Thursday, February 26, 2015

This and That

In 1876 Queen Victoria banned curling from the royal Estates, for she was afraid it tended to encourage a love of malt likker. 

Quebec “iron play” was given its start by Scotch Highlanders, brought to Canada for Indian fighting.  They used iron artillery wheels hubs in the absence of stones (There is no evidence that they melted down cannon balls as some would have you believe).

In February of 1945 one of the Detroit rinks composed of Dr. Stanley MacKensie, Ward Peck, A.J. Dalton and Fred Ferrari journeyed east playing games in Quebec, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.  Somewhere in their travels they picked up the name of the Polecats.  (Now we have the answer to a question posed in a previous article – click here.

The first of many articles by Angus MacTavish in the National Curling News (original name of the North American Curling News) appeared in Vol. 1 No. 6 dated March 15, 1945.  It read:  “Angus McTavish”, editor of the Detroit Curling Club’s official publication, in urging that all curlers take full advantage of the remaining weeks of the curling season, suggest that “the healthful exercise gained from curling will put you in good shape for an early start on your Victory Garden, and a bigger and better garden this year should be on everyone’s Must Have list”. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What? More Curling Stones Lost in WWII

We published an article in March 2013 about the apparent loss of curling stones destined for The Detroit Curling Club.  We tried to prove that this old story at The Club was more fiction than truth.  You can read that story by ClickingHere.

On December 20, 2014 a member of the Wausau Curling Club posted a comment to the above article:  “Interesting, a similar story has floated around the Wausau Curling Club only that we lost stones destined for Wausau... maybe somebody lost some somewhere... but who?”   This person suggested that we read the History of the Wausau Curling Club House, Hack and Hog Line published in 1986, page 19: 

…”Some stories claim that America’s entry into the war was hastened by the sinking of an English freighter carrying a full load of Scotch whiskey and a set of matched curling stones destined for Wausau.  Unfortunately, we cannot verify this because the minutes of the years when this alleged to have happened are missing.  It makes a nice story, however, and we will do nothing to debunk it.”

On page 20 a story about a new facility continues: …”With 4 sheets of ice available…something had to be done about stones.  Thirty-two pairs were ordered at the end of 1946, and the club started a “stone fund”.   … The new stones arrived in time to start play in 1948.”

Seems strange that the club lost stones before the war and then raised money and ordered a new set long after the war.  So, we did a little investigating in old issues of The North American Curling News.  The February 1, 1947 issue contained a very detailed article New Quarters of Wausau Curling Club by Lee Duncan, Secy.  We will reprint some of the article below.
“The club’s new quarters are in Marathon Park.  The building was designed by Ing Horgen city park supervisor, and Charles Symmons, president of Marathon county agricultural society.  Both men are directors of the curling club. 

“In 1946 President Plier and others began to mull over the problem of what to do with an increasing membership particularly when the supply of available curling stones was diminishing rapidly.  Individual members had seen the alleged advantage of owning their own stones and had bought up all unclaimed stones and were purchasing new stones as rapidly as they were received.  Members began removing the handles from the stones and locked them in boxes, thus denying new members the privilege of playing the game.

“President Plier conceived a plan whereby the individuals owning stones would lend them to the curling club until such a time as 32 matched sets could be obtained… The membership voted to purchase all available stones.  As a result the club now has 32 pairs of stones allocated to the four sheets of ice, matched as well as possible…the stones are numbered as to position…”

A second article from the January 1, 1949 issue declares:  Jealous?  Wausau Curlers Inspect Matched Stones.  “…members are shown inspecting their 32 new sets of matched stones – ordered two years ago.  The club, boasting 160 curlers and four sheets of natural ice is pointing to record year.”
We apologize to those who would prefer to believe the old stories, but this myth-buster feels that the Scotch stone sinking sub never existed…though we would really like to find out if there is another club out there with a similar story.

Best of curling to all,
Angus MacTavish

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Curling and Bagpipes - Together Forever

How did bagpipes evolve to lead curlers onto the ice?  A very good question.  It seems that curling historians have not addressed the issue.  Which seems fair since piping the curlers onto the ice has nothing to do with the game itself. 

The evolution of bagpipes and the connection to Scotland is one that is very much part myth and part legend.    The first clear reference to the use of the Scottish Highland bagpipes is from a French history, which mentions their use at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547 (ed note:  that would make a good name for a piper). It was claimed that they had replaced the trumpet on the battlefield. This period saw the creation of its martial origins with battle-tunes, marches, gatherings, salutes and laments.  Bagpipes found their footing in Scotland firmly in the 1700's. 

In more recent history the expansion of the British army, which included Highland regiments, is thought to have brought the bagpipes to many cultures. Bagpipe regiments were active in WWI and WWII.  After the two world wars the highland bagpipes became increasingly popular.  The tradition of pipe bands in the British Army today, as well as any number of ceremonial and traditional occasions at which pipers are required, is clear indication of just how closely the Scots value their bagpipes.

The oldest references of bagpipes at curling bonspiels that we have found include:  1839 – a team of Scots went to Belfast to challenge the Irish.  The Scots brought “a piper and made him march round and round the pond during the game, playing Scotch airs”; in 1886 in Aberdeen a piper led the curlers off the ice and to a banquet of beef and greens. 

During the first Scots curling tour to Canada and the USA in 1902 we know that pipers greeted the visitors in at least Montreal, Toronto and Guelph.  We are not sure if the pipes were used in Detroit for that visit.  During their next visit in 1912 The Detroit Free Press reported that “The Scots were met at Central Station and the curlers marched up Fort Street to the music of the pipes and were received at city hall by Mayor Thompson and other city officials.  They preceded to the St. Andrews’ society rooms where another reception was held.”  We have photographs of pipers at The Club for the Scots visit in 1940 (see below).

Hhmmm.  We have not answered the question. 

What we do know is that Bagpipes and their skirl is always associated with Scotland.  We know that in the 1800’s and early 1900’s nearly all curlers were of Scotch descent.  We know that pipers had been used to lead warriors into battle.  Roll those three facts together and we have a tartan clad piper named Pinkie Cleugh leading curlers into battle playing ‘Scotland The Brave’ at the 129th Detroit International Bonspiel.

Good curling to all,

Angus MacTavish

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Official Battle Cry of The Detroit Curling Club is...

..."Scots Wha Hae" and it is the name of The Club's newsletter.

Scots Wha Hae (English: Scots, Who Have) is a patriotic song of Scotland which served for centuries as an unofficial national anthem of the country.  The lyrics were written by Robert Burns in 1793, in the form of a speech given by Robert the Bruce before the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, where Scotland maintained its sovereignty from the Kingdom of England.   (Think of Mel Gibson in Braveheart).

English translation
'Scots, who have with Wallace bled,
Scots, whom Bruce has often led,
Welcome to your gory bed
Or to victory.

'Now is the day, and now is the hour:
See the front of battle lower (threaten),
See approach proud Edward's power -
Chains and slavery…. 

(Ed Note:  you can find the rest of the lyrics on-line)…  
You can also listen and read along on YouTube. 

The oldest issue of The Club’s newsletter (December 1934) in our records does not use this quote.  The second oldest issue in our archives is dated January 14, 1936, Vol. 3, No. 3.  The masthead reads:

Official Battle Cry of
The Detroit Curling Club

The font size and style changed a few times over the years, but this remained the masthead on the newsletter until January 1963.  We have never found a reference as to why it was used.  But we assume that with so many ‘Scotchmen’ in The Club in the early years that something that was considered a patriotic song of Scotland would be adopted by The Club’s membership.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Some Old Stones

This week’s article has nothing to do with curling in The Motor City.  I would like to share the story of a couple of curling stones in my collection.

Weight 39 pounds, 10 inches in diameter and 8 inches tall.  They are single soled with a flat running surface.  The drawer-pull or looped handles are brass, as is the identification tag under the handle.  The tags read: 

Presented to James Boyd Esq.  Dunblane Feb 3rd 1845”.

Years ago I contacted the Dunblane CC in Scotland.  They confirmed that James Boyd had been a member in the 1840’s and that he had served has their representative to the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.  This year I contacted Bob Cowan (co-author of:  The Curling History Blog – click here).  He supplied the newspaper article shown below.

I found them in an old barn of an antique dealer south of Indianapolis.  I paid $100 for the pair in about 1985.  1854 to 1985 – 131 years!  I wondered where else they stopped along their journey.   

Good curling, Angus