Law had contributed two pages on 'The International Scene, and there was a page about Perth by Anne Burgess. There was a poem by Liz Baker, and two pages of cartoons, 'To see ourselves ... as others see us'. The programme was well supported with twenty pages of adverts. It was designed and printed by Sunprint, Perth.

The Local Organising Committee were named as Lucy Fleming (chairman), Frances Brodie, Ella Reid, Ada Craig, Betty Grierson, Dinkie Stewart, Eleanor Howie, Norah Hay, Chris Davidson, Jean Glen, Lesley Stewart, Gail Pollitt and Dorothy Calderwood (secretary). Sheena Gellatly was convenor of the Ticket Committee. Ada Craig was convenor of the Transport Committee. Other convenors were Norah Hay (Entertainment), Jean Glen (Programme) and Betty Grierson (Hospitality). A large number of volunteers were involved.

The eleven participating countries were the same nine which had competed in the 1978 European Championships, plus Canada and the USA. The lineups as shown in the programme were:










Under each team photo with the names was a little biographical information. Here is what accompanied Switzerland's entry in the programme: "The Swiss Ladies' Championship team comes from Basle and this is their first major success. Their average age is 25 years. Gaby, three times Ladies' Regional Champion, is a secretary. Betty, the only married member of the team, is a gold modeller. Linda is a medical student and Rosi is a secretary."


The Countess of Mansfield threw the opening stone on Sunday, March 18. There were two draws that day, and two more on the Monday. On the Tuesday and Wednesday, there were three draws on each day. Five sheets were in use for each draw, with one of the eleven countries sitting out each time. Still, some teams played three games in the one day.

All the results can be found on the WCF's Historical Results pages, see here, although the linescores haven't survived.

The morning of Thursday, March 22, saw the final draw in the round robin. Sweden topped the ranking with eight wins and two losses. Five teams (Canada, Switzerland, Scotland, France, and the USA) all finished on the same 7-3 won-lost record. Two tiebreakers were played to decide the four semifinalists. Scotland beat the USA 6-4 in one of these, and Switzerland defeated France 8-5 in the other.

The semifinals were played on the morning of Friday, March 23. Sweden beat Scotland 8-5 and Switzerland defeated Canada 7-3. In the final the same afternoon, Switzerland (Gaby Casanova, skip, with Betty Bourquin, Linda Thommen and Rosi Manger) beat Sweden (Birgitta Torn, skip), Katarina Hultling, Susanne Gynning-Odling and Gunilla Bergman) 13-5, handshakes offered after eight ends. 

General view of the Perth Rink, with six sheets available for play, and five in use on each draw. No dividers, or carpet walkways in these days! And, horror of horrors, there were even fallbacks in places which made it difficult (apparently) for teams used to playing on perfect ice.

 
Scotland's Ann McKellar, with Jeanette Johnson and Beth Lindsay behind.

Canada v USA

Switzerland v Sweden in the Final. (Notice the children right at the front!)

Here's a closeup of the two youngsters with the front row seats at the final! Anybody recognise them? Did they go on to become curlers themselves, inspired by what they saw in 1979?

It would be wrong to think that the Championship was played in black and white!

This is the only colour photo of the 1979 event that I know of - on the cover of the Swiss Curling magazine, with Gaby encouraging her front end. I am sure there will be other photos from Perth that year. Surely some spectators had cameras with them. Are there 35mm slides to be found, hidden away in a drawer since then? And does any video exist?

Swiss skip Gaby Casanova raises the trophy aloft. That's lead Rosi Manger on the left. Next to her is Linda Thommen (2nd, with the pins on her jersey), and Betty Bourquin (3rd), on the right, is carrying what appears to be a mascot!

Here's another of the actual presentation, with the trophy being handed first to Rosi Manger, and the team standing in playing order from left to right. 

The same Swiss foursome would go on to capture the European Championship title later that year in Varese, Italy. I find it interesting that the team's promotional photograph, shown at the top of this article, contains their coach (Jurg Geiler) and a fifth player (Christine Seeger). It would be many years before the official championship records began to include the names of coaches and alternates. Incidentally, coach Jurg Geiler had played lead on the Peter Attinger team at the 1974 Silver Broom in Berne.

The first world women's championship was deemed to be a success, on many levels, and soon after the final game, the dates had been set for a second championship, again at Perth, the following year. The Royal Bank kept up its sponsorship in 1980 and 1981. When the competition returned to Perth in 1984, after travelling to Geneva in 1982 and Moose Jaw in 1983, the Bank was once again the sponsor. 

I still think this was one of the most attractive curling trophies ever played for. Scottish wild flowers were hand engraved on a block of Swedish crystal by Harold Gordon of Forres. The trophy came on a mahogany base, into which was set a silver name plate. The trophy was competed for in the early years of the world event, then retired when a new sponsor took over. It lay unused until 1991 when it was redesignated as the trophy for the World Junior Ladies' Championship. However, at some point around the year 2000 it was irreparably damaged, and was then retired for good.

If you have memories of 1979 do send them to me (email opposite), or post in the comments section below. The latter is moderated so comments do not go up immediately.

The promotional postcard of the Casanova squad is from my collection of curling ephemera. The other B/W images are from my archive, or scanned from the event programme. The colour photo of the Swiss Curling magazine cover is from the late Erwin Sautter's book Curling-Vademecum, published in 1993. The action and presentation photos are originally from local photographers Cowper and Co, Perth. The close-up photo of the trophy is by Andrew Wilson Photography, East Claremont Street, Edinburgh.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Curling Mugs

 
It's that time of the season when the curling enthusiast spends far too much time engrossed in watching major curling events in front of the television, tablet or computer screen. Sustenance is needed of course, and what can be better than supping a coffee from your favourite curling mug whilst watching the play!

I have a few curling mugs collected over the years, and as the Curling History blog hasn't had any articles with a 'collecting' theme for a while, here are a few thoughts on 'curling mugs'.

The one above, which I like as it is made of fine porcelain, and not too large, has 'McMillan Hotels' on the base.

These days of course you can find mugs with all sorts of slogans on the sides. Here's just one. Other examples are 'Keep calm and love curling', 'I'd rather be curling', 'I love curling', 'Education is important, but curling is importanter', 'Beware, crazy curling lady', 'Man of the match', 'Born for curling: Forced to work', 'Curling beats fun', 'Hurry Hard', 'Live, love, curl', '(Anyname) The Queen of Curling', 'I throw rocks at houses', 'Live to curl', 'Curling rocks', 'I might look like I'm working, but in my head I'm curling', 'If you want me to listen to you, talk about curling', 'It's a curling thing, you wouldn't understand', 'Not everyone likes curling, not everyone matters', 'Curling King', 'I love my wife more than curling ... and yes, she bought me this mug', 'To curling, or not to curling. What a stupid question', 'CURLING: It really is rock it science', and 'Blondes have more fun on fast ice'!

Any photograph, image, pictogram or cartoon can be put onto a mug. There are many examples out there with a curling theme. You can even purchase mugs with photos of the GB Olympic medallists from Sochi.

Here's an example of a recent mug with a cartoon image. I feel it falls into a 'not politically correct' category, particularly if you are an animal lover.

I couldn't resist adding this one to my collection, where someone had the idea of reproducing the cover of an old Royal Club Annual, and one of the images found therein, onto the side of the mug.

But on a more serious theme, some mugs are older, and these are for the real collector! I do like this one with the outdoor curling scene. There's no indication on the mug itself when or where it was made. It would be nice to know.

Here's another favourite. The design is by Aileen Paterson (see here) for McLaggan Smith Mugs Ltd, who are still in business in Jamestown, Alexandria, Scotland, see here. I believe this to be quite old - from the 1980s - but do not know exactly when it was produced.

This mug was commissioned to be sold as a fund raiser for the Ladies Branch of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.

Here's an example of an 'event mug', to be sold as a souvenir at a curling championship, in this case the World Women's Championship in Lake Forest, Chicago, in 1987. I can see that gathering together a collection of 'curling event mugs' would make an interesting challenge. Here are a few more:

This pair of mugs are from the World Juniors in Glasgow in 1991.

When you bought a coffee at the Le Gruyere European Championships in Fussen, Germany, in 2007, it was served in a real mug like this one, which you got to keep!

From the Ford World Curling Championship in Braehead in 2000. This is one side of the mug ...

... and this is the other, showing one of the late Rod McLeod's cartoon images.

A rarity this one. From the European Mixed Seniors event at Greenacres in 2010.

Advertising on one side, the event logo on the other. From the World Juniors at Perth, Scotland, in 2011.

Not obviously connected with curling, but Harvies, aka the Auchenharvie Ice Rink in Stevenston, North Ayrshire, has been home to curling on certain days each week since 1990. I don't have any mugs identifying specific curling clubs in my collection, but I'm sure there must be some out there!

When does a coffee mug become a tankard? Souvenir mugs from the Welsh Bonspiel, 1981.

And here's another that could also serve as a small tankard. This from the Keele Street Pottery Co Ltd, England, see here.  The company closed in the late 1950s, so the mug must date from before then. Hand painted.

Not included here are china teacups and glass tankards - these for another time.

If you know of other old curling mugs, not illustrated above, do please send photos and these can be added below. Email address can be found in the sidebar.

Many of the mugs illustrated above are in the care of Christine and Hugh Stewart. Thanks to Hugh for photographing these. Other pics are by Bob. 

Added 8/3/17

Jim Brown has been in touch via Facebook with a photo of two more. On the left is a North Highland Curling Trust mug made by Tain Pottery. The one on the right is from the Newtonmore Curling Club's centenary bonspiel at Aviemore in 1992. Thanks Jim.

Fiona Simpson offers up this one, but says, " ... not sure where it came from!" Thanks Fiona.

Alice Mansell sends this one, with a cartoon image. A bear is throwing the stone and the caption reads, "The loggers were a little short of spares this year!" Love it! Thanks Alice.

Added 16/3/17

Ian Mackin offers this one. He says, "It was purchased at Dean Castle gift shop in Kilmarnock. It was by McLaggan Smith, Jamestown. I have used it more years than I care to remember. It is a print of Sir George Harvey’s 'The Curlers'." Thanks Ian.