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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The First Scots Tour to Canada and the USA 1902-03

The idea of a group of curlers from Scotland to visit Canada and the USA had been discussed as far back as 1858.  The prominent idea was to hold friendly games.  The long winters in Canada and the States coupled with the curling facilities in covered rinks afforded these curlers five months of games every winter.  The Scottish curlers had on average a fortnight’s play every winter in the open air when the ice was very often in a rough or soft condition.

The Tour was approved in the spring of 1902.  The organization; the agenda; the members of the team and the clubs they would visit was prepared during the summer and fall of 1902.  On December 17, 1902 the team of 24 men left Glasgow for Liverpool.  Here they boarded the RMS Bavarian…after travelling 9,918 miles they returned to Glasgow on February 28, 1903.  This article focuses on the events in Detroit on January 31, 1903.

The visit to Detroit was mainly due to letters from the President of the Detroit Curling Club and the Secretary of the Ontario Curling Association.  One of these letters stated:  “Detroit can furnish ten sheets of ice, and a game here would probably be participated by the following clubs:  Windsor, Grand Rapids, Sarnia, Toledo and Detroit.”

After their brief experience at the royal city of Windsor the Scottish curlers were ferried across the broad river to Detroit, ‘the cleanest, brightest, neatest city in all the States.’  They had been anxious about their entry into America, for they were told before landing to answer the following questions:   Can you read and write?   Has your ticket been paid for by yourself?  Have you any money?  Have you ever been in prison or in a poorhouse?  Are you a polygamist?  Some of the team members were not quite sure if they could give satisfactory answers to these Yankee queries.  To their relief, no questions were asked has they alighted on States territory.  Their luggage was not searched.  It was a case of “snakes in Iceland” – they had no luggage to be searched.  On leaving Toronto they had been instructed to take as little as possible, and beyond their pajamas and the suit they curled in, they had little additional to cumber their week’s circular tour.  Besides, they did not sleep at Detroit but at Windsor.

The Scotch curlers were met at the foot of Woodward by members of the Detroit Curling Club.  The big special street car named ‘Yolande’ was utilized for a trip around the city.  The journey occupied considerable time, as the Detroit curlers were anxious that the visitors should see as much of the city as possible.  A luncheon was provided with numerous speeches, songs and stories.  The crowd adjourned to the Forest Avenue rinks where the remainder of the evening was spent with ‘stane and besom’.

 “The battle of Detroit went all in favor of the invaders, who thus crowned the week’s circuit with an American triumph.”  Three games were played – The Scots won 24 – 6.

In October 1903 The Detroit Curling Club received a handsomely embossed certificate of thanks from the Royal Caledonian Curling club of Scotland.  This proclamation is framed and hanging in The Club today.  There are very few clubs still in existence today that own one of these documents.  I have seen only one other at The St. Thomas CC in Ontario.

Good Curling, Angus MacTavish                                   


  1. Angus, I think I'm all caught up on the Scots articles. Good Stuff! I liked this quite a bit! Mike G

  2. Hi Mike. I am glad you like the articles so far. Well, hang on tight...the fun is just beginning.