Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Golden Danish

The first event on the European Junior Curling Tour, the Golden Danish Junior Open 2010, was held last weekend at the Taarnby rink, Copenhagen, Denmark. Seven boys' teams and nine girls' teams took part.

There were no Scottish teams in the event this year.

The girls' event was won by Switzerland 1 from Basle (Manuela Siegrist, skip), and the boys' competition by Switzerland 2 from Baden-Regio (Michael Brunner, skip). Danish teams were runners-up in both events.

There are two more events on the Junior Tour, in Oslo in October and in Thun in November.

More details can be found here. And there are lots of photos from the event in four albums here.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Extreme curling

You may possibly have heard of heli-skiing, heli-hiking and even heli-biking, where you make use of helicopter transport to deliver you quickly to off-the-map places to enjoy your sport. And New Zealand of course is a paradise for adventure sports.

So that's the place to go if you happen to be into heli-curling!

No, it's no joke. Members of the West Coast Curling Club in New Zealand have been hiring helicopters to fly up to frozen tarns high in the Southern Alps to play. Lake Browning at 4,500 ft is apparently a favorite on a calm day.

Peter O’Sullivan explains, "We began curling as a club twelve years ago and have since grown to thirty members with twenty traveling to Naseby once a year for a weekend's curling. Several of our members travel to play at other times as well. We have this year begun heli-curling. We have also identified a old curling dam in the Craigieburn Range just off the Cheeseman ski field road that we plan to fix up over the summer in preparation for next season."

"Our problem is that we have no stones and rely on borrowing stones from the Naseby outdoor rink anytime we play. We have experimented with attaching handles to natural stones with little success. We also have been looking to purchase second hand stones from Canada. However in ones and twos the freight is a bit of a logistical nightmare. Does anyone have stones or know of stones that we could purchase?"

Peter's email is peteros at, if anyone has a container load of curling stones available for sale.

Heli-curling! Made my day. Thanks to Skip Cottage Curling's NZ correspondent, Kenny Thomson, for the heads up on this one!

Whereas the top pic is simply for illustrative purposes, sourced from this website, the photo above was forwarded by Kenny and shows some of the West Coast Curling Club members at Lake Browning. Club uniform apparently involves the wearing of 'See You Jimmy' hats, of which we heartily approve. Also the catering arrangements. Sorry I don't have (yet) a L-R of who's who in the pic. Click on the pic to see larger size.

News awaited on CEO appointment

According to the notes from the Royal Caledonian Curling Club's August Board meeting, there were sixteen applicants for the vacant CEO post. Five were short-listed and interviews held on Friday last. If an appointment has been made, we should perhaps expect an announcement over the next week or so. No news is not necessarily a bad thing, as getting everything in place in situations like this can take time. It seems to me that it is encouraging that the Board received such a good response to the job adverts, and hopefully a good candidate will have come forward.

The RCCC's new look website will go live on September 1, and that site (here) is where to look for the first news of any appointment.

Photo of Cairnie House, the headquarters of the Royal Club, is © Skip Cottage.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

With the National Academy

The Royal Club's NATIONAL ACADEMY programme is run by Rhona Martin supported by Brad Askew and complemented by team coaches. Eight teams this season. The whole squad was at The Peak in Stirling this weekend for a training camp. I enjoyed the opportunity yesterday to see them at work, work which involved lectures and on-ice analysis and training.

Scotland's squad structures are not that simple to understand. The sportscotland/Scottish Institute of Sport are responsible for four teams, the so-called 'Elite Squad' (see here). The National Academy was set up to identify those teams who are 'capable of challenging for a place in the Elite Scotland Squad' (here). Rhona, as the Royal Club's Performance Development Coach, is in overall charge of this group and during the season these curlers get support via the Area Institute network.

Then of course there is the Regional Academy, but more of this group next weekend!

I hear that major changes are afoot at the Scottish Institute involving how the coaching of our sport will be structured. Watch this space!

But back to yesterday. Here are a few pics to give a flavour of my visit, and to identify the eight National Academy teams (although I've not attempted to photograph everone). We will watch the progress of these teams with interest this season, at home and abroad. One benefit of your team being in the Academy is the opportunity to play in two competitions overseas. I'll try and keep on top of who is playing where, and how they get on.

Cate Brewster goes over the results of deceleration tests with the Jay McWilliam team of Grant Hardie, Struan Wood and Ian Copland. (L-R: Jay, Ian, Grant and Struan)

Brad Askew in 'official photographer' mode with the Gail Munro team of (L-R) Alison Mather, Kerry Adams-Taylor, Lyndsay Wilson and Gail Munro.

Scottish Junior Champion skip Lauren Gray has a new team this season with Jennifer Dodds at third, Tasha Aitken at second and Caitlin Barr as lead.

Coaches Trevor Dodds, Susan Kesley and Allan Hannah in a video analysis class with Kenny More.

Hannah Fleming (above) is back this season with the same team as last - Rebecca Kesley, Alice Spence and Abi Brown. This pic from a short three-end game against the McWilliam team.

Duncan Fernie, David Edwards, Richard Woods and Colin Campbell are a new lineup this season. That's Duncan throwing, with Richard and Colin.

Greig Henderson is coach to the John Penny team of Colin Dick, Colin Howden and Billy Morton. (L-R: Billy, Colin D, Colin H, John)

Anna Sloan (above) will skip Claire Hamilton, Vicki Adams and Rhiann Macleod in women's competitions this season. Anna, Vicki and Rhiann will also join Eve Muirhead for some junior events and for another tilt at the Scottish Junior Championship.

Ally Fraser (above), the current Scottish Junior Champ, will skip Blair Fraser, Thomas Sloan and Kerr Drummond this season.

Maybe this one should be the caption competition pic! Rhona is in earnest conversation with coach (and RCCC Director) Trevor Dodds.

What a marvellous training facility The Peak is, and not just because of the ice pad.

Yes, the new curling season is definitely underway!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Friday, August 27, 2010

Content update

There's new content in the 'For Sale' page which might be of interest to curlers who garden, or even gardeners who curl.

And for those, like me, who like a bit of nostalgia, the 'Looking back' page has a new feature.

Photo of the Month

I'm looking forward to seeing curlers on the ice this weekend, and in short time the new season will be well underway!

Today though I've been thinking of one of the greatest experiences I've ever had (on the ice). That was in February 7, 1979 - the Grand Match on the Lake of Menteith! I was delighted with myself last week when I stumbled upon a photograph that I knew I had somewhere, but hadn't been able to find when we were all in Grand Match mode last January.

It's an unusual photograph, so much so that I've made it the 'Photo of the Month' for September. See the POTM page on the menu bar, or go here. Perhaps you can identify who is in the photo.

Right, now to get the camera dusted off for tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Greatest sporting moments

It had always bothered me that there was no readily available video record of GB curling's greatest moment - the Olympic final in Ogden in 2002. Then, Rhona Martin, Debbie Knox, Fiona MacDonald, Janice Rankin, with alternate Margaret Morton, played out a 4-3 last stone victory over Switzerland. Just where could we watch 'the stone of destiny' again?

Rhona's son Andrew was just six years old in 2002. Eight years on, he too wanted to see his mum's success more widely available. So it's thanks to him that I recently got hold of a short DVD, which contains a tribute to the GB Olympic team, put together by BBC Sport. That's now uploaded to YouTube here, or click on the image above. Be proud! And well done the BBC.

There is already footage of the 2002 men's final between Norway and Canada, on YouTube here.

Thanks to Andrew and Rhona Martin for help with this.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Aberdeen City Open

Details of a new event at Curl Aberdeen, the Aberdeen City Open, have been made available today. The event will go ahead on February 4-6, 2011. The website is here.

The event comes about because of the success of the European Curling Championships held in Aberdeen last December. Aberdeen City Council was delighted with the Championships and has presented the Curl Aberdeen rink with a trophy to be contested in an open tournament each year.

Twenty-four teams can be accommodated in the inaugural competition, and the event will be run on the Schenkel system in two sections of twelve. All teams are guaranteed four games. Any four curlers, from home or abroad! The top four in each section will contest quarterfinals on the Sunday.

The top prize for the City Open Champions is £600, with cash rewards to eighth place. There will also be prizes for winners in other categories such as the best Curl Aberdeen team, under 25s, all ladies team and all seniors team.

The entry fee is £120 per team, payable on entry. Entries will be accepted on a first come first served basis. The entry fee includes entertainment and a two course dinner on the Saturday night. Accommodation at a special rate has been arranged at the Holiday Inn, Westhill.

For more details, and to download an entry form, check the website here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lees's painting update

I was pleased to read this announcement on the Royal Club website when I got home this afternoon:

Update: Charles Lees Painting
By Willie Nicoll

Following a discussion at the ASC and taking into account the sentiments expressed in the e-mails submitted by the members, the Board has decided not to put the Charles Lees Painting up for auction in December. The Board will now explore what possibilities may exist to raise sufficient funds to have the picture restored and put on display.

I am heartened by this, however concise the content. But I am ever the pessimist and, I suspect that, although those who wish the painting to be retained as an asset by the Royal Caledonian Curling Club may have won the first skirmish, there will be many battles ahead in the future of this iconic painting.

The first problem is in keeping interest in the painting alive, and bringing together members who have the time and inclination to work for the painting's future. I gather that the initial efforts may come from the Areas Standing Committee. I hope the Ladies' Branch will have input to make too. I'll try keep you updated with regular posts here. Let's hope that there will really be a group, 'The Friends of the Grand Match Painting', willing to help the Board's efforts.

Firstly, I need your help. The image above comes from David B Smith's book, Curling: An Illustrated History, which was published in 1981. It's the only image I have of the full painting.

Has anyone a photo of the painting in recent years, perhaps when it was at Scone Palace, or hanging in the RCCC offices at Coates Crescent and Great King Street? Has it been reproduced anywhere else?

A large engraving of the painting was made in the nineteenth century, and there should be many copies. Does anyone know where one still exists? Perhaps someone has a photo of the engraving?

A print of Charles Lees's Grand Match painting was sold at the historical exhibition which accompanied the 1975 Silver Broom World Championship in Perth. This was much smaller than the original, at 27 by 20 inches. I actually owned one of these prints, although it was a poor representation of the original, and it faded badly over the years. Does anyone still have a print on their wall?

Robin Welsh used Lees's image for the Scottish Curler Christmas card in 1975. Does one survive anywhere?

Tonight I am pleased to learn that I'm not the only one who sees the value in retaining the painting, and a 'well done' to everyone who has lobbied the Board and its chairman with their views. And it is good that Willie Nicoll and the directors have listened.

Friday, August 20, 2010

More for sale

I'm looking for a female curler who has a 30" waist, and 41" hips! Could this be you?

Hair colour and age are unimportant, and it doesn't really matter whether you have long or short legs.

You see I'm trying to help out a friend who has a brand new, never used, pair of Olson Contour Curling trousers for sale.

Description: 'Olson's Contour Pants feature a fashion-forward mid-rise waist band, stylish slim fit, flattering flared leg, belt loops and extra stitching details. These detail-driven pants offer similar iconic styling to the Low-Rise, but with a more conservative rise waist. The legs are unhemmed so you can have them tailored to the perfect inseam length.' More here.

The seller is A friend of hers brought them back from Canada but unfortunately they turned out to be too big (!) for her. They are sized MED - 30" Waist / 41" Hip, in black.

Suggested price is £55, including postage to anywhere in the UK. Contact Louise to negotiate, if you think they will fit you.

Louise has promised to buy me a coffee if we can find a buyer. A coffee! Yes, the new Skip Cottage Curling needs to maximise any opportunity for income generation, and after all we are a 'public service' blog!

And of course if you DO need a new set of 'pants' for the new season, and Louise's don't fit you, blog supporter British Curling Supplies may be able to help - follow the BCS link in the side bar on the right.

Then again, maybe Loudmouth Golf is the route you want to go down, aka the 'Norwegian Road'. (I rather hope so!)

Of course, another reason for posting this today, is to point you to the 'For Sale' page above, where I have two more sets of stones which I need to sell.

PS Talking of selling things, although there has been no official announcement yet, the word on the street is that the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Board is set to rethink their decision to send Charles Lees's Grand Match painting for immediate sale. Good news. More information as it comes to me.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Murrayfield, 1984

We're back to 1984 today, to the SKOL Edinburgh International Curling Championship at Murrayfield. Scottish Television was the broadcaster then. I've rescued this clip from a VHS tape recorded at the time.

Actually, I hear Willie Jamieson has entered the Scottish Seniors this year, with Gordie Kennedy, David McGaan and David Kelly (or possibly his stunt double). Can't wait. I've joined the team's fan club already. Anyway, here's Willie in action way back in 1984, against Peter Wilson.

You might recognise other well kent curlers on the ice. I mentioned recently to the RCCC webmaster Lindsay Scotland (currently working hard on the governing body's new website) that I had this piece of video. However, his monetary offer for me NOT to show it was insufficient. So here it is, most of one end of the game. Click on either of the images to go to the video, or follow this link.

The top photo is of manager Ronnie Malcolm when the Murrayfield rink was flooded by the Water of Leith not long before the Edinburgh International was due to take place. All credit to the staff that the rink was ready for the Championships! The photo was used to introduce the STV broadcast (this is a still from the video), and the original still hangs in the entrance foyer of the Murrayfield Rink.

Sad Stranraer News

If you've curled at the rink at the North West Castle you will certainly have encountered Sheila Kirkland, long serving barmaid in the Ross Lounge. Everyone knew her. I learned yesterday that she had passed away. More in the People page on the menu above, or click here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

An important week

It's an important week. I don't say this because it just happens to be my birthday, today, Tuesday, August 17. Sixty-three years it is! No mistake, getting old. With age comes experience. Or so they say. I've certainly learned that when people have made up their minds about something, it is very difficult to get them to change their view.

I suspect that might be the case with the Royal Club Board of Directors. They have already spent some time at their July Board meeting, discussing the fate of Charles Lees's painting of the Grand Match. They made the decision then that the painting should go for auction unless some alternate solution could be found by the next Board meeting. That's on Thursday, this week.

To my mind, consultation with members has been minimal. It was minimal five years ago, and it has been again this month. There was one post on the RCCC website (here) and that's not even on the front page of the site anymore. I hope that some who are interested in curling's heritage will have read what I have written about it here, with suggestions on how the Board should proceed. And that they have made their views known to Willie Nicoll, the Chairman, or one of the other directors, Jeanette Johnston, Anne Malcolm, Bob Kelly, Trevor Dodds, Kay Gibb, or the RCCC President Robbie Scott, who is also a member of the Board. By the day after tomorrow, it will be too late.

It is nearly twenty years since I last saw the painting. I suspect that many of the Board have not seen it recently, if ever. And that's the problem. Reproductions, such as that on the cover of the February 1989 Scottish Curler, hardly present the painting in the best light. I remember it as being very impressive, hanging in the boardroom at Coates Crescent, and before that at Perth Ice Rink.

I would like to see the painting again, now. I'm sceptical when the Royal Club Board says that is faces a 'restoration bill of a minimum of £50,000, possibly escalating to nearer £100,000'. How reliable are these figures, and what do they mean? Is it all scaremongering, to convince us that there is no other course of action than to auction off the Club's biggest asset?

What work is really needed? What work is needed simply to ensure that the painting does not deteriorate further, and retains its current value, suggested by the auctioneers Sotheby's as being between £300,000 and £500,000. In what condition is the frame? What work is needed so that the painting can be hung again, if only temporarily, so that we can all see it. What work is REALLY needed to restore the painting to former glory?

I have already suggested that the best way forward is to have the painting taken into expert storage where it can be examined, without haste, and answers to the above questions obtained, and made available to all members. All with an intention that a new, permanent, home for the painting will be found one day, with the painting on loan from the Royal Club, rather than sold.

What is niggling me is the thought that perhaps the painting has been damaged, and this is the reason that a previous report of its condition has not been made public. If so, when did this damage occur? Whose fault was it?

If damage has occurred, let's be quite clear where some of the blame must lie. The painting has been owned by the Royal Club for more than one hundred years. If it is shown that the Royal Club Council of past years, by its negligence, allowed the painting to become damaged, then we will all need reassurance that the present Board is looking after all the other items of curling memorabilia in its care.

Yes, I'm guilty of scaremongering now.

But one thing I'm sure about today is that, even if the Charles Lees painting is sold on, we will all have to become more aware of those items of the sport's heritage that we, the members and directors of the RCCC, have been charged with looking after. What's the point of collecting items from the sport's history, as the RCCC Trust is actively doing, if these are not going to be cared for?

If the Royal Club is unwillingly to care for our sport's memorabilia, perhaps the answer for the Board is to sell off ALL the Royal Club's historical artifacts. If the Lees painting goes to open auction, then the precedent will have been set. This is certainly an important week!

There is now a Facebook group for Friends of the Grand Match painting, go here.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Kinross Update

I note from the August Update from the Kinross Curling Trust that David Jones has been appointed as the part-time Area Curling Development Officer at Kinross. He begins work on August 23. The position is funded by the Royal Caledonian Curling Club in partnership with the Green Hotel and the Kinross Curling Trust.

£117,500 has been raised towards the target set by the Trust last August for local fundraising of £250,000 towards the National Academy project.

As things stand at present, the Kinross Curling Trust is not spending on the project until the situation regarding the Market Park site is clarified. The case to the Scottish Lands Tribunal by Kinross Estate Company to 'discharge the burden' has been submitted and the formal process is now underway. Interested parties have four weeks to consider a response.

The August Update says, "Timescales henceforth are at present uncertain as they depend in part on whether parties respond. KCT’s preference remains to build on the Market Park site but against the possibility this is ruled out the Trust is exploring alternative sites within Kinross and have held useful discussions with Perth and Kinross Council. The Chairman (Bob Tait) has met with the senior sportscotland officials dealing with our bid to update them on the situation and has been re-assured of sportscotland’s commitment."

The Trust's website is here for information about future fundraising activities.

I was intrigued by the final sentence of the document I received this morning. It says, "If you have any questions about the project please contact any Trustee for the facts. Rumour and misinformation can only hinder progress." The very 'fact' that there was a need to include this sentence, says much about the world we live in. Commitment to the truth, and the timely and honest dissemination of information, is something that I wish all curling organisations would take on board!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sao Paulo update

I think sometimes in Scotland we just take our sport for granted, bogged down in the politics and the problems, only seeing the negatives. It brings a tear to the eye to read about the enthusiasm of those new to the game, in a country without even one curling facility (yet).

If you read my recent post about curling being demoed in Brazil (here), you may well have been following events on The Curling News blog. If you haven't, go NOW and read the story here.

Then have a look at this video. And there is even more here.

Good luck to all the curling evangelists at the Neutrogena Arena, and I, for one, am so pleased to see that Linn Githmark will be wearing her Loudmouth pants. All the beginners in Brazil will just think it is the norm to wear colourful gear on the ice!

Cumbrae push update

I mentioned previously, here, that members of the Braehead Wheelchair Curling Club had pushed around Cumbrae to raise funds for Erskine.

As you can see from Aileen Neilson's photo above, a cheque for £500 was duly delivered. Aileen says, "We were warmly welcomed and shown round the excellent facilities. A most worthy cause and well worth the effort."

Well done you guys!

Thursday, August 12, 2010


It is heartening to receive feedback on how many of you enjoy looking at the videos of times past. Especially as I know that many were not even born when the games shown were being played! 1991 seems like yesterday to me though. For your 'enjoyment' today is a clip from the final of the Clydesdale Bank Scottish Ladies Curling Championship at Kirkcaldy in 1991.

The game matched Christine Allison and her team of Claire Milne, Mairi Milne and Margaret Richardson against Kirsty Addison, Karen Addison, Joanna Pegg and Tara Brown.

The problem for me is what to show from the game. The original BBC broadcast was thirty minutes or so. The final went to an extra end, so that's what I've uploaded. The YouTube limit is ten minutes, so even one end of a game has had to be cropped a little. And the quality is not 'high definition'! However, I hope it gives you a flavour of the time.

The commentators are Richard Harding and Judy Mackenzie.

Click here to watch the video.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The future of the Grand Match painting

I told the story of Lees's Grand Match painting recently here. There is now just a week to go before the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Board decides its future. See the official post about it on the RCCC website here. If you haven't done so already, let Willie Nicoll know what you want to happen. Perhaps you should talk about it with your own club secretary, or get in touch with your representative on the Areas Standing Committee, which also meets next week, on the day before the Board meeting. This is the committee which represents the views of the 'ordinary' curler. This is the committee which should be arguing for the painting to be saved.

I've been talking with lots of people about the painting and what should happen to it. I was asked, "What would you do, Bob?" Here are my thoughts.

Personally, I fail to understand why the Royal Club is planning to sell one of the most important iconic paintings of the sport of curling. I cannot believe that the Club is thinking of disposing of what is its biggest financial asset, with unseemly haste and without proper consultation with the members. It's not as if the Club is in a difficult financial position and needs the money from such a sale. I believe that if the new Board allows the painting to go for auction, then these Royal Club directors will be forever responsible for the biggest mistake in the Royal Club's history!

For once I am not sitting on the fence. I simply do not believe that we are in possession of all the facts, nor that the Board has made a good enough case for disposing of the painting.

I believe that the priority is to get the painting out of the clutches of the auction house where it currently is being held, and into safe secure storage. For the short term. What do I mean by this? I would not like to see the painting finish up in the back of someone's shed on a farm somewhere, or in a warehouse, but in the care of a professional company which knows how to look after works of art. There are a number of such companies, used by museums, or by those who are fortunate to possess works of art with no room to display them all. As an example, check out Constantine's website here.

Then, given that the immediate threat to the painting has been dealt with, there will be time to consider its future. Independent experts can advise on conservation and restoration, and all of us can be made aware of the current state of the painting, and hence make a reasoned decision on what should happen.

With the painting safely and securely in store, there will also be time for new negotiations to begin with parties other than the National Galleries, such as the Kelvingrove Museum, other museums and galleries, the National Trust, other stately homes. That's always assuming that the painting is not required to be the centrepiece of the new National Academy project with its curling history museum and RCCC offices. (Yes, I still live in hope that this project will eventually come about, if not in Kinross, then on some other site.)

Note that I've used the word 'independent' in relation to the experts who should examine the painting. I want to know the condition of the painting in the opinion of experts who are not in hock to someone who is trying to purchase it for as low a price as possible. These reports (and surely we need two) should be made public for all members to read. The questions which need to be answered are (1) What work, if any, needs to be done to ensure that the painting does not deteriorate further and remains an asset to the members of the Royal Club, and (2) What work needs to be done to restore the painting to satisfactory condition that it can be put on show. And of course we need estimates of what the answers to both of these questions will cost.

The current figures being bandied about in the Royal Club's post on the website, are, in my opinion, vague and unsubstantiated.

I hear you saying, "But this was all done before, the opinions of the membership canvassed, and decisions made."

I would respond by saying that this was done four years ago, and a lot has changed in that time. For one thing, the National Academy project with its museum was only on the drawing board then. And the people involved have changed. In fact only one, Jeanette Johnston, remains on the Board from that time. And not every option for the future of the painting was presented to members four years ago.

I hope fervently that the decision is made to keep the painting. Yes, there are cost implications, although short term storage is unlikely to be prohibitive.

In the long term, there may well be a need for considerable fundraising but with a will, there will be a way! As an example, the Royal Club now has its own charitable trust. It did have £100,000 in it, a bequest from Bob Gardner. Some has been spent. (As the minutes of the Trust are not published, none of us knows exactly how funds have been used to date, or how much remains). I understand that the money in the trust fund is earmarked to be used for the establishment of a museum of curling. What could be a more appropriate use of Bob's bequest than in ensuring that Lees's painting remains in Scotland, in good condition and available for everyone to appreciate and enjoy?

Perhaps what the Royal Club Board needs to do is establish a group of members, volunteers, the 'Friends of the Grand Match painting'! This group would become the painting's 'evangelists', promoting it, researching it, marketing it. There are certainly art lovers amongst the Club's membership, perhaps other experts, and enthusiasts, who would be prepared to devote a little of their time to looking to the future of this painting. 'Friends' groups are well established in so many other areas, even in steam heritage railways (another of my passions as followers of will know!)

I have two further images to throw into the discussion today.

Charles Lees also painted 'The Golfers'. In many ways it is a companion to 'The Grand Match on Linlithgow Loch'. Did you know that the Scottish National Portrait Gallery purchased this painting with financial assistance from, amongst others, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club? It is all so different from the relationship over the past four years with Sotheby's trying to persuade the National Galleries to buy our painting, which we already own (!), at market value.

Note that the option of loaning Lees's painting, or even giving it, to the National Galleries was not among the options presented to members four years ago.

The image above is of the cover of a little book entitled The Golfers: The Story Behind the Painting by Peter Lewis and Angela Howe. There is also a project to track down the descendants of all those portrayed in that picture, see here. Prints, postcards and greeting cards are used as marketing tools and to raise funds.

Is not our curling painting every bit as important as this golf masterpiece?

Don't rule out the fact that other curling organisations might have an interest in the future of Lees's painting, and ensuring it's preservation. What's that on the wall behind Mike Thomson, the World Curling Federation's General Secretary who retires this month? It's NOT the original Lees painting. Rather, it's a photographic reproduction, not quite full size, which Mike had made when the WCF's offices in Great King Street relocated to Perth, and the original moved to Scone Palace. He, for one, is an admirer of the painting.

Can I ask you, if you are reading this post and have an opinion on what should happen, MAKE YOUR OPINION KNOWN to someone on the Board. If you have curling friends who may not even know that Lees's painting is in jeopardy (because they don't read the Royal Club website, or this blog) then tell them about it. Do it now. In a week's time it may be too late.

I'll finish today with what David B Smith, our foremost curling historian, said in the January 2007 issue of the Scottish Curler magazine. "It would be a monstrous betrayal of all the Club has represented over the last 168 years if it were to sell this famous painting at auction."

Images © Skip Cottage

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

First Toothy Tale online

It has been my plan that the new blog have 'outside contributions'. The first of these, from an old friend and curling enthusiast, John Brown, is now online. John is also the Secretary of the English Curling Association, and hence is well placed to present a view from 'Across the Border'!

Check out TOOTHY in the menu bar above.

Saturday nights in Sheffield

In September last year I blogged (here) about curling in England, at iceSheffield. The post even included a YouTube video for you to enjoy. The rink is in the news again this past weekend, curling celebrity Rhona Martin launching Saturday evening sessions. Go here to find out more.

I'm not going to post further on this subject today, as John Brown will be here soon to talk about it, amongst other things!

There, that's the blog's first ever trailer. Toothy Tales are coming to a computer near you! A Skip Cottage Curling production. Watch this space.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Human Curling

It being still the silly season, I thought you might like this short video of Vancouverites indulging in some 'human curling' as a promotional event and fundraiser for With Glowing Hearts, a documentary about social media creating social change.

At least it made me smile on a wet August Monday!

Click here, or on the image, to see the video on YouTube.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

The Curling Stone Man

Something happened to me on Saturday, which makes me think I might be cured! You see, I'm a bit of a collector of curling memorabilia. What is it deep inside the brains of so many of us that stimulates a desire to collect things? At all costs? I think it's irrational.

Let me go back a few years. Ever since I began curling, I've been fascinated by curling stones. Big ones, flat pancake ones, tall ones, small ones, made of different types of 'granite', with different upper and lower surfaces, with wide and narrow striking bands, running bands of different diameters, a variety of colourful handles. Yes, when the skating rink at Crossmyloof was in use for curling in the early 1960s, variety was very much part of the game! Of course, matched stones were soon to become the norm in indoor rinks.

On outside ice, things had never been standardised because, if you wanted to play curling in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, you had to have your own stones. The RCCC Annuals of the time carried adverts for the variety of stones that were available to buy. David Smith has talked about this, on the Curling History blog here.

For the past eight years I've hung out at auctions up and down the country, visited antique shops and fairs, always on the lookout for stones - to see if I could identify them, and generally to decide if they were worth buying. Sadly, too many once beautiful valuable stones have not been cared for, being left outside in the rain, or placed on a concrete step with no thought to the damage being done to the running surface! Many who took to the outside ice last winter in Scotland discovered to their cost just how important having good-running stones is to the enjoyment of the sport on natural ice.

I've bought stones and handles at auction over the years to add to my collection. Many I've done up and sold on, and hopefully those who have bought stones from me have been happy with their purchases. Over the next few months, I'll have a few more stones for sale, partially because I want to be able to finance my other hobby - blogging! (A new laptop is the main item on the shopping list for the new season)

What do I mean, I'm cured? On Friday, I looked in to an auction viewing to see a pair of stones which would be on sale on the Saturday. You can never tell from a description, or even a small photo, just what an auction lot will actually be like. You have to go and see. These stones were VERY interesting and unusual, and if past performance was anything to go by, I would have been back at the auction house for the sale on the Saturday, bidding way above what I could afford just to have these in my possession. If you are a collector yourself, of anything, you will probably know what I mean.

As it turned out, Saturday morning came and went, and I resisted the desire to add yet more stones to my collection. I'm cured... I hope.

I've had great fun at auctions over the years. I came across a collection of really old stones at Loves in Perth four years ago. They had obviously been rescued from underwater, given the build up of rust on the handles. I assumed that because of the condition they might go cheaply. Not so! I was outbid on every one, by a telephone bidder, the best of the bunch going for several hundred pounds! At the interval I asked if I might photograph the stones, just for the record, and my request was relayed by one of the staff into the main office. "The curling stone man wonders if he might take a photo of the old stones!" That's them above.

I wondered who had bought them. That information is confidential of course to the auction house, but I did learn that it was a she, an attractive lady apparently, with a North American accent, who likes 'old Scottish things'! Unfortunately I've never found out who she is.

One more auction story. Two stones of a pair were being sold separately at an auction in Montrose. Single soled stones they were, very unusual and rather attractive. I was fortunate to be the winning bidder on one of the stones early in the morning, for a not unreasonable price. I waited around all day until the partner came up, and had to drop out when the bidding went up past £200 for just the one stone. Shame really, I'm sure 'my' stone is lonely and has been pining for its mate these past years.

Anyway, the purpose of this post is really to introduce a new For Sale page to the blog, where periodically I'll put some things up for sale/auction over the coming months. It's on the menu bar above, or click here. By putting items for sale on the blog here first, I hope I can guarantee that they will go to a good home. If no blogallies want to buy, it's not a problem, the various items will likely go to eBay down the line.

The first item on the new page could be for you if your initials just happen to be J. McP. Do you know anyone called John McPhail, Jackie McPherson, Jake McParland or ...?

I should say that stones make up the least of the things I collect, although they are the largest, and I look forward to talking about my other collecting interests in the future. Do YOU collect curling memorabilia? Tell me what you collect.

A variety of stones were on the ice at Castle Semple Loch, Lochwinnoch, last January, see here.

Pics © Skip Cottage

Friday, August 06, 2010

Norwegian curling formula in Brazil

According to the website here, Neutrogena's Norwegian Formula was discovered when, despite the harsh weather conditions, Norwegian fishermen reported having soft, supple hands. It's all in the fish oils apparently!

So, when you want to market your skin products in South America, what do you do? It's obvious, isn't it. You construct a curling rink in a shopping mall in Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil, recruiting Canadian Mark Shurek to make the ice. Then you look about for an attractive Norwegian, with nice skin, to be 'the face' of the campaign, and to do some of the curling instruction along the way.

I assume that's how Norway's Linn Githmark (above) comes to be in Brazil from August 13-22, to stimulate that country's growing interest in our sport! Brazil has challenged, unsuccessfully, for a place in the World Championships for the past two years, but does not, as yet, have its own dedicated curling facility. According to The Curling News (here) which was the first to spot this story, there is a lot of enthusiasm for the sport in the country.

There's a website especially for the curling promotion, see here. It does help if you speak Portuguese, but don't be put off. Have a look!

In my extensive research (!) for this post, I note that Neutrogena sells, in some countries, anti-aging skin products, see here. Given that Dumfries and Galloway is set soon to have the most elderly population of any part of Scotland, perhaps we can persuade the Johnson and Johnson company to become a major sponsor of the sport at Lockerbie, Dumfries and Stranraer?

The photo of Linn Githmark was taken at the Le Gruyere European Championships in Aberdeen last December and is © Skip Cottage

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Turkey's curlers for Greenacres

The Turkish Curling Association has entered both men's and women's teams for the European Championships C Division competition. The World Curling Federation's newest member will make its debut alongside Croatia, France, Ireland, Serbia and Slovakia in the women's competition, and with Belarus, Iceland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Serbia and Slovakia in the men's event.

The draw is online here. The competitions, at the Greenacres rink in Renfrewshire, run from Saturday, September 25 to Tuesday, September 28. The top two teams will qualify to compete in the B Division of the Le Gruyere European Championships, Champery, Switzerland, December 3-11.

This will be the first time that a C Division has been organised. Ten teams will play in A Divisions and sixteen in B Divisions at the Euros in December.

The Greenacres rink is also the venue for the European Mixed Championship, September 21-25.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

People Page

Well kent Braehead curler Gary Macfarlane is the first to be featured in the blog's new 'People Page'. Check out what he's up to by clicking in the menu bar above, or here.

I am just blown away by his courage and commitment. You may only know Gary from the ice, and if so I think you will be surprised. Give him your support, and put him, and his efforts, in your thoughts in the months ahead!

Pics of Gary © Skip Cottage

Monday, August 02, 2010

Summer Camp

Summer is camp time for junior curlers the world over. The WCF's well established junior camp went ahead in Fussen, July 4-10. The first of the Royal Club's own camps was held last week, and by all accounts was a great success.

This season, for the first time, a TEAM camp is being held in the Netherlands, at Zoetermeer. This gets underway today, with two Scottish sides in the mix (Forfar's Duncan Menzies, and a girls' team comprising Naomi Whyte, Maggie Wilson, Dionne Clark and Claire Dagen).

The organisers are Mark Neeleman, Shari Leibbrandt, Margrietha Voskuilen and Laurens van der Windt. The instructors include Kay Montgomery from Canada, Ole Ingvaldsen from Norway, Eeva Rothlisberger, the WCF's new development officer, and our own Judith McFarlane.

The Sweetlake camp has a website here, for photos and news.

This also gives me an excuse to point you all towards another music video featuring curling! The group is called HIT ME TV, and the song 'Not a Real Talent'! It was filmed at the Zoetermeer rink! Find it here, or click on the image below. Enjoy!

Auction beckons for Lees's painting

This photo wasn't taken yesterday! It appeared on the front cover of the October 1986 Scottish Curler magazine and shows the interior of 2 Coates Crescent, the headquarters of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club at that time. Note what is on the back wall. It's a painting by Charles Lees which is the main news item this week!

The story is somewhat of a saga, but settle back and have a read, because what you think is important. YOU have a decision to make.

In the summer of 2006, the Scottish Curler revealed that the Royal Club had asked the auction house Sotheby's to value the painting of the Grand Match at Linlithgow Loch, so that it could be insured for the correct amount. The good news was that the painting was worth a substantial sum of money, potentially in excess of £500,000. The bad news was that it needed renovation and would be very expensive to insure.

Sotheby’s was instructed to assess interest in the painting from their private client list with the option to go to an auction sale in autumn 2007.

Meanwhile the RCCC Board of Directors sought the opinion of members about what to do with the painting. The Board believed that there were only three options:
1. Keep the painting but do not restore it
2. Keep the painting and restore it
3. Sell the painting

There were other options of course, such as simply giving it, or loaning it, to the National Galleries of Scotland, or another gallery, but these were not canvassed.

Option 3 received the most support, although concern was expressed that if the painting went to an open auction it might well be bought by a private buyer and disappear abroad, never to be on view in Scotland again. This concern was heeded by the RCCC Board and by February 2007 it seemed that the future of the painting had been secured. Sotheby's was instructed to continue as the selling agent but negotiations were to be with the National Galleries of Scotland only!

It seemed at the time a strange arrangement. The Royal Club Board wanted Sotheby's to sell the painting and at the same time it wanted the National Galleries of Scotland to purchase it. But both seller's agent and the prospective purchaser clearly would have their own, very different, interests. Sotheby's, quite naturally, would want to sell the painting for as large a sum as possible to maximise the percentage fee they would receive. The National Galleries of Scotland, quite naturally, would want to pay as little as possible for the painting.

By June 2007 a report had been produced (never made public) which indicated that the cost of repairing the painting would be much more than at first thought. At the 2007 RCCC AGM it was stated that if the sale did go ahead it would be a year before the painting was again on display.

My own words in a blog post in June 2007 (see here) were, "Call me a pessimist if you like but I suspect this story has a long way yet to run!"

I was correct.

Detail from the painting

The Minutes of the Royal Club Board from August 1, 2007, seemed to show that the parties were close to an agreement. Discussions were to be held on how the money raised from the sale might be used! Such funds would go into the Royal Club's Charitable Trust Fund. The painting was to go on show at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, in Edinburgh.

A public announcement gave cause for optimism that the painting would be saved for the nation. It stated: 'The Board of the RCCC and the RCCC Charitable Trust are pleased to announce that they have agreed to loan the Charles Lees Painting of 'The Grand Match at Linlithgow' to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

RCCC Board Chairman Mike Ferguson said, "We have entered discussions over a possible sale of the painting to the Portrait Gallery. We will continue to work to ensuring that the wishes of the vast majority of curlers, ie that the painting remains in Scotland and open to public view, will be met. We are fully considering our options with regard to the use of the funds generated by any sale. At this stage it would be fair to say the abiding principles that will be passed on to the Directors of the RCCC Charitable Trust will be protection of the capital for curling's future and best use of the income to support curling's heritage and development."

James Holloway, Director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery said, "Charles Lees' painting of the Grand Match at Linlithgow is one of Scotland's greatest sporting paintings. I am delighted that we have been allowed by the Royal Caledonian Curling Club to borrow it and display it in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery."

It didn't happen. Negotiations with the National Galleries broke down. In June 2009, Colin Grahamslaw made this statement at the RCCC AGM, "If I can update briefly on the Charles Lees painting, we have been discussing throughout the year with the National Galleries of Scotland their bid for the picture. Unfortunately the situation with the Titians sidelined our picture. It seems to be easier to find 50 million for a couple of Titians than a slightly smaller amount for what we were looking for for our picture but, we continue to talk with the galleries and talk with Sotheby's about potential homes for the Charles Lees painting but, it still remains with the Royal Club and in our ownership and in safe-keeping in appropriate conditions."'

Come right up to date now, August 2010. The matter was discussed by the new Board at their first meeting following the AGM, and a statement made on the Royal Club website, see here.

The extract from the minutes reads, "The Board received a letter from Sotheby’s regarding the sale of the Charles Lees painting. The letter indicated that the Royal Club have been very patient with the National Portrait Gallery regarding their efforts to purchase the Lees painting but with the likelihood of the sale to the Portrait Gallery now virtually non-existent that the Club should look at putting the painting into auction. It was suggested that the picture be put into auction with an appropriate reserve and an estimate of £300-500,000 on it. The Board discussed whether or not it was possible to retain the picture. However it was felt that with an insurance premium of in excess of £6000, un-quantified storage charges and a restoration bill of a minimum of £50,000, possibly escalating to nearer £100,000 that this was not a realistic situation. It was felt that the feeling of the members had been to sell the picture but to try and retain it in Scotland, the Board felt that this had been tried and that the Gallery had been given the opportunity to pay by instalments but still were not able to purchase the picture. It was therefore resolved, reluctantly, that if no alternative solution could be found by the next Board meeting Sotheby’s would be given the authority to take the picture to auction. It was agreed to inform the Gallery of this decision to give them one final chance to make the purchase."

So, the future of one of the sport's greatest masterpieces will be decided this month. The RCCC statement says, "As the extract shows the Board is of the view that best efforts have been made to sell the picture and retain it in Scotland. This has not been possible and therefore the picture should be offered on open auction, it is hoped that this action may stimulate a domestic buyer into action, however it is also recognised that reluctantly the picture may be sold abroad.

The final decision will be taken at the Board meeting in late August. Any alternative suggestions should be directed to the Chairman of the board Mr Willie Nicoll." Willie's contact is given in the statement here.

What do I think? I would hate to see the our painting leave our shores. It is after all owned by all the members of the Royal Club. If it was up to me, I would offer it - free - to the Art Gallery and Museum at Kelvingrove in Glasgow. That gallery might enjoy being one up on the Edinburgh lot! It would be important though to have a commitment that it would be restored and go on show.

But it's not up to me, it's up to YOU, the curlers of Scotland. Spread the word! I suspect that many will be content to see the painting simply go to auction, and a large sum of money go into the Royal Club coffers. Whatever. It is important that the RCCC Board knows the views of the membership.

Notes about the painting:
The Grand Match at Linlithgow Loch took place on January 25, 1848. Thirty-five northern rinks played an equal number of southern rinks, with a further hundred southern rinks playing matches amongst themselves. Including spectators, some six thousand persons were present. The painting is not an accurate representation of the day, it being a composite portrait of all the curling notables of Scotland, Lees using artistic licence to include them as if they had been there. There is evidence to suggest that Lees travelled to the homes of curlers to sketch them, so that their likenesses could be accurately included in the large painting which was completed in 1849. The painting shows clearly the curlers’ dress and the single soled stones which were in use at the time. The painting was purchased by the Royal Club following a decision taken at the AGM in July, 1898.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

A new look for a new season

Welcome to a redesigned Skip Cottage Curling blog. I hope you will find it more legible than before.

There are some new features. Although the central 'Home' page, the blog which you are now reading, remains the same as before, the site has extra pages. Some of these can already be accessed on the menu bar below the header.

'Editorials' will be where you will find a traditional editorial, updated monthly - my attempt to get you thinking and discussing about some aspect of the curling scene. August's editorial is already in place.

As you know, one of my main interests is curling photography. So of course I have taken the opportunity to have a Photo of the Month ('POTM').

The 'Looking Back' page is an attempt to keep the memory of the Scottish Curler magazine alive, by looking at what was happening 20 and 50 years ago, as seen (mainly, but not exclusively) through the pages of the magazines of the time.

More pages are planned. Watch this space.

The top link in my browser's bookmarks menu is to the Royal Caledonian Curling Club's website where Kay Adams is doing a good job of updating content. I check this site every day, and I expect you do too. Hopefully, this blog will continue to complement Scottish Curling's 'official' site.

It's already the beginning of August, and I'm declaring the new curling season underway! I will post as frequently as information crosses my desk, if I judge it might be of interest to blogallies! As things warm up (or should that be cool down?) when rinks open and play begins, my plan, as it has been this past year, is to have something new here most days.

I am grateful to my advertisers, also known as the Blog Supporters Club! Clicking on any of the images takes you to the advertiser's website. There will also be opportunity for you to support individually too in due course, if you wish to do so.

And please contact me if you have information on any aspect of Scottish curling, or if you have any comment or question.