Saturday, May 05, 2012

Final Curtain

I think it's time to say that the 2011-12 season is over, and that's it for Skip Cottage Curling. Very many thanks to everyone who has helped me in my efforts to keep the blog going. I am sorry that I am not able to continue it.

All 1,800 posts will stay up for the foreseeable future, as a record of the past three years.

Good curling everyone!


Thursday, May 03, 2012

A Summer Challenge for You

Many of you reading this may never have had the opportunity to curl outside. Of course, that used to be the only way to experience the sport. It wasn't until the twentieth century that much of the game moved indoors. Still, outdoors continues when it can. If you were really lucky you were playing on the Lake of Menteith (above) on this fine day in 2010!

Perhaps you are aware of the project to map all the historical 'curling places' where the sport is known to have been played in Scotland and England. David B Smith kicked this off by making a record of all the places where a game of curling had taken place. He went through all the Annuals of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. He found 'places' in old minute books of curling clubs as well as in newspapers, and books. David then pored over old maps in the National Library of Scotland, in the days before these were available on line. All told, he found more than 2500 sites. Quite an accomplishment!

David's list was originally a Word document, but thanks to Lindsay Scotland and Harold Forrester, the information has been put into a database and from that database onto a map. The map entries link to the underlying database which records the original references, and where possible there are links to photographs and old maps. The project has its own website here, and is ongoing.

Now there's a chance for YOU to get involved, in one of two ways. Firstly, there are a number of 'places' which remain unidentified. Lindsay writes, "There are quite a number of places for which we have a name and description, but we have been unable to find on a map. Can you help? In many cases local or archaic place names are used, which will never be found with a search engine or on a map. However, someone with local knowledge might recognize the name and location." Check out his 'Unfound' list, a subset of the Scottish Curling Places tab, on the website here.

I'm scratching my head over some of the Dumfries and Galloway locations. For example, there is a listing (No 1097) for Curlingwater Loch, Kirkcudbright. I wonder if this is a miss-transcription of Carlingwark Loch, near Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbrightshire, which is a well known 'place' (No 0045 on the list).

If you want to see what outside curling was like, the 'further info' page on Carlingwark has a link to a fantastic piece of video, from 1952, of the Queenshill Cup, see here. Let's just say that not every day was like the picture at the top of today's post. But not even a bit of water seemed to spoil the enjoyment back in 1952!

There's another way you can help. What about getting out with your camera, and photographing what the places on the map near where you live are like NOW? Look at the historical curling places map. Zoom in. Find the green dots in your area.

There may well be plenty 'places' to choose from. Just look at all the dots in the Perth area, in this screenshot of the map. Clicking on a dot will bring up the information about the site on file. Can you add to this information?

You might wish to consult the old OS 6inch maps, available online, see here, or here. Or just set out with a camera to find what's there now.

It can be quite a challenge, certainly. There may well be no trace of the place - other than a street name. But even that would be interesting. Many sites are overgrown. Whatever, Lindsay Scotland and Harold Forrester are set to put your photos on the supplementary pages accompanying each entry in the database. Lindsay's email address is on the website here. Make sure you indicate from which direction you took the photo, and any other observations you made on your visit.

Here's a couple of examples of what you might find, based on my own experiences recently. I had been writing about the curlers of Abington, see here, and I wondered where they might have played locally. The Historical Curling Places map site gave me two locations. I checked these out on the old OS 6inch maps, translated the locations to a modern OS 1:25000 map (Explorer 329), packed my camera, and set out to see what I could discover.

The first (Historical place No 0978) was easy to find. The site - the brownish area in the photo above - lies somewhat to the south of Abington village, east of the railway line, map reference: OS NS 933 221. It's been a natural pond, fed by a small stream running down the hillside behind. All overgrown now, and though there's no standing water, it's still a boggy place. I wonder if any of the passengers on the trains coming down the West Coast Main Line are even aware of this historical curling site, in use in the nineteenth century. I'm guessing here, but I suspect it might have been superseded by the man-made pond in the village itself, see below.

At first I thought it had been easy to find where the other Abington pond used to be, just beside the road on the west of the village, near the bowling green which is still in use (Historical place No 2170. Map reference OS NS 930233). It's shown clearly on maps from the close of the nineteenth century, so it must have been played on by this time. But where exactly was the pond? I found a derelict tennis court, which at one time has also been used for five aside football.  The area has been landscaped at some point relatively recently, with a car park.

Next to the old tennis court, the fence of which is on the right, is a flat area which I wondered might just have been the curling pond itself - not a natural pond but perhaps a clay-lined area that could be flooded. There are old steps and railway sleepers set into the bank at the rear of this photo.

It was only when I got home and studied the old maps again in some detail, that I realised that the photo above IS an old bowling green, and the curling pond was behind me, and had become the new bowling green! Fortunately, I did take a photo of the bowling green. So, here it is, the site of the Abington curling pond in the late nineteenth and well into the twentieth century:

This is shown as the 'Curling Pond' in the 1957-1962 Lanarkshire 1:10,560 map, and still as a 'Pond' in the 1980 Lanarkshire 1:2,500 map, which also shows the tennis court and the 'old' bowling green. You can see the general layout of the area as it is now in satellite view on Google maps.

The moral of the story is that it pays to check the location carefully on the old maps before you set out. (As an aside, sometimes the NLS website is slow, or even unavailable. The Old Maps site is often easier to use, and has more maps available.)

What now? Of course, there may be records, or even photos of the Abington rink in use. 1980 is recent enough that perhaps some Abington residents may well remember when their bowling green was a curling pond!

But every curling place will have its own history. Just how often were they used? Are there details in old minute books which show who played and when? There would seem to be no end to the information that's out there waiting to be discovered about our curling heritage.

Could you contribute to building up the information in the curling places project?

PS: Two young New Zealand filmmakers, Rachel Patching and Roland Kahurangi, have made a documentary about outdoor curling in the Naseby area in Central Otago. There's a link to the trailer here, where you might also like to contribute to a fundraising effort to bring the short film to the Edinburgh Film Festival. There's another teaser here. More here.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Behind the Glass

Robin Copland has penned a new Behind the Glass editorial, see here, stimulated by the recent Performance Selections.

I am acutely aware that the curling world, as I once knew it, is changing in so many ways. Copey highlights some of these changes today.

Make sure you bookmark Behind the Glass, now a standalone site separate from Skip Cottage Curling, to follow the stories in the months (years) ahead.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

More on Performance Selections

The names of the athletes selected to the British and Scottish Performance Curling Programmes for the 2012-13 season were announced this morning. There are eight wheelchair athletes (three women and five men), sixteen women and twenty-one men.

The announcement is here, where you can see who made the selections, and I have reposted the names below. I think it is interesting that the curlers are not grouped as teams, as yet. However, from other sources it is clear that the Tom Brewster team of Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews and Michael Goodfellow - and now including David Murdoch - will operate as a five man squad, the fixed lineup to be decided by Soren Gran, the national coach in due course.

Logan Gray's team will be Ross Paterson, Alasdair Guthrie and Richard Woods, the lineup that did so well at the recent European Masters in St Gallen. Richard and Ross were the Murdoch front end last season. Glen Muirhead also receives support - I am presuming he will go back to skipping his own team again.

Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams and Claire Hamilton remain as an unchanged unit. Hannah Fleming's team of Lauren Gray, Alice Spence and Abi Brown, the Scottish and World Junior Champions are all listed, although I hear that this may not be the team for next season!

So too are Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell and Kerr Dummond, winners of the Scottish Curling Tour, Scottish Junior Champions, and World Junior bronze medallists.

The wheelchair squad remains the same as last season, the seven from last year being joined by Robert McPherson who moves up from last season's SWCA Spokes Development Squad.


Scott Andrews
Tom Brewster
Greg Drummond
Michael Goodfellow
David Murdoch

Kerr Drummond
Logan Gray
Ali Guthrie
Grant Hardie
Scott MacLeod
Hammy McMillan Jnr
Jay McWilliam
Steven Mitchell
Billy Morton
Glen Muirhead
Thomas Muirhead
Ross Paterson
Cameron Smith
Kyle Smith
Kyle Waddell
Richard Woods


Vicki Adams
Claire Hamilton
Eve Muirhead
Anna Sloan

Kay Adams
Mhairi Baird
Abigail Brown
Jennifer Dodds
Hannah Fleming
Lauren Gray
Jennifer Martin
Sarah Reid
Hazel Smith
Alice Spence
Lorna Vevers
Vicky Wright

Ian Donaldson
Gregor Ewan
Jim Gault
Gill Keith
Tom Killin
Angie Malone
Robert McPherson
Aileen Neilson

The Royal Club Academy and Talent Programme selections are still to be announced.