Curling Clubs

Curling was originally organised on a parish basis. In the 1700s and early 1800s road travel was difficult at the best of times and particularly so during good curling weather. Matches were generally played with neighbouring parishes, although even this could involve the participants walking great distances in hazardous conditions.

As curling was a local event there was great variation in the rules of play. In the late 1700s curlers began to form themselves into clubs in order to regulate the game - and also the behaviour of players. Durisdeer Curling Club, 1893

Two of the earliest recorded clubs were Sanquhar, formed in 1774 and Wanlockhead, formed three years later. Further reasons for forming clubs were the social dinners which followed each match and the common cause shared by curlers, reinforced by initiations, and the curlers’ "word and grip". They were in effect fraternities.

Moffat curlers, c. 1890 The strength of this bond is illustrated in the minute book of the Sanquhar Society of Curlers. In January 1782, Walter McTurk, Surgeon, was expelled from the society,
’ for offering them a gross insult in calling them a parcel of damned scoundrels.’
Nevertheless, in December 1788 he re-appears in the minute book, and this time he is elected as President of the society!

By the early 1800s many of the parishes of Dumfries and Galloway had curling clubs and their matches were recorded in great detail in the columns of local newspapers. Lochmaben was famed for its curling skills. Its team of souters or shoemakers were so famous that the term to "souter" passed into the language of curling, meaning to win without allowing the other team to score.

In 1830, "Memorabilia Curliana Mabenensia" was published by Sir Richard Broun and dedicated to the office-bearers and members of the Lochmaben Curling Society. This is one of the earliest books on the rules, techniques and lore of the game. The title means, "Memorable Curling at Lochmaben". In one chapter the author describes Lochmaben’s prowess at the game. Curling at Lochmaben, 1963

’ It would be tedious were we to give an outline of the numerous parish matches in which Lochmaben curlers have engaged. It is sufficient to say, that they have been successful over Tinwald, Torthorwald, Dumfries, Mousewald, Cummertrees, Annan, Dryfesdale, Hutton, Wamphray, Applegarth, Johnston - and perhaps Kirkmichael might have been added to the list, but for the occurrence of a most disastrous accident, by which six individuals were drowned, and a termination the most melancholy put to the bonspiel.’

In 1838 the Grand Caledonian Curling Club was formed by delegates from clubs throughout Scotland as a governing body for the sport. One of its founders was Sir Richard Broun. In 1843 when Prince Albert became patron its name changed to the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.

Through the publication of its annual and the organisation of national Grand Matches or Bonspiels it sought to regulate the game throughout Scotland. The weight and shape of stones, the layout of rinks and the rules of play became standardised. One important point of the game related to whether teams should consist of eight curlers playing one stone each or four each playing with a pair of stones. The Royal Caledonian Curling Club advocated the latter arrangement. One of the last clubs in Scotland to abandon the alternative of eight players per team was Sanquhar!

The first Scottish curling team to visit Canada and the United States, 1902 The Royal Caledonian Curling Club also developed international links with curlers in North America and in 1902 sent the first Scottish team overseas. This team included three local curlers, R Bramwell of Upper Nithsdale, T Macmillan of Glencairn and R Armstrong of Upper Annandale.

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