Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Starting out, now and then

To my chagrin, I have not been able to attend any of the Royal Club/SALSC funspiel events last season or this. The aim of the funspiel is to introduce young curlers to playing against other young curlers in a fun and friendly competition. There are regional events with winners going forward to play in the national RCCC/SALSC finals. This year these will be held at Curl-Aberdeen on Saturday, March 5, 2011.

David Horne, CDO at Braehead, has sent me a couple of photos of the winners of the West of Scotland qualifying event held at Greenacres last Saturday. There's a full report on the Royal Club website here.

The photo above is the Hamilton team which won the Under 13s competition - Luke Carson, George Ballantyne, Alastair Torrance and Ian Waddell.

Hamilton also won the Under 15s competition. That's Connor Ballantyne, Andrew Neilson, Carolyn Baird and Heather MacDonald in the photo above.

I envy these young curlers starting out in the sport. I know they will have the same excitement in curling that I shared in my early years at Crossmyloof, even if that was a long time ago. Leslie Ingram-Brown has been reminding me recently that it is fifty years ago this season that he, David Horton and myself (to identify just three) took up the sport! One of these days I must write down the whole story of the schoolboys who dared to invade the world of what was then very much an 'old man's' game.

But, to our eyes at the time as teenagers, we were well received and encouraged at the Crossmyloof rink, just a short walk from the school. This morning, I'm really revelling in nostalgia. I want to encourage you to look at some really old archive footage of the sport. I found it recently here, on the Canadian Curling Association website. Here you can watch all the old promotional films from the Canadian Championship, the 'Brier'. These have all been digitised and these 'historical Brier videos' are there for all to see.

In the early 1960s, television was in black and white, and there was no such thing as video cameras and recorders. Our school - if I remember correctly it was probably through the auspices of Arthur Frame and the Hutchie Former Pupils' Club - obtained these 16mm CINE FILMS, and we watched these avidly in a darkened school room, with a large clickety projector. Never mind the curling, Canada then was an exotic destination - I had not been out of the country, or even on a plane! And the films all had a certain travelogue content.

But we had been learning to slide, thanks to George Lindsay Snr. Watching the Brier on screen - and the film of the 1959 Quebec competition in particular is one I remember - was our first chance to see the best curlers in the world, Canadians, including the Richardsons who had already made their impression in Scotland, sliding out in the delivery of their stones. I cannot begin to tell you how big an effect this had on me. We rushed round to the ice rink, and tried to put into practice what we had watched on the flickering screen. With varying degrees of success, as I recall. There was no way to see oneself. There were no coaches then either!

We had to invent slippy soles. That involved obtaining plastic strips which were stuck onto the sole of an old shoe with Evostik (which these days we would not have been allowed to buy).

So, if you want to see what inspired me all these years ago, click on this link, or on the image below. That will take you to the list of Brier films. Try the 1959 one for a starter. It's the full thirty minutes, with a built in viewer on the web page. I would imagine those of you who have started their curling careers in more recent years will probably laugh! And it is funny now, but fifty years ago watching these old films galvanised a new generation of young curlers in Scotland.

Congratulations to the CCA for putting these historic videos online. It's great to see the sport's heritage being preserved. I did eventually get to see a Brier live - 1974 in London, Ontario. The film of that event has been preserved I see. Have a look at this one. Can you spot me amongst the fans? And what do you think of the Saskatchewan team's trousers? Fashion comes back around in cycles they do say!

Pics of the Funspiel winners are courtesy of David Horne.