Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Royal Club Starts Tweeting

Twitter has been in the news recently. You may have been following the Ryan Giggs injunction story, or South Tyneside Council's efforts to get the company to reveal details of one of its users (see here). Sometimes it is easy to forget that online publishing - in all its forms - is in its infancy. Where will we be going in the future, I wonder?

Anyway, when Twitter first appeared I personally was not much attracted to it. I could not see how it would add anything to my own blogging adventures, and anyway what I usually want to say needs many more words than the Twitter platform allows! There is little I do which involves any immediacy! So I made the decision not to tweet myself, but to stick with this blog.

But when one is in the business of finding things out quickly about our sport (and my other interests) I confess that I do 'follow' a number out there who are regular twitterers.

So, if you are a smart phone user in particular, and want to get an immediate heads up on what is happening on the curling front, you should take note that the sport's governing body in Scotland, the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, now has its own Twitter feed. Go here to see, and follow.

The initiative follows the setting up of a Royal Club Facebook page (see here), and mirrors the activities of the World Curling Federation in these areas. It's all about engaging with curlers in every age group. And getting 'the message' out there to everyone. Yes, I am acutely aware that the curling world is getting younger! And that I'm getting older.

Incidentally, the first Royal Club tweet commented on the fact that Eve Muirhead and Anna Sloan were headed earlier today for the Capital One Celebrity Bonspiel in Toronto, the event in aid of the SickKids Foundation, June 3-4, see here.

So how often will the Royal Club be tweeting, who will be posting, and how useful will it all be? Next season will give us all the answer, I'm sure.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Relaunched Team McWilliam

Good to see that the Jay McWilliam team has relaunched their blog in advance of the new season, see here. Jay's lineup for 2011-12 sees Colin Dick at third, Grant Hardie at second and Billy Morton at lead. Your challenge is to identify them in the photo above! The changes from last year are outlined in this post.

Keith Prentice will continue as team coach.

As you well know, I think it so important that teams have an online presence. And so few Scottish curling teams seem to think that marketing themselves is important. Well, it is. Especially if you have sponsors!

Or if you are looking for some. Jay says, "With the new line up now confirmed we are on the hunt for continued and new sponsorship." Want to help a junior team? This blog post has contact details!

Good luck to Team McWilliam. I look forward to following their exploits online next season. Certainly last season the blog was most entertaining!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Women's Tour Returns in New Season

I have no doubt in my mind that one of the successes of last season was the Women's Tour, which picked up from the failed Mini Tour. There were two competitions, at Forfar and then at Curl Aberdeen. Gail Munro and her team of Lyndsay Wilson, Kerry Adams-Taylor and Alison Mather won at Forfar (see here), and Gillian Howard, Louise Soutar, Judith McFarlane and Fiona Steele were top at Aberdeen (here). Jackie Lockhart, Karen Kennedy, Kim Brewster and Sarah Macintyre were the overall Colin Galbraith Memorial Trophy winners as the best over both weekends, see here. (Apologies for my earlier mistake with this. Old age definitely creeping in!)

I note today that both competitions will go ahead again next season, and you can enter NOW. Go here to download the entry form. The dates are Forfar, October 14-16, and Curl Aberdeen, November, 18-20.

Organiser Kay Adams says, "With last year being a great success we are keen to continue the Tour with the key focus on keeping competitive ladies curling in Scotland alive. We are once again encouraging female curlers of all ages (juniors, women, seniors and masters) to enter either one or two weekends where an overall Tour Prize will be available for the top ranked team over the two weekends."

Having all the age groups competing together worked very well I thought, and I enjoyed both competitions last time around. I would expect this coming season to be no different!

Closing date for entries is June 30.

'Keeping domestic competitive curling alive'. Yes, if you are not among the select few in the elite programme, what do you do? Many are worried for the future of the sport.

A Men's Tour? Yes, there are plans. Last time I asked, the organisers didn't want any publicity in case these plans came to naught. What's the current state of play, I wonder?

Photo of Jackie © Skip Cottage

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Where is British Curling headed?

British Curling is an enigma! In the run up to the Vancouver Olympics it was the key player. The organisation, under the chairmanship of Chris Hildrey, was charged with all aspects of the selection, preparation and performance of the British curling teams. In theory, British Curling is the body recognised by the British Olympic Association/British Paralympic Association and UK Sport as responsible for the preparation, selection and performance of the teams for those events which require the participation of a 'British' curling team i.e. the Olympics, World University Games and the Youth Olympics. But read on!

A new era dawned last year with the appointment of a new board (see here), with Mike Gillespie as Chairman. The Royal Club has a bigger stake in the organisation, Willie Nicoll having a seat on the board and Bruce Crawford being the chief operating officer.

Over recent months it has been apparent that all is not well.

For one thing, the organisation's website (here) has been 'down for maintenance' for a while. Then there is the (unconfirmed) rumour that all the Olympic money from UK Sport - more than £2,200,000 - has gone to the sportscotland Institute of Sport, and preparations for Sochi are already being masterminded by Dave Crosbee and his team there. What role then for British Curling?

Then last month it was announced, see here, that Mike Gillespie had resigned as Chairman of British Curling. I believe he is heading abroad to work.

The British Curling Board met recently to discuss the way forward. Adverts will appear soon for the position of chairman, with interviews scheduled for early August.

In the interim, Hew Chalmers will head up the organisation. Safe hands indeed. However, Hew has indicated that he will not be applying for the BC chairman's post as he is on the Board of the British Olympic Association (see here), and there could be conflict of interests at BOA board level.

I had hoped that with the appointment of the new board back in December that British Curling would no longer be the 'secret society' it had been. Some hope!

Hew has promised that the selection of a new chair will involve 'an open transparent interview process'. That will be a good start. We all will be looking to see what role British Curling will have in the years ahead.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Scottish Curling Awards

Good to see that Anna Sloan (above) won the 'Young Curler of the Year' at the Royal Club's Scottish Curling Awards dinner on Saturday. Well deserved. She had a great season. Let's hope too that she will have even more success in the years ahead, competing with Eve Muirhead.

You will find all the other winners, with Tom Brydone's photos, on the RCCC website here. Congratulations to all.

Look out too for Jim Robb's pic which won the Curling Photo Competition. It's a real cracker!

Anna's photo is © Skip Cottage

Friday, May 20, 2011

Summer activities on two wheels

Many of you reading this will recognise Scott Henderson, especially if like me you still have fond memories of the Gogar rink. Last season Scott was living in Switzerland, the curlers at Flims benefiting from his ice-making experience. He was on the ice team in Champery at the Europeans too, where the above pic was taken in December.

I know that Scott's other passion in life involves two wheels! I know too that there are a lot of curlers out there who are also interested in cycling. Scott has been in touch to say that he helping with the organisation of a cycling event in the beautiful Tweed valley in Peebleshire. Tweedlove is a week long cycling festival, June 11-19, with events for all types of cyclists (road, mountain biking) and also films, barbecues and other activities for families.

Scott would like to extend an invitation to all curling cyclists to check out the Tweedlove event. It certainly looks fun. All the information is on the website here.

Pic © Skip Cottage

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lees's Painting: The Next Chapter

When I arrived home today there was a communication from the Royal Caledonian Curling Club in my letter box. Rarely has an envelope from curling's governing body cheered me up so much. It was a leaflet announcing the launch of the Lees Painting Campaign.

If you follow this blog, you will know at least some of the story surrounding the painting The Grand Match at Linlithgow Loch by Charles Lees. (Here, and here, are good places to start if you don't know the story, and follow the links back in time).

Lees's masterpiece is owned by the Royal Club. Or perhaps it is better said that it is owned by the Club's members! The painting was completed in 1849, and by 1898 it was in the hands of James Law, proprietor of The Scotsman. He was a keen curler and offered the Royal Club the chance to buy it at the very low price which he had paid, namely £116 and 11 shillings, so that it could be preserved for the nation and not 'find a resting-place in a private collection'. At the annual meeting of the Club the motion to authorise the purchase was passed with 'patriotic enthusiasm'.

When I was Editor of the Scottish Curler back in 2006 I discovered that the Royal Club was planning to send this painting, valued at perhaps £500,000, to auction, without consulting us, the members. When this fact was made public, I found that there were many like me who felt this was wrong.

Lots has happened in the intervening years, but I was encouraged by the attitude of Bruce Crawford when he took over as the Royal Club's CEO last year. Bruce was keen that the painting should be kept. After all, the national treasure - and it is such - is a major asset of the Club, and one we all have a stake in! The Chairman Willie Nicoll seemed to agree, a small committee was set up from the Area Standing Committee, and the campaign now to raise funds is one result.

The plan is to have the painting put on public display by November 2011 in time to be the centrepiece of the National Portrait Gallery's 'Scottish Sport Exhibition' which will mark the reopening of the Gallery after major refurbishment.

There is a cost of course, and the challenge is to raise £50,000 for restoration work and to cover insurance and moving the painting from store. All Royal Club members have received, or will receive, a leaflet about the campaign, with a form to accompany donations, which of course can be enhanced by a Gift Aid declaration, if you pay income tax. You can download this leaflet from here.

Another simple way of donating is through an online charity donation site. The Royal Club has one such with Virgin Money Giving (here) which says 'We aim to preserve the heritage of the sport of curling for curlers in Scotland. In the short term we are striving to restore an internationally important picture by Charles Lees called The Grand Match at Linlithgow Loch so that it can be displayed publically in all its glory for the first time in many years.'

There is the opportunity to organise fundraising events and I will certainly publicise these here if and when I learn of any.

All donations will be held by the RCCC Charitable Trust for the sole purpose of restoring and preserving works of art in the Club's care, primarily the Lees painting.

It goes without saying that I am supportive of this effort. I have my cheque book out tonight, and my contribution - as much as I can afford - will be in the post tomorrow.

Fundraising will not be easy. But for me, anything I CAN give, I WILL give, not just because I want to see this great painting on public view again (after all I own, as we all do, a small piece of it), but also in celebration of a victory. THEY (let's not name names) thought they could pull the wool over our eyes, the Club's members. They said the painting had been damaged. They said that the cost of restoration would be prohibitive, and there really was no other course of action than selling it. And they wanted to do this without even an independent assessment being made.

Fortunately there were some who didn't like to be bullied! And thankfully the current Board feels that the Royal Club's works of art are to be treasured and cared for. (Hopefully too its memorabilia, but that's another story).

I hope there are enough out there who can, and will, contribute. Please help if you can, and you are concerned about our sport's heritage. I know how generous curlers can be, from my experiences with the Donate Button on this blog.

You can download an article about the painting and its recent history, and about Charles Lees, from this page.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Date for Braehead Open

Time already to look ahead to next season. Following last season's successful transition to a weekend slot, the Braehead Open is set for Friday, September 30 - Sunday, October 2, at the beginning of the new season. This year's competition will be sponsored by Cardwell Garden Centre.

Thirty-two teams enjoyed the event last time, see here, and here, and here.

Organisers Gary Macfarlane and David Horne are hoping for a similar entry this year. Games start at 6pm on Friday evening and the final will be at 2.30pm on Sunday. All teams will get at least three games and most play four to six games.

The competition is open to all teams, with prize money of at least £2000, and prizes are available for teams under 25, best overseas', seniors', ladies', and Braehead members, as well as the main prize of £650 for the Braehead Open Champions. The entry fee is £180.

Entries are on a first come, first served basis. Contact Gary Macfarlane at:
or David Horne in the Braehead office at:

It promises to be a top quality competition at the beginning of the 2011-12 season.

David Soutar and Lindsay Gray are the sweepers in this photo from last year's Braehead Open final. Photo © Skip Cottage.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Wheelchair Curling Performance

The selections for the 2011-2012 Wheelchair Performance Programme have been announced today, see here. The eight are Aileen Neilson, Tom Killin, Angie Malone, Gregor Ewan, Michael McCreadie, Jim Gault, Ian Donaldson and Gill Keith.

Good to see Michael McCreadie, below, back in the top group after a year out.

Photo of Michael is from the Scottish Wheelchair Curling Championship at Curl Aberdeen and is © Skip Cottage.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Supported Curlers

The World Class Performance Programme selections have been announced today, see here.

The 'Podium Squad' comprises athletes considered capable of delivering podium results within 12-18 months. A maximum of three teams of each gender could have been selected. In fact, in this first year of the programme, the selectors have gone for just four. Not surprisingly, Tom Brewster, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews and Michael Goodfellow are included following their sterling performance at the worlds.

David Murdoch is the other men's skip. I note one change in his team looking forward. Richard Woods joins Glen Muirhead and Warwick Smith in place of Ross Hepburn.

On the women's side, Eve Muirhead and Anna Sloan will have Vicki Adams and Claire Hamilton as their front end. The second women's team in the podium squad is Jackie Lockhart, Karen Kennedy, Kay Adams and Sarah Macintyre.

The 'Performance Squad' comprises athletes considered capable of delivering podium level results over the longer term. Five teams have been announced. Two are women's teams:

1. Hannah Fleming, Lauren Gray, Alice Spence and Abi Brown (a junior squad)
2. Sarah Reid, Rachael Simms, Lorna Vevers and Barbara McFarlane. It will be interesting to see how this squad works out. Good to see Rachael Simms back, and that Lorna still wants to be in the big time!

The three men's teams are:
3. David Edwards, John Penny, Scott Macleod and Colin Campbell
4. Logan Gray, Ross Paterson, Alasdair Guthrie and Sandy Gilmour
5. Jay McWilliam, Colin Dick, Grant Hardie and Billy Morton (a junior squad)

This page has more information and contains the link from where you can download the selection policy, to remind yourself on how the above were selected.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Fiona de Vries Update

Lots of people have been asking about Fiona de Vries, who had a bad accident when competing for Scotland at the World Senior Curling Championships in Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA, see here.

Teammate Hazel Swankie has been in touch with the news that Fiona is on the mend and should be flying home from America today. Hopefully she will be back in St Andrews by tomorrow (Wednesday) lunchtime.

Hazel has been
in contact with Fiona every day by email. She has had lots of visitors from the ice rink at Saint Paul, and loads of best wishes from far and near. She says, "I'm sure she'll be in touch with everyone once she gets home and rested."

Hazel also confirms, "We had a fantastic trip apart from Fiona's accident and met loads of lovely people. I certainly have memories that will last a lifetime."

Thanks for this update, Hazel. And we all continue to wish that Fiona makes a speedy recovery, and is back on the golf course soon!