Friday, September 16, 2016

The Bonspiel at Lochwinnoch: Fact or Fiction?

The photo above is from 2010, when I paid a visit to Lochwinnoch to see the Erskine Curling Club on outside ice on Castle Semple Loch. The loch has seen many bonspiels over the years.

The old Annuals of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club contain much information about the game as played in years past. The editor of the 1895-96 volume thought fit to reprint a rather unusual story from the Winnipeg Daily Tribune, of February 17, 1894. I've set this out below. True, or a piece of romantic fiction? You decide.

Here's the story:

THE BONSPIEL AND BRIDAL. Reminiscences of a Great Game at Lochwinnoch in Olden Times. How a Gallant Curler Won the County Match and the Skip's Daughter.

It was the 25th of January 1892, the anniversary of the birth of the immortal Burns, that a large concourse of curlers, skaters and onlookers, met on the icy bosom of Lochwinnoch. The occasion was the annual bonspiel of the counties of Ayrshire and Renfrewshire. The excellent condition of the ice and weather brought many lovers of winter sport from adjacent towns by rail.

The contest by the chosen rinks, to uphold the honour of their counties, was the centre of attraction. The Renfrewshire rink was skipped by John Ogilvie, better known as the Laird o' Bonnyrig, his opponent being Stuart o' Langholm. For many years these two old chiels had met in friendly contest, with varying success, but, of late years, it had been in favour of Langholm. He was younger than Bonnyrig, and, at this time, had a rink who had never been beaten, and who called themselves the 'Invincibles'. So they prepared for this contest with all the assurance of success.

When everything was ready for play, word was brought to Bonnyrig that his third man, Donald Grant, the blacksmith, had fallen and hurt himself, and could not play. Bonnyrig was dumfounded. Play without Grant was sure defeat, and the old man had intended to retire from the county contests at the end of this game, and was the more anxious to win on that account, that he might retire a victor.

Langholm's men were impatient, and some not very complimentary remarks were made, which stung Bonnyrig to the quick. Just then Dr Graham took Bonnyrig aside and told him of a stranger who would take Grant's place, assuring him that he was a native of the county and a member of the C. C. club, 'and', says Graham, 'I'll guarantee that he'll fill Grant's place to your satisfaction.'

The stranger was introduced to Bonnyrig, and was found to be a likely and determined-looking young fellow. The arrangement being accepted by all parties, the play began. Langholm's rink played as if confident of easy victory, but soon found out that, if they would win, they must play for all that was in them. From the start the stranger showed a knowledge of the game superior to anything they had ever dreamed of; his cool selfpossession, his ability to play the shot that was required, and, above all, his faculty of inspiring confidence in others were such that his rink played a wonderful game.

But Langholm's men were stalwarts, and fought for every shot. Sometimes it was Bonnyrig, sometimes it was Langholm, while the excitement around was intense, and every point gained by either party, was the signal for a noisy demonstration by their supporters. The game was wearing to a close. The last end had come and the last stone at that. The stranger had invariably left the end in good shape for his skip, and now at the last end they were ties, with Bonnyrig with one stone to play.

If he could count one, the game was his. But how to get it was the question. To get it he would have to draw a port with hardly an inch to spare, wick a stone gently, and curl in. 'I'm fear'd o 't,' says the Laird. 'You can do it,' says the stranger. 'Play to that broom, tee weight, and no more. Steady!'

The calm confident tone and influence of the stranger had the desired effect on the Laird, so, with steady nerve and clear eye, he laid the stone as directed. The stranger met it at the sweeping score, and began to sweep it up, watching its every move. He swept accordingly. 'Will it make the port?' is heard on every side. It seems a little slow. And now the stranger gets in his work. His broom is moving so fast you hardly see it. The stone is following, and almost seems to gather speed. The port is reached, and passed. The stone is wick'd just right, and the Laird's stone is on the 'pat lid'. The game is won, and many a time since has the Laird's draw been spoken off as the most wonderful shot ever seen on Lochwinnoch.

And now the fun and noise began. 'Renfrewshire for ever!' Shout after shout went up from the excited crowd, echoed by the Renfrewshire hills, and faintly re-echoed by the distant Ayrshires, as if in mockery. The Laird was carried by his supporters, shoulder high, off the ice, and so would the stranger have been, but he could not be found. He had disappeared in the confusion at the end of the game.

The Laird invited a number of his friends to his house to celebrate his victory, where we will take the liberty of looking at what is going on, a little before he arrives. Out in the kitchen sits Dr Graham with a contented look on his face, enjoying his pipe, while, in the parlour, we find the stranger and the Laird's beautiful and accomplished daughter. This is her birthday, and, just five years ago, when sixteen years of age, the Laird had come home, after being defeated in the county contest by Langholm, and, finding young Gavin Davison, one of the Laird's tenants' sons, in company with his daughter, he ordered the young man off the place, and told him never to come on it again or he would set the dogs on him. Shortly afterwards the youth disappeared, and had not been heard of since. Itwas rumoured he had gone to the North-west.

The young lady did not pine and die, as some love-sick maidens are said to have done in such circumstances, but grew better and prettier than ever. The Laird got her the best education the county could give, and now, it was said, she was the most accomplished and beautiful woman in the county. Many suitors had sought her hand, but she appeared to be in no hurry to marry, and the Laird, who was a kind-hearted, just man, and especially attached to her, seemed to dread the day when she would be taken from his home to adorn that of some one else.

The Laird is heard coming, and the stranger joins the doctor, who has gone out to meet him, who is greatly pleased to see him again.

To tell of the enjoyment that night would take a long time. The Laird's hospitality was unbounded and free to all, being carried out in the good old style. Josh Strathnairn, the best fiddler in the west of Scotland, was there, and never did his old Cremona send out the reels, strathspeys, and jigs with more vim than on that night.

While the enjoyment was at its height, the Laird said to Graham, who was sitting beside him, 'I say, doctor, that 's a fine, smairt-lookin' lad, that, an' a guid curler; I ha'e forgotten his name. What is it, noo?'

'Laird,' says the doctor, 'him an' Maggie's a fine-lookin couple. Jist see how they go through that reel togither.'

'That's a fac', Doctor,' says the Laird, 'but what's his name?'

'Before I tell ye his name, Laird, tak' a guid look at him, an' tell me if ever ye ha'e seen him before?'

'Na, na, Doctor, I dinna think it.'

'Did ever ye order him aff your place, an' threaten to set your dogs on him, if ever he came on't again?'

'Lord preserve me, Doctor, is that Gavin Davison ? Whaur has he been since?'

'He has been in the North-west since he went away. I've watched him ever since. He has behaved well. He has done well, and, after five years' absence, he has come back, on your daughter's birthday, to marry her. She's twenty-one to-day, Laird.'

The Laird's face turned white for a minute. At first something seemed to sting him about the heart. Then, turning slowly to Graham, he said: 'It's fate. Sae bit it be. Graham, is he worthy o' her?'

'Laird,' said Graham, 'if I was not sure that he is worthy o' her I would do all I could to prevent it.'

'Bring them here, Graham.'

Graham brought them to the Laird, who, rising, took Davison's hand, saying, 'Graham has told me who you are and what you are here for. I have his assurance that you are worthy of my daughter, and I consent and ask pardon for my harshness to you five years ago, and only impose one condition, and that is, that you get married tonight when we are celebrating anyway, and that you stay here and take my place in the bonspiel.'

Davison consented, and the guests, when they found out what was going on, took a hand in, and the business was finally arranged. The Rev Mr Douglas, chaplain of the club, was sent for, and told what was expected of him.

'But the banns have not been proclaimed according to law,' said the cautious parson. 'This will do,' said Davison, pulling out a document. 'Here is a special licence.'

All preliminaries being arranged, a man worked his way through the crowd, and the burly form of Donald Grant, the blacksmith, stood before the Laird. 'Laird,' says Donald, I got masel' hurt, an' lost a guid game o' curling through this business, an' I think I should be best man.'

Grant an' Graham,' says the Laird, 'ye ha'e laid a plot to bring a' this about, I can see it a' noo.'

'We did, Laird, and it's a' richt. Ye beat Langholm. That's something, an', as for the rest, we are a' satisfied.'

They were married, and the rest of the night was spent in the enjoyment usual on such occasions, and neither the Laird nor any one concerned has any reason to regret the trick played upon him to bring about the marriage of the Laird's daughter.

The Winnipeg Daily Tribune was published from 1890 to 1980. The newspaper archives are not (yet) available online, but are held by the University of Manitoba, see here. It would be interesting to know who was the author of the tale above - presumably an expat Scot who had fond memories of curling back in Scotland, and was a romantic at heart! The top photo is © Bob Cowan. 

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

The Abdie Curling House

One of the opportunities at the recent Fife 'Doors Open Days' was the chance to visit the Abdie Curling Club's house, beside Lindores Loch.

Now somewhat obscured by trees, it is a 'hidden gem'. Since 2014, it has been 'B listed' by Historic Environment Scotland and is well described on this web page.

Abdie CC's house is one of the few remaining curling club buildings. It was included in the recently published 'Scotland's Sporting Buildings', that book being reviewed by David Smith, here.

The house was constructed in the mid-1860s, on the site of a older structure. Originally it may have had a thatched roof, before that was replaced by corrugated iron.

Abdie Curling Club has a long history. It was founded in 1831, although curling was played in Abdie Parish long before that date. 

The first President of the Abdie Club was Admiral Sir Frederick Lewis Maitland of Lindores. I was fascinated to learn that whilst in command of HMS Bellerophon, Captain Maitland received the surrender of Napoleon in June 1815 after Waterloo, and transported him to England. That story can be found here

The Abdie CC was one of the original clubs listed in the first Annual of the Grand Caledonian Curling Club (as it was called then) in 1838.

This is a list of Abdie's members in 1838. One of them, James Ogilvy Dalgleish, was elected as one of two Vice-presidents of the Grand Caledonian Club.

The Rev John Kerr in 'The History of Curling, and Fifty Years of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club', records James Ogilvy Dalgleish's contributions. He says, "It was, however, to James Ogilvy Dalgleish, above all others, that the Grand Club was indebted for the framework of its first constitution." That's his image above from Kerr's book.

The Abdie club plays regularly these days at the Dewar's Centre in Perth. Many of its members were on duty at their old house for the Open Day. I was warmly welcomed by the current President, Alistair Robinson, above, in his club fleece. I enjoyed a welcome cup of coffee, and admired the various trophies on display.

The inside of the hut has many original features. The walls are lined with open shelves for storing pairs of curling stones. It was interesting to look at these and to try to identify where they were from - mostly Ailsa Blue Hone, and Common (Green) Ailsa, but some Crawfordjohns. Some years ago the hut was broken into, and the original brass handles stolen. These were replaced with more modern chrome/plastic handles as can be seen in the photo.

Other paraphernalia associated with the sport was all there. Here old crampits sit in a pile on a top shelf.

And here were four wooden tee markers, or 'dollies' (see here), wonderful, rare reminders of play on outside ice.

Club historian Gerry Watson had brought along the original minute books of the club, dating back to 1831. It was exciting to be able to look at these in such surroundings!

The earliest minute book contains this sketch, presented to the club by Lady Maitland, which shows curlers on Lindores Loch in front of Lindores House. What a wonderful image!

It was not uncommon for curling clubs to move from pond to pond over their years in existence. Abdie is a rare example of a club which has always had the same home ice - Lindores Loch.

The curling house, circled in red, sits at the base of a little promontory at the west end of the loch, called 'Lecturer's Inch'.

From the markings on this 1895 map, this end of the big loch was shallow. The oldest members of the club recall curling on the area marked by the 'X'.

This area is now very overgrown.

A report in the Dundee Courier on December 24, 1896, noted that "Lindores Loch is now entirely covered over with ice, the frost of Tuesday having registered 12 degrees. The Abdie curling club played another friendly game yesterday in the vicinity of the Curling house. The ice was strong, but rough."

'Pond hunters' will be asking the question whether the Abdie club manipulated the area to create a natural water pond. Indeed, the Historic Environment Scotland description says, "A man-made curling pond area to the north east of the pavilion is currently overgrown with loch-side vegetation." This is in a different area to that remembered as being curled on recently. More research and survey of the site, and study of the minute books, will be necessary to resolve exactly where the members played over a hundred year period.

The wider expanse of Lindores Loch has often been used for major bonspiels.

This photo is of a match between Cupar and District Province and East of Fife Province. The newspaper clipping in the Abdie club's collection of memorabilia is undated, but I have been able to find that it is from the Dundee Courier of February 4, 1952.

The Abdie Curling Club celebrated its 150 year anniversary by publishing a booklet in 1981, Fair and Keen: A Brief History of Abdie Curling Club. That's a great read.

Thanks to Gerry Watson and Alistair Robinson, and other club members, for their warm welcome and stories about the Abdie CC. Original photos are © Bob Cowan. Lady Maitland's sketch is from the Abdie CC's minute book, and reproduced here with permission. The image of Captain Frederick Lewis Maitland was found here. It is from an engraving by Henry Mayer after Samuel Woodforde, and was the frontispiece of the 1904 edition of Frederick Lewis Maitland's 1826 book, The Surrender of Napoleon. The image of Captain James Ogilvy Dalgleish is from The History of Curling, and Fifty Years of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, by John Kerr, David Douglas, Edinburgh, 1890. The map image is from the National Library of Scotland maps site, here.

Monday, September 05, 2016

The Women in the Painting: Scottish Curling Pioneers

Charles Martin Hardie's painting, 'Curling at Carsebreck', dates from 1898. The image above is just part of the full painting which hangs in a room at Scone Palace, Perthshire. It belongs to the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. The National Galleries of Scotland have a smaller version, thought to be a preliminary sketch, and this can be seen online, here.

Hardie included likenesses of many curlers of the time, and this was discussed by David B Smith in an article about the painting here. I wondered just what contributions the two women in the painting had made to the sport, that they had been selected to be included in it. I have written already about one of the two women in the painting, Henrietta Gilmour, see here. Research on the other, Mrs Maxwell Durham, has led me to realise the uphill battle that the early pioneers of women's curling in Scotland had in becoming accepted within the male dominated curling fraternity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

This detail is from the engraving of the painting published by Doig, Wilson and Wheatley, 90 George Street, Edinburgh, in 1900. The photogravure process had been carried out by the Groupil company in Paris.

Mrs Maxwell Durham is the woman on the left. As Janetta Sprot Stewart McCulloch of Barholm, Kirkcudbrightshire, she had married Thomas Maxwell Durham in Biarritz, France, in 1880. The couple's home was Boghead, near Bathgate. Thomas was a keen curler, a member of the Bathgate Curling Club, and was President of the club when it joined the Royal Club in 1880 (and indeed remained as its President until his death in 1899). Mrs Maxwell Durham became the club's patroness in 1882. She does not appear at first as a member of the Bathgate CC, but it is reasonable to presume she did learn to play on the Bathgate pond.

Then, in the Annual of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club for 1896-97, Mrs Maxwell Durham is listed as an occasional member of the Bathgate club alongside twelve other ladies. These were: Miss Allan, Miss Gordon, Miss M Allan, Mrs Gentleman, Mrs Macnab, Mrs Halliday, Miss Meldrum, Mrs Sloan, Mrs Austin, Mrs Graham, Mrs Cameron and Mrs Kirk.

But by the following year, most of these these ladies, with some others, had formed their own club, the Boghead Ladies Curling Club, which became affiliated to the Royal Club at the AGM on July 8, 1897, election to club membership being 'unanimous'.

As you can see from the club's entry in the 1897-98 Annual, Mrs Maxwell Durham was its President. That Annual also suggests that the club had actually been first constituted in 1895. Janetta Maxwell Durham headed up the Boghead Ladies as its President for five years. Thomas Maxwell Durham died on September 19, 1899, and his obituary is in the Annual for 1899-1900. Janetta did not long survive her husband and died in Bath, England, on January 8, 1902, aged 66. However, the club continued to prosper. Mrs Robert Kirk took over as President in 1902, when it had eleven regular and five occasional members.

The sixteen strong Boghead Ladies Curling Club was the second women's club to join the Royal Club, Hercules Ladies having become affiliated in 1895. David Smith wrote about the Hercules Ladies here. That article has a photograph of eighteen members in front of their new clubhouse in 1899.

Balyarrow Ladies CC became affiliated to the Royal Club in 1898 with eleven regular members, and Cambo Ladies the following year, with fourteen members.

So, by the close of the nineteenth century, Scotland had four women's curling clubs. The inclusion of Mrs Maxwell Durham in the Charles Martin Hardie painting was, I believe, an acknowledgement of the establishment of these clubs.

It is interesting to speculate on the reasons for the formation of these women's clubs. It can be argued that the men did not want to share their activity with the women. Equality on the ice was still a long way off. Even though the four women's clubs were accepted into the roster of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, they did not, at first, compete against the men's clubs. District Medals were awarded, but these only matched up one women's club against another. One reason for that may have been the fact that the women played with different stones than did the men.

Writing in the 1898-99 Annual, an anonymous author notes, "... there is no doubt the national game has recently made great strides in popularity. The ladies have taken it up, and there are now several ladies' clubs, while a good many clubs admit ladies to membership. The weight of the curling stones for ladies' clubs varies from 25 to 33 lbs."

The author says 'a good many clubs admit ladies to membership', but is that enthusiasm backed up by hard facts? If you take the time to go through the list of clubs and members in a Royal Club Annual of the time, you can indeed find other women who were club members.

One of these clubs was Lundin and Montrave CC, and the reason that women came to prominence there, as we have seen (here), was thanks to Henrietta Gilmour, the other woman in the painting. But what other curling clubs had women members?

In the Royal Club Annual for 1900-1901, the membership of 539 Scottish clubs is recorded, as at September 15, 1900. As noted above, there were four women-only clubs: Hercules Ladies, Boghead Ladies, Balyarrow Ladies and Cambo Ladies. In addition, the Broughty Ferry CC had what appears to be a 'ladies section'. Indeed, the Dundee Evening Telegraph of December 9, 1897, records a meeting of that club where the proposal to admit lady members to the club was considered. After discussion, it was unanimously agreed that they should be admitted and eight ladies were placed on the roll of members. By 1900, this number had increased to 20.

The Balerno CC listed three 'Lady Members' as a category separate from 'Regular' and 'Occasional', as did the Raith and Abbotshall CC with thirteen.

Other clubs listed women as 'Extraordinary Members'. Callendar CC had two such, Couper-Angus and Kettins CC had three, as did Snaigow CC, and Edinchip CC had four.

The Affleck CC (whose secretary lived in Monikie, near Dundee) lists Jessie Walker, Julie D Taylor, Annie M Boase, L Margaret Cox, Jenny I Fraser, Nellie McIntyre and Jane Walker among its occasional members. The Pitlessie CC has Ruth de Pree, Althea Haig, Annie Gilroy, Jane Gilroy, Annie Macdonald and Meg Macdonald as occasional members too.

Family connections were perhaps the reason some women took to the ice. Dunnikier CC listed a Miss Oswald, a Miss Mary Oswald and a Miss Lena Oswald as occasional members. John Oswald, who was likely their father, was the club's President.

Women's names appear very occasionally amongst a club's regular members. The Bowden CC has a Mrs Maxwell Tress listed thus. Her husband was the club's Vice-president. Incidentally, she was also one of the club's Patronesses. The other was a Mrs Laidlaw, who also took part in games as an occasional member of the club. These names are rare examples of Patronesses who were actually curlers themselves.

Patroness of the Penninghame CC was Mrs Lloyd Anstruther who was also a regular member of the club. Another women in that club's roster of more than 80 men was a Miss Williams. There's a story to be uncovered here, I suspect! 

The above list is not intended to be exhaustive, but does illustrate that by 1900 women were on the ice in their own clubs, in their own teams, and also playing with the men, although not in large numbers.

Club membership returns in old Annuals do not tell the whole story. The report, above, from the Dundee Courier of February 13, 1897, records in detail a match between two teams of women from Lindertis and Glamis. These women's names do not appear in the Annual returns of these two clubs in 1897, although the surnames do appear, most likely fathers or husbands.

Women's participation as full members of the sport's governing body faced one more hurdle. At the AGM of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club on Wednesday, July 24, 1901, in the Windsor Hotel, Glasgow, John Jackson, the President of the Glasgow Lilybank CC, proposed the following motion, "That ladies be not eligible to compete in any matches held under the auspices of the Royal Club, unless by arrangement, and against rinks composed entirely of their own sex." The motion was seconded by John Kinloch of Kilmacolm. The success of this motion would have restricted women to only playing against other women's teams in curling's great bonspiels such as the Grand Match, the International Match, and in Province Matches.

It is to the credit of James Gardner (Bathgate CC), the Rev R Menzies Fergusson (the Secretary of Airthey Castle CC), R Scott (Vice-president of Bonhill CC) and Captain R McKill (Blackburn, West Lothian, CC) who all spoke against the motion, that it was not carried. The way then was clear for women to take to the ice alongside the men, and against them, on equal terms, with the full backing of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. That this did happen as the twentieth century progressed, in Scotland and elsewhere, we shall see in future posts.

We know very little about these women curlers whose names appear in Royal Club Annuals and newspaper reports from more than a hundred years ago. They were curling pioneers, in the male dominated society of the time. I'm wondering if any of their descendents are aware of their curling ancestors, and can provide further information?  

The detail from 'Curling at Carsebreck' is from a photograph of the painting in the author's archive, and the detail from the engraving was found online here. The Boghead Ladies membership is from a Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual, and the newspaper clipping is from the British Newspaper Archive.

Monday, August 29, 2016

David's Wall

When the new season begins at Ayr Ice Rink in a couple of weeks, curlers arriving to play will be met by this new construction on Limekiln Road, at the car park entrance. It is a wall of curling stones, and a small cairn of stones, in memory of 'The Sheriff', David B Smith!

Some 100 stones were found in the garden of David and Hazel's home in Troon when the task of relocating David's bequest of his curling memorabilia to the Scottish Curling Trust was undertaken on his death last year. These were in addition to the 300 or so stones that were inside the house, which are now safely in store at Stirling.

Andrew Kerr, a Director of Ayrshire Curlers Ltd and David's friend, was one of those who helped in moving the collection to Stirling, a mammoth task. Andrew, and fellow Director, Gemmill Jack, are those who came up with the idea for the wall at David's home curling rink at Ayr, using the stones from the garden.

David's knowledge of curling's history was unmatched. I miss him very much. Hardly a day goes by when I come up with a question to which David would immediately have had the answer. Andrew says, "I too miss David. Many is the night I would bring him home and have a dram together talking about curling matters."

Whereas rare and important curling stones found a place inside their house in Troon, David and Hazel's garden was a 'sanctuary' for old curling stones. No matter how unloved in their previous existence, they found a home at Troon, and, on a sunny day outside, they were a worthy topic of conversation.

And they can continue to be discussed over! Forget for the moment that these stones have no handles, they all have stories to tell. One can ask two questions right off: how old are they, and what type of stone are they made from?

Take, as an example, the three stones on the top tier of the wall in the photo above. All are single-soled stones, and that dates them from before the middle of the nineteenth century. (I use a date of 1850 as roughly when reversible double soled stones were first manufactured.) The stone on the left is the earliest example - the hole in which the handle was seated is off to the side, the handle itself being L-shaped. The earliest of this type of stone would have had an iron handle, as on the stone that adorns the little pyramid of stones accompanying the wall, see above, permanently fixed in place. It may even have been made in the eighteenth century.

The other two are later. The one on the right (of Common Ailsa) and that in the middle (Carsphairn?) are single soled stones, but with the attachment for the handle in the centre of the stone. This was a small threaded iron bolt, the remains still in place in these two examples, onto which the handle would have been screwed. These handles were the earliest with a 'goose-neck' shape, and were removable.

We can date curling stones by reference to the great curling paintings of the nineteenth century. If you haven't already done so, take a trip to the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh where the beautifully restored painting of the Grand Match at Linlithgow by Charles Lees now hangs, see here.

The painting depicts the 1848 Grand Match. We can safely assume that the artist painted what he saw. In the detail above, most of the stones are single-soled, with offset handles. But one stands out as different, as I've highlighted. This is a single-soled stone with a centred handle. Such stones may be considered as a fairly short lived phase in curling stone evolution!

If you study closely the earlier famous painting of The Curlers by George Harvey, from 1835, see here, you will also see one odd stone which looks to be of this type.

Here's another from the wall. What stories could it tell of matches played many years ago? Where, I wonder? And who was AW, its proud owner who saw that his initials were inscribed onto it?

David's Wall is a wonderful reminder of a great man. I am sure he would appreciate it if you consider it as more than a wall of 'old stones', but as a reminder of games played, and enjoyed, on outside ice many years ago.

A vote of thanks must go to Andrew Kerr, Billy Howat, Gemmill Jack, Jim Miller, Gavin Morton and Jamie Mason who made it happen. Although Gemmill built the wall, a considerable amount of time and effort was put in by everyone, particularly in moving all the stones!

Photos © Skip Cottage, and my own thanks to Kirsty Letton.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Curlers at Rawyards

'The Curlers at Rawyards' is a nineteenth century painting that shows the sport of curling. It was painted by John Levack in 1857 and deserves to be better known than it is at present. It is a large oil on canvas, in the care of North Lanarkshire Council and CultureNL, and is currently on display at the Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life in Coatbridge, Scotland. It can be found online here where a larger image can be studied in more detail than the small one above.

I knew of the painting but, until recently, I had not realised just how big it is. It is one thing to see the image on screen, or in a book, but it is quite another to see it 'in the flesh'! It is around twelve feet by six feet, with the frame. It's huge. At Summerlee, it is is contained in a large glass case. Here I am standing beside it. The idea was to give the scale, but because the painting is about a foot back from the protective front glass, it still appears smaller than it really is!

In the years before photography, paintings can tell us something about how the sport was played. If we assume that the artist painted exactly what he saw in the winter of 1855-56 (when it is thought the match depicted was being played), we can learn something about the sport at that time.

Importantly, the stones in use have goose-necked handles, centred on the stones which presumably are double-sided, made to be reversible. These stones are quite different from single-soled stones, such as those seen in 'The Grand Match at Linlithgow' which was painted just ten years earlier by Charles Lees, see here. I always have in my mind that the middle of the nineteenth century was when double soled stones with goose-necked handles began to replace single-soled stones.

John Levack has depicted the stones at Rawyards in different colours, and we know that in the nineteenth century, different types of rock were used for making curling stones, see here.

There are two games taking place, one in the foreground, and the other on a sheet set at an angle to the first. There is no doubt that play is four-aside. By 1857 most curling clubs were playing matches with four players on each side, playing two stones each, as recommended by the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. Some clubs were still adhering to eight-aside play, but not that illustrated here.

The curlers are all depicted with broom cowes, rather than hair brushes. Even some of those just watching the play are carrying brooms.

It has been said that the painting shows curling in an industrial landscape, but this is hardly the case. In the background, there is a chimney stack and winding gear of a local colliery, of which there were many in New Monkland.

The variety of bottles and the baskets on display indicate that the 'inner man' was being looked after!

When I first looked at the painting online I wondered who the various personalities in the painting were, and why the artist had included them in his composition. When I saw the painting on display I was excited to see that the most prominent figures are all named in little plaques attached to the frame.

I have copied these out, as best I could sitting on the museum floor, with my nose pressed up against the glass case! Those named are:

Thomas Chapman of Commonhead
Claude Storrie (Airdrie)
John Fram (Airdrie)
Robert Mitchell (Airdrie)
James Arthur (portioner, Airdrie)
James Waddell of Whinhall
Baillie Longmuir (Airdrie)
Peter Thomson (baker, Airdrie)
Henry Walker (coalmaster, Airdrie)
James Taylor (baker, Airdrie)
Provost JT Rankin of Auchengray
David Mitchell (banker, Airdrie)
John Davidson of Broomfield
James Thomson (architect, Airdrie)
James Boston (flesher, Airdrie)
Robert Graham (farmer, Rawyards)
John Dalziel (banker, Airdrie)
Patrick Rankin (junior) of Auchengray
Patrick Rankin of Auchengray
John Russell of Eastfield
John Aiton (town clerk, Airdrie)
Gavin Black of Rawyards
James Mochrie (Airdrie)
James Forbes (Royal Hotel, Airdrie)
John Russell (merchant, Airdrie)
William Whyte (writer and registrar, Airdrie)

In all, twenty-six figures are identified in the painting, including an architect, a baker, a banker, a farmer, a hotelier, and the town clerk! James Arthur was a 'portioner', the owner of land, previously divided amongst co-heirs. John Fram should probably be John Frame. Note that there are two John Russells on the list.

It is possible too, to identify the team members 'in action' in the scene. Thomas Chapman has delivered his stone. Gavin Black is directing the play. Claude Storrie and James Waddell are the sweepers. 

That's Gavin Black of Rawyards in the prime position in the painting. The pond, on his land, was home to the New Monkland Curling Club. Black was among the keenest members of the club.

Evidence for this can be found in the Glasgow Herald of March 10, 1854, which records a club dinner in Forbes's Hotel in Airdrie. James Thomson Rankin was in the chair. That's the Provost JT Rankin in the 1957 painting, the striking figure in the kilt! The dinner was in honour of Gavin Black of Rawyards, and he was duly presented with 'a massive silver claret jug'. This had the inscription, "Presented by the members of the New Monkland Curling Club, to Gavin Black, Esq, of Rawyards, as a token of their esteem and respect for him as the leading curler in the club, and as a grateful acknowledgement for the facilities which he affords them in curling - Airdrie, 3d March, 1854."

The newpaper reported that, "Mr Black replied in a speech full of manly feeling and kindly sentiment, assuring his brethren of the New Monkland Club that it afforded him much pleasure to give them the use of his loch at Rawyards."

The New Monkland Curling Club was formed in 1842 and admitted to the Royal Caledonian Curling Club in 1849. It likely took its name from New Monkland parish.

In the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual for 1856-57, the Patron was James T Rankin, and the President was Gavin Black. The secretary was James Thomson. He is featured in Levack's painting, and his plaque records that he was an architect. Of the twenty-six named persons in the painting, twenty-one can be found among the regular members of the club listed in the 1856-57 Annual.

In the years after the painting was completed, the club must have encountered problems of some sort. Its list of members appears in the Annual for 1861-62, with John Dalziel now the President, but there's no list of members the following year. Whatever the reason, the New Monkland club did not reappear in the Royal Club's listings again until the Annual for 1877-78, when it is recorded that it had been admitted to the Royal Club in 1877. The regulations of the Royal Club at that time stated, "If any Club shall fall three years in arrear of its annual fees, it shall be struck off the lists of the Royal Club, and not reponed except as a new Club."

But from the names of the forty-nine regular members in 1877, it was most definitely the same club, and must have had a continued existence, albeit not as a member of the Royal Club. Indeed, one can find in the Glasgow Herald of January 31, 1871, the record of a match between the New Monkland and Slamannan clubs at Rawyards, six rinks aside, on January 28.

In the absence of the old minute books it is not possible to say why the New Monkland club had not continued to be a member of curling's governing body. But when back in the Royal Club family, the New Monkland Curling Club teams went on to win the Grand Match Trophy on consecutive occasions in 1886 when the Grand Match was held twice, in January and then in December that year, at Carsebreck.

Where was Rawyards? The Ordnance Survey map, surveyed just a couple of years after the painting was completed, shows the curling pond clearly. The area is to the east of Airdrie. Rawyards was the name of the main house, and there was also a Rawyards Farm.

There is an indication of a small building on the western side of the pond.

And in the painting, there is also a building, and this is surely the club's curling hut where stones and other curling paraphernalia could be stored.

A later map from 1899 shows that the pond may have been modified somewhat, but the curling hut (highlighted in blue) stands out at the end of a track leading from the boundary road.

If you visit the area today, you can find the foundations of a small building, above, where the map predicts it should be. This may have been a later building than that in existence in 1857, but built in the same place. With this evidence and study of the local topography today, it is clear that the artist has taken his point of reference from somewhere on the north side of the pond, and is facing south. The red X on the map above roughly marks the spot!

There's no open water nowadays at Rawyards, but where the curling took place is still a marshy area within a newly established community woodland. It's a peaceful place to visit, although, as seen in this photo, it is overlooked by electricity pylons. This view is roughly in the direction that the artist was facing.

I do not know when curling was last played on the Rawyards pond, but the above report from the Kirkintilloch Herald shows that it was in use in the severe winter of 1895, the New Monkland club hosting visitors from Kirkintilloch.

The history of the painting 'The Curlers at Rawyards' raises some interesting questions. As mentioned above, it now belongs to North Lanarkshire Council following the 1996 local authority reorganisation. Monklands District Council, which held the collection from the original Airdrie Museum collection, was incorporated into NLC Museums and Heritage service, along with Motherwell and Cumbernauld and Kilsyth District Councils. Jenny Noble, who is the Social History Curator with CultureNL, suggests that the Rawyards painting, and others by John Levack, were donated to Airdrie Museum in the post-war period, possibly as late as the 1970s, as they weren’t mentioned in a 1936 list of paintings, nor the museum’s 1940 wartime precautions. Jenny says, "Unfortunately we have not as yet been able to locate any acquisition details."

The 'Curlers at Rawyards' was conserved in 1995 and has been on display at Summerlee since the exhibition hall refurbishment was completed in October 2008.

Who commissioned the work, back in the 1850s? One possibility is Patrick Rankin of Auchengray. Three generations of the Rankin family are depicted in the curling painting, and John Levack had previously painted a group portrait of that family, see below.

Jenny Noble provides the following information. "The Rankin family were prominent in Airdrie life from the later 18th century and through most of the 19th century. Patrick Rankin (1790 - late 1860s was initially of Mavisbank; later Auchengray near Caldercruix. He was a leading land and property owner in Airdrie and surrounding district. He was also a partner in Langloan Ironworks. His son, James Thomson Rankin (1819 - 1861), was a very progressive Provost of Airdrie from 1848 to 1856. He also founded the solicitors' firm Rankin and Motherwell. The Rankin family were related through marriage to many of the leading families in New Monkland.”

It is also possible that the painting might have been commissioned by Gavin Black of Rawyards, see above, the President of the New Monkland CC on whose land the pond was.

John Levack is known as an accomplished portrait painter, although he has not left a large body of work. 'The Curlers at Rawyards' is probably his best known painting, together with that of 'The Rankin Family' (see here) which is also on display at Summerlee. Some of his other work can be found online here, here, and here.

John Levack seems to have been born in Wick. His details on the Art UK website, here, says he was born in 1823, but I think this is incorrect. The biography of the artist held at Summerlee sugests that he was born in 1828, and that date is the more likely, given the ages stated in other records of his life. This being the case, he would have been in his late 20s when he painted 'The Curlers at Rawyards'.

According to this page, Levack became a mason when in he came to Airdrie in the 1850s. He joined the New Monkland Montrose Lodge 88 in 1860 and was a regular attendee in the early 1860s. He was appointed governor of the New Monkland poorhouse in 1864.

On November 24, 1867, he married Agnes Laughlan, a 26 year old seamstress from Airdrie, whose father, James, by then deceased, had been a lawyer. Levack's age in the marriage record is given as 40 which fits with him being born in 1828, rather than 1823. 

Unfortunately, the couple did not 'live happily ever after'.

The above does not make for pleasant reading. As a result of this attack on his wife on August 27, 1873, Levack appeared at the Sheriff Court in Airdrie on October 7. He pled guilty and was sentenced to three month's imprisonment with hard labour. The Sheriff considered 'extenuating circmstances' before deciding on the sentence, according to the report in the Glasgow Herald on October 8. What were these 'extenuating circumstances' I wonder?

On his release from prison, Levack seems to have moved away from Airdrie, to the Kinning Park area of Glasgow. On Monday, October 5, 1874, the Edinburgh Evening News reported, "An artist named John Levack, who had been in a desponding state of mind for some time, was found at his home in Henderson Street, Glasgow, on Saturday. Three phials which had contained laudanum were found by his bedside, and it appears that death had resulted from an overdose of laudanum. He must have been dead about eight days."

Henderson Street in Kinning Park is now Howwood Street.

These days the adjective 'desponding' is not in common use, having been replaced by 'despondent'. It would seem that Levack had suffered from depression. Laudanum, a tincture of opium, was in common use in Victorian times. Read the history of its use here. As Levack's body lay undiscovered for many days, it can be assumed he was living alone. It was a sad end for someone who had been so talented, and popular, earlier in his life.

The newspaper report of Levack's assault on his wife had said 'It is doubtful if Mrs Levack will recover'. Evidence that Agnes did survive is that her signature appears on her husband's death certificate, and on that of her mother who died in 1879.

I thank Jenny Noble, Social History Curator with CultureNL, for information about the painting, the artist and the Rankin family. The staff at the Summerlee museum could not have been more helpful. Do visit! Thanks go to Lindsay Scotland for taking the photo of me beside the painting, and for helping to decipher the little plaques on the frame. The other photos of the painting, and of Rawyards today, are mine. Apologies for the various reflections from the glass of the case in which the painting is housed. The British Newspaper Archive again proved invaluable in researching information about the artist, and the National Library maps website continues to be a wonderful resource for locating old curling ponds.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

When World Junior Curling Came to Glasgow in 1991

by Bob Cowan

In 1991 these eight young curlers had just won the Scottish Junior Curling Championships and were getting ready to represent their country at the Worlds. They were (back, left-right) James Dryburgh, Fraser MacGregor, Alan MacDougall (skip), Colin Beckett, and (front) Anne Laird, Gillian Barr (skip), Claire Milne and Janice Watt.

I found myself thinking of them on Sunday as the World Curling Federation's VoIP Defender World Junior Curling Championships 2016 got underway at the Taarnby Curling Club in Denmark. Back in 1991, our Scottish representatives didn't have too far to travel. The event was held in Glasgow. It took place March 9-17, 1991, at the Summit Centre. Twenty-five years ago - how time flies! Sadly the Summit Centre is no more. The rink had a short life, opening in 1986 and closing in 1998.

You can find all the statistics from the 1991 World Juniors on the World Curling Federation's Historical Results pages, here. I wonder why the sponsor, the Royal Bank of Scotland, doesn't get a mention thereon?

Rather than talk just about the event, I want to say a bit about the programme, above. As most collectors of international curling programmes know well, they often contain little more than the draw, the team names, and a number of 'welcome messages'. The 1991 programme contained much more than that. It included magazine-style articles, and hopefully was considered to be value for its £2 cover price. The forty pages plus covers were printed by Brown, Son and Ferguson Ltd.

The Executive Editor was Christine Stewart. She recruited me to help put the programme together. This was my first foray as the 'editor' of anything. I had no inclination back then that ten years later I would become the Editor of the Scottish Curler magazine.

Christine also involved Rod McLeod to design the programme, and he did a wonderful job. For me it was a great privilege to work with such a talented, fun and enthusiastic person. Rod McLeod was one of Scotland's foremost cartoonists, producing daily his 'take' on whatever was happening in the sporting world. This was football mostly, but he could also draw perceptive cartoons on the important news stories of the day. His cartoons, simply signed Rod, had a big following. He was a curler too, a member of the Nondes club. Rod died in 2004 and is still greatly missed.

Rod drew this cartoon to illustrate page 5 of the programme, which had a 'who's who' of the local host committee. Leslie Ingram-Brown was the chairman, and his team included Ian Addison, Michelle Cunningham, Graham Davidson, George Gibb, Bruce Lindsay, Robin Shand, Bob Smith and Christine Stewart.

The event programme included six welcome messages. These were from George Younger, Chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland, the main sponsor; Councillor David M Sanderson JP, Convenor of Strathclyde Region; Susan Baird OStJ JP, The Rt Hon The Lord Provost of Glasgow; RC Miquel CBE, Chairman of the Scottish Sports Council; Gunther Hummelt, the President of the International Curling Federation; and from Leslie Ingram-Brown, Chairman of the Host Committee.

The programme included four pages on the history of the Uniroyal and Goodrich-sponsored championships. The year 1991 marked the end of that sponsorship. The first Uniroyal World Junior Mens Championship had been held in 1975, although the origins of the event went back much further, see here. The first official Goodrich World Junior Women's Championship had been held in 1988, growing from a European Junior Championship that dated from 1983. That 1988 competition in Chamonix was the only time that the junior women's event was staged separately. Both men's and women's events had been staged together since 1989 in Markham, and still are together today. Of course, no history of the Uniroyal would be complete without considerable mention of a certain Paul Gowsell, and his photo spanned pages 6 and 7 of the programme.

Elizabeth Paterson-Brown wrote about the International Curling Federation (as the WCF was called then) and junior curling, in an article titled 'The Way Forward'. Jane Sanderson wrote about 'Little Rockers and Mini-swingers'.

Doug Gillon penned three pages 'I Was There' recounting highlights of curling history. I wrote about 'Collecting'. Robin Welsh wrote about 'The Murray Trophy', the trophy still awarded to the winners of the Scottish Junior Men's Championship.

Gordon Fenton recounted the Royal Bank of Scotland's involvement with the sponsorship of curling. Back in 1991, the banks were much respected organisations, and the Royal Bank of Scotland, the Bank of Scotland, and the Clydesdale Bank, had all sponsored major curling competitions.

Then there was a 'Spotlight on the Umpires'. Roy Sinclair was chief umpire and his team included Alex Torrance, Isobel Torrance and Marjorie Kidd.

David B Smith's article on decorated curling stones had the title 'Flower Power'!

John Brown submitted some 28 quiz questions about the World Junior Championships and curling history in general. In the days before Google these were not easy. But John did provide the answers!

Page 40 of the programme had 'Acknowledgements and Thanks' and a space for autographs. I wonder if anyone collected the autographs of all the players?

Here are the first group of the junior men's teams.

Ten countries competed in 1991.

This page illustrates one of the problems facing the host committee back then. In the days before the internet and email, and before digital cameras, it was not easy for national organisations to transmit team photographs in time to be included in the programme. The space was there for the Italian women's team details, but the programme had to go to print before these were received. Fortunately, the WCF Historical Results database has this information, see below.

The draw occupied the centre double page spread. You can find the results of every junior men's game here, and the junior women's results here.

As far as I am aware there is no video footage or film of the event, but I would be pleased to be proved wrong! (Added later: Apparently video DOES exist. BBC television covered the finals. Perhaps I can post clips of this in a future article. Watch this space!)

I have kept the various reports of the event which appeared in the local newspapers, and these make interesting reading. I had forgotten that the teams were accommodated in the homes of local volunteers. Visiting fans complained about the over-use of air horns by the home supporters, some of whom were banned from beating drums as the chielf umpire was unable to hear his hogline umpires' calls on his walkie-talkie radio. And it is recorded that the Scottish Sports Council's anti-doping team were on hand for the first time at an international curling event.

Who won? Eva Eriksson's Swedish team defeated Nicole Strausak's Swiss side 5-4 in the women's final. Gillian Barr's team had lost to Strausak in the semifinal. On the men's side MacDougall's Scotland beat Noel Herron's Canadians 6-4 in the title match.

If anyone has photos of the winning teams with the trophies, I would be pleased to include these here.

Off the ice, pin collectors had two event pins to add to their collection. This was the 'official' pin, an early example of a plastic coated badge which has disoloured somewhat with age.

And we liked this one!

So, why don't I wrap up this nostalgic look back at the young curlers who competed in 1991 with a John Brown style quiz. Have a look at the list of competitors in 1991, below, taken from the WCF records, as well as the programme. Who went on to further international success in the years that followed? Can you spot the future World and Olympic Champions on the list? How many are still competing at top level?

Scotland's fifth player Graham McIntyre played in the last round robin game but does not appear in the records. So, are other names missing? Any other mistakes?

Scotland: Alan MacDougall, James Dryburgh, Fraser MacGregor, Colin Beckett
Canada: Noel Herron, Rob Brewer, Steve Small, Richard Polk, Peter Henderson
Switzerland: Dominic Andres, Michael Schupbach, Marc Steiner, Mathias Hugh, Stefan Heilman
USA: Eric Fenson, Shawn Rojeski, Kevin Bergstrom, Ted McCann, Mike Peplinski
Denmark: Torkil Svensgaard, Ulrik Damm, Kenny Tordrup, Lasse Damm, Peter Bull
Germany: Markus Herberg, Marcus Räderer, Felix Ogger, Martin Beiser, Markus Messenzehl
Sweden: Tomas Nordin, Örjan Jonsson, Stefan Timan, Jan Wallin, Peter Lindholm
Norway: Thomas Due, Torger Nergård, Mads Rygg, Johan Høstmælingen, Krister Aanesen
France: Jan Henri Ducroz, Spencer Mugnier (skip), Sylvain Ducroz, Thomas Dufour, Philippe Caux
Italy: Marco Alberti, Alessandro Lettieri, Rolando Cavallo, Gianni Nardon, Stefano Gottardi

Sweden: Eva Eriksson, Maria Söderkvist, Åsa Eriksson, Elisabeth de Brito, Cathrine Norberg
Switzerland: Nicole Strausak, Ursula Ziegler, Katja Matties, Claudia Affolter, Helga Oswald 
Canada: Atina Ford, Darlene Kidd, Lesley Beck, Cindy Ford, Danita Michalski
Scotland: Gillian Barr, Claire Milne, Janice Watt, Anne Laird 
USA: Erika Brown, Jill Jones, Shellie Holerud, Debbie Henry, Heather Baumgardt
Denmark: Dorthe Holm, June Simonsen, Margit Pörtner, Helene Jensen, Angelina Jensen
France: Karine Caux, Christel Fournier, Géraldine Girod, Tania Ducroz, Helene Ducroz
Norway: Cecilie Torhaug, Darcie Skjerpen, Anna Moe, Marianne Vestnes, Gøril Bye 
Italy: Daniela Zandegiacomo, Carla Zandegiacomo, Giulia Lacedelli, Violetta Caldart 
Germany: Katrin Mayer, Julia Eckert, Steffi Gabler, Anja Messenzehl, Monica Imminger

In the women's event I've listed the players' names as they were in 1991, and of course some have changed in the intervening years. The WCF database lists the players with their married names. Personally, I think that is wrong. In the records of an event, the players should be identified by their names at the time.

The top photo is from the front cover of the February 1991 Scottish Curler. Other images are from the programme.