Bonspiel (Curling)

[Ancient Sports Contents]

Scotsman, Wednesday 21st January, 1829, p.8. 

   New Curling Pond. – Mr John Carnie, of Largs, both during the last and the present winter, succeeded in forming a curling pond. So late as Tuesday and Wednesday last, he and his friends played various games, when in all probability not a single stone was thrown in any other part of Scotland; and as the details of his plan for forming a curling pond were lately communicated to us, we lose no time in submitting them to our readers. The first thing, then, that Mr Carnie does, after selecting a piece of ground, 50 yards long by 22 feet broad, is to level and free it from weeds and grass; the bottom is next lined with clay brought from the shore, and it is calculated that 130 carts will cover such an area as we have just described, and prevent any material absorption of water. Care is then taken to form an embankment round and round, clayed to the top for the same purpose, but the height of which need not exceed half a foot. On the appearance of frost, the pond is flooded, if flooding it can be called, to the depth of little more than half an inch, by means of a cistern, or tiny rill, which it is easy to turn from its natural course; but if a few heavy showers fall previously, it is of course unnecessary to take this trouble. From the nature of the bottom, and the shallowness of the water, a pond constructed on Mr Carnie’s principle bears sufficiently in ten or twelve hours – even when the thermometer oscillates at, rather than falls below, the freezing point – so that the curler, like his friend the miller at a different season, has only to prepare his dam at night, and fall to work next morning. And what is remarkable, ice obtained in this way, from the whole mass being completely frozen, is so true and level, and bends so little, that it is better for curling than any other – a circumstance worth taking into account when a bonspiel is played by the skilful representatives of rival parishes. And by the liberal use of watering-pans, with willing hands to guide them, a new coating of ice may be formed every night, that the stone may go booming along, and the office of the broom becomes a sinecure. 

Perthshire Advertiser, Thursday 27th January, 1842, p.3. 



… In a well written preface, we are told, that “The Grand Club” was instituted [in 1838] for the purpose of uniting all curlers into one brotherhood or rink, and of regulating the ancient game of Curling by general laws, and that its success has exceeded the most sanguine expectations of its promoters; in proof of which, ninety clubs have already joined the Grand Club, which now consists of about three thousand members – and these not confined to Scotland, but numbering brethren across St George’s Channel, and beyond the Atlantic… 


   The “HISTORICAL SKETCH” of the game, now given, was a desideratum, which, at a glance, will be seen, ably and succinctly, to embody all that is known with certainty on this head. And “the inference drawn from no records of Curling being found in the writings of the antiquary and historian prior to the beginning of the seventeenth century, that therefore the sixteenth century must have been the era of its invention or introduction into Scotland,” is afterwards very properly qualified by subsequent remarks. After an interesting reference to an account of curling stones found in ponds of acknowledged antiquity, bearing very ancient dates, it is added, “It may happen that curling may be proved, from such hidden sources, to have existed in Scotland at a period considerably beyond the chronological dates which its written history supplies.” And taking the many collateral facts into consideration, few, we are disposed to believe, will dispute the opinions here expressed. As at least an amusing collateral circumstance, it is stated by the ingenious author of the “MEMORABILIA MABENENSIA,” that “In the Carse of gowrie there is a model of a curling stone in silver, which is played for annually by several parishes. Tradition reports that it was given by James IV. of Scotland [1473-1513], who was a keen curler.” And elsewhere, “Of the remote antiquity of the game of Curling we have the most legitimate proof from Ossian:- ‘Fly, son of Morven, fly! amid the circle of stones, Swaran bends at the stone of might.’ Either the game, then, is much more ancient than has hitherto been dreamed of, or else Macpherson has been most unhappy in his allusion.” 

Aberdeen Evening Express, Monday 22nd January, 1917, p.2. 



Death of a Prominent 

Scotsman in Canada. 


   Scottish curlers in Canada and Scotland alike will hear with regret (writes a correspondent of the “Scotsman”) the announcement of the death at his residence, Columbia Avenue, Montreal, of David Guthrie, who had reached the ripe age of 78, and was popularly known in the Dominion as “the grand old man of curling.” Mr Guthrie, who was a native of Forfarshire, went to Canada about half a century ago, settling at Montreal, where he had remained ever since, having for many years been engaged in a wholesale grocery business, and latterly as a leading official of the People’s Mutual Building Society. When he began curling in Montreal, taking his love for “Scotland’s ain game” with him from the home country, there were not more than thirty curlers in the city. To-day there are thousands, and the popularity of the game in Canada owes much to such keen hands as David Guthrie, Lord Strathcona, and other Scots, whose enthusiasm inspired Canadians with such devotion to the ancient sport. 

Aberdeen Press & Journal, Thursday 21st February, 1929, p.8. 



Scots to Have “Roaring Game” 

the Year Round. 


   A grievance of the Sot has always been that for years, no sooner has the ice become strong enough for curling, than a thaw has set in, with the result that Scots desiring to play the national game have had to go to Switzerland, or a similar rendezvous, to do so. 

   Among those who have felt keenly the lack of proper facilities for curling is the Duke of Montrose, a curler of no mean ability. In opening an ice rink recently he remarked that it was, in his opinion, “almost a scandal that people nowadays should have to go to Switzerland to indulge in the good old Scottish sport.” 

   This lack of facilities will soon be a thing of the past, for ice rinks are being opened in London and other parts of the country, so that curling and skating will be practicable all the year round, and Scots will be able to pursue their national sport, independent of the vagaries of the frost. 


   Women have taken up skating on artificial ice with keenness, and well they might, for there is no healthier exercise, nor one better calculated to develop the figure. 


… Lady Mary Graham is well known as an expert curler, and she and many other ladies are members of the curling section of the new Scottish ice rink in Glasgow, which is realising the highest hopes of its promoters. 

Dundee Courier, Thursday 17th November, 1938, p.8. 

   CURLERS TAKE SPORT SERIOUSLY, as you can see from these studies of players in the contest for Dundee Ice Rink trophy yesterday. Left – Mr J. M. Brodie, Baldovan, gets down to the job of directing a member of his rink. Above – Mr K. H. Smith, Balruddery, whose dress was in keeping with an old Scottish sport, throwing up a stone. 

Aberdeen Press & Journal, Thursday 22nd October, 1931, p.3. 




Possibility of Bonspiel in 

London This Winter. 


      The ancient sport of curling is to be introduced to Londoners this winter by Mr J. Henderson Stewart, hon. treasurer of the London Perthshire Association. 

   South of the Border nobody seems to know anything about curling, Mr Stewart said yesterday. Sassenachs have yet to learn the thrill and science of this ancient sport, and at Richmond this year I am hoping they will be enabled to do so… 

Aberdeen Evening Express, Monday 17th January, 1977, p.13. 

Ancient Sport Catches on 

with the Youngsters 


Kids Make Curling 

a Roaring Success 

by Jim ELRICK 


   CURLING, reputed to have begun in Scotland in the 17th century, is at long last becoming a majority sport. 

   Over the past few years, the sport has been attracting more and more devotees, and the most encouraging fact is that the majority of these are youngsters. 

   Scotland has long been among the top teams at international level, but it is only recently that the game has broadened its appeal. 

   Part of this is due to a national coaching scheme set up by the Royal Caledonian Curling Club of Edinburgh, the governing body of curling throughout the world, which is to curling what the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews is to golf. 

   The man involved in the scheme is former World champion, Chuck Hay, of Perth, now the chief Scottish coach. 

   “Scottish curling is improving all the time,” says Chuck. 


   “The under-21s are really coming on, and the age of the top curlers is dropping all the time,” he added. 

   He went on to add that many schools were now including curling on their sporting curriculum – something which isn’t happening in Aberdeen. 

   Nevertheless, Donald’s Ice Rink is busy morning, afternoon and evening with hundreds of enthusiasts on the ice each day. 

   Ice skating has long since been overtaken by curling as the ice rink’s main use, and curlers come from all over the North-east to play in Aberdeen. 

   Old and young, male and female, make use of the rink in every hour available to them, and there are thriving leagues and club competition held every week. 

   Aberdonian Alan Johnston, past president of the Royal Caledonian C.C., is one of the coaches at the Aberdeen Ice Rink. 

   He has travelled all over the world during his many years of involvement in curling, and he’s delighted with the Scottish curling scene now. 


   “Scotland is one of the top five curling nations in the world,” he states, “and the standard keeps improving all the time. 

   “Quite a number of schoolboys are coming along to the rink after school for coaching, and junior interest in the sport is growing throughout the country,” he added. 

   The influx of youth has been significant in the rise of Scottish curling but Alan has words of praise for the older women curlers. 

   “If it wasn’t for the ladies, curling wouldn’t be in the state it is today,” he emphasised. 

   “They are the ones who keep the rinks busy in the mornings and afternoons, and if it wasn’t for their enthusiasm, many rinks would doubtless be shut down through lack of business.” 

   The game of curling doesn’t pose many restrictions and it has caught on as an activity for all the family. 

   Whether played for family fun or individual achievement, curling is sure to keep on growing. 

‘Book of Days,’ 20th of January & ‘Old and New Edinburgh,’ Arthur’s Seat and its Vicinity. 


   Most performers belong to skating clubs, – fraternities constituted for the cultivation of the art as an art, and to enforce proper regulations. In Edinburgh, there is one such society of old standing, whose favourite ground is Duddingston Loch, under the august shadow of Arthur’s Seat. The writer recalls with pleasure skating exhibitions which he saw there in the hard winters early in the present century, when Henry Cockburn and the philanthropist James Simpson were conspicuous amongst the most accomplished of the club for their handsome figures and great skill in the art. The scene of that loch ‘in full bearing,’ on a clear winter day, with its busy stirring multitude of sliders, skaters, and curlers, the snowy hills around glistening in the sun, the ring of the ice, the shouts of the careering youth, the rattle of the curling stones and the shouts of the players, once seen and heard, could never be forgotten. 

‘Book of Days,’ January. 

   Amusements prevail during dry frost in Scotland, with one more, as yet little known in the south. It bears the name of Curling, and very much resembles bowls in its general arrangements, only with the specialty of flat stones to slide along the ice, instead of bowls to roll along the grass. Two parties are ranged in contention against each other, each man provided with a pair of handled stones and a broom, and having crampets on his feet to enable him to take a firm hold of the glassy surface. They play against each other, to have as many stones as possible lying near a fixed point, or tee, at the end of the course. When a player happens to impel his stone weakly, his associates sweep before it to favour its advance. A skip, or leader, stands at the tee, broom in hand, to guide the players of his party as to what they should attempt; whether to try to get through a certain open channel amongst the cluster of stones guarding the tee, or perhaps to come smashing among them, in the hope of producing rearrangements more favourable to his side. Incessant vociferation, frequent changes of fortune, the excitation of a healthy physical exercise, and the general feeling of socialty evoked, all contribute to render curling one of the most delightful of amusements. It is further remarkable that, in a small community, the curling rink is usually surrounded by persons of all classes – the laird, the minister, and the provost, being all hail-fellow-well-met on this occasion with the tailors, shoemakers, and weavers, who at other times never meet them without a reverent vailing of the beaver. Very often a plain dinner of boiled beef with greens concludes the merry-meeting. There is a Caledonian Curling Club in Scotland, embracing the highest names in the land, and having scores of provincial societies affiliated to it. They possess an artificial pond in Strathallan, near the line of the Scottish Central Railway, and thither sometimes converge for one day’s contention representatives from clubs scattered over fully a hundred and fifty miles of country. 

‘Scottish National Memorials,’ Golf, Etc. 

   Perhaps the earliest mention in literature of the national game of Curling is to be found in Henry Adamson’s The Muses Threnodie (4to, Edinburgh, 1638). It is often named by the later writers of the seventeenth century. There is no authority for the frequent assertion that Curling is mentioned by Camden in his Britannia. (See the Rev. Dr. James Taylor’s Curling, the Ancient Scottish Game, Edinburgh, 1884, pp. 13, 14.)  

   ANCIENT CHANNEL OR CURLING STONES. These are, as far as is known, the oldest Curling Stones in Scotland. One of them was found in Milton Bog, near Stirling, in 1840, the other is marked ‘St. Js. B. Stirling,’ and dated 1511. 

One thought on “Bonspiel (Curling)

  1. Another cracking article, and I now also know that miller’s would prepare their dam in the evening for the next day’s milling. Thank you.

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