BBC Scotland's Landward programme on Friday featured a piece about curling, and the Grand Match. You can watch this on the BBC iPlayer here, until December 23. The curling bit is near the end of the programme.
I found it very interesting, particularly the old footage of play at Carsebreck in the 1930s (I think) and from the Lake of Menteith in 1979. Judith McFarlane gave presenter Euan McIlwraith a lesson at The Peak, Stirling. And Royal Club Director Trevor Dodds assured everyone that if we get nine inches of ice at Piper Dam this winter the Grand Match will go ahead. Apparently, we did have nine inches last year.
Six hundred teams played in 1979. So there were 2,400 curlers taking part. There were also extra rinks marked out and further curlers participated, unofficially, on these. At the very most, there were 2,700 players on the ice at the Lake of Menteith. Jim Paterson, convenor of the Grand Match committee, now tells us in the Landward programme that there was an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 spectators. I do not believe this to be true. Jim is suggesting is that there were two or three spectators for every player on the ice. I put it to you that exaggeration like this does the Royal Club a disservice!
But whether there were a few hundred spectators, or a few thousand, doesn't really matter. It was a great day, the experience of a lifetime. I know, I was there. There would be a lot more spectators if the Grand Match was to be held these days. How many would turn up to watch? I believe it is this uncertainty that is of particular concern to the organisers and to the emergency services.
There's an excellent article, on the Royal Club website here, written by Theresa McDougall, about the 1979 Grand Match, although the photos that once accompanied the text have sadly disappeared.
Top: Screenshot from the BBC iPlayer recording of the Landward programme, showing Judith McFarlane coaching Euan McIlwraith at The Peak.
Screenshot showing curlers at Carsebreck. I suspect this is the 1935 Grand Match but stand to be corrected. Look out for the steam train in the background of one of the shots. Carsebreck had its own siding for the special trains which brought curlers to the venue.
Screenshot showing the Lake of Menteith in 1979.