Friday, September 11, 2009

Ainslie Smith

Despite the sunshine, there has been a shadow over my day today. I learned this morning that Ainslie Smith, Royal Club President 2000-2001, has lost his battle with cancer.

Scottish curling has lost one of the great characters of the sport. Although I knew him for a long time, I encountered him frequently in recent years as an umpire, as in the photo above from three years ago at the Gold League Finals. He had an acute sense of fun, and laughed when I showed him my photo to be used in the Scottish Curler as the caption competition. "Can someone send for the chiropractor?" was the winning entry that month.

I remember Ainslie with fondness and respect. Thoughts go to his family. His funeral will be held on Friday, September 18 at 3pm at Kirkcaldy Crematorium.

My friend Robin Copland was on Tour with Ainslie. Here's what he has passed round others who were on the 2003 Canadian Tour:

I first got to know Ainslie at the various pre-tour meetings that we had at Perth. Here was a man in his element: trousers; shirts; ties; badges – all the minutiae dealt with in his lovely, inimitable style. He was a decision maker; before you knew it, you had bought into the decision as if it were your own! Great fun was had by all if you recall as he and Donald took us through all the things that had to be done and organised.

I remember the chats that he and I used to have at the end of the rink at various championships here and there – he, still proudly wearing his tour woolly bunnet to keep the heat in, and venting forth about whatever was exercising him at that particular point. He always had an opinion and if didn’t agree with yours – well, he still listened and then argued his case. He was a big enough man to accept that sometimes you had a different view – and then he moved on. Good chap.

He fought his illness. He scrapped with it. He wrung every possible minute out of the life that was left him. He knew he wasn’t well in January when the Canadians came over but he did all that was expected of him – and then some. He had lost weight; he was in pain – but he carried on regardless. He carried on umpiring and contributing. Aye – a Good Chap right enough.

He was a man who cared deeply about his sport. President of the Royal Club; Captain of the West Tour; Vice Captain of the Centenary Tour of which we were all privileged to be members; umpire; curler; administrator – his contribution was huge. I think that the picture of him at the helm of the ferry that the West Tour boys were on at one point on their trip just captured him perfectly! Bluff; in charge; opinionated; entertaining; in love with life. What a man. I am terribly upset that he has been taken from us – as I suspect are we all.

I hope that someone will represent me at his funeral. I will be abroad on business and will not be able to be there. I apologise, for this would have been a funeral I would not have wanted to have missed. I hope that you will shed a tear on my behalf. I shall certainly stop what I am doing for a quiet minute or two and remember him.

Here’s to his memory.