I don't actually recognise the person in the photo above. I do know that he was taking part in the Grand Match on the Lake of Menteith on February 7, 1979, when the pic was taken.
I know too that he's become guillible in recent years. He tends to believe what he's told. He's naive, trusting. He tries himself to be plain speaking, and abhors when people refuse to say things clearly, and mean what they say.
I was not at the Grand Match Committee meeting at the Lake of Menteith last Friday. I met some of the committee afterwards and came away fully believing that it wasn't any problem with the ice that had caused the Royal Club to cancel Tuesday's competition. Rather, I was given the impression - or I misinterpreted what was told me - that it was concerns over access, for example getting ambulances to the site in case of emergency.
Turns out though, that the basic, fundamental, key difficulty, is indeed the ice. The Royal Club cannot find an expert who is willing to guarantee that seven inches (or more) of ice over the extent of the lake is indeed safe for curlers to play on. No 'expert', or academic is willing to take the risk of saying, "Of course, it's safe. You can drive a bus over it.." or whatever. And without that expert, the Health and Safety people won't give their approval, and that means no insurance can be obtained, and that means no Grand Match.
Read what Bill Marshall has written on the Royal Club website here. He hints at the above, but skitters around it somewhat. He says, "...the facts are - if we cannot guarantee that the ice is safe for the numbers the blue light brigade will not give their authorization. We have been in touch with various sources to try and get this information but have unsuccessful so far. If we do not have the authorization we would not be able to obtain insurance."
I spoke with Bill yesterday. I asked what the key concern was. I've summarised the answer above. Now, why could that not have been said clearly before, I don't know. I apologise if I misled anyone by claiming that the main problems were to do with access. Evidently they are not.
Now, Britain has led the world in polar exploration. They make television programmes based around driving over ice. Don't tell me that there are no consultants on 'Ice Road Truckers' who don't know what they are talking about. Where are the experts? Can they be found? Would any be brave enough to give guarantees?
Of course, if the absence of the ice thickness expert, and the lack of technology to test the evenness of the ice buildup, is really at the heart of things, then there will be no Grand Matches organised by the Royal Club on Loch Leven or Piper Dam, or anywhere for that matter. The problem is not confined to the Lake of Menteith.
There will be no 'official' Grand Matches ever again.
My best wishes go with everyone who plans to play on Tuesday regardless. Have fun, be safe, enjoy yourself, as that hairy character in the photo above did in 1979!