Channel Stanes,
Kowes and Crampits

The earliest form of curling stone was simply a water worn boulder of hard rock. These were called "loofies" because they were easily held in the hand, the Scots word for which is "loof". Some loofies have hollows made in their upper or lower surfaces to create a hold for fingers or thumb. This type of stone was already falling out of favour by the early 1700s.

Channel stanes came into use in the 1700s. They were also water worn boulders and were called channel stanes because they were found in the channel or bed of streams. However, their owners improved on nature by smoothing the playing surface and fixing on wooden or iron handles. curler illistration

The Rev George Murray of Balmaclellan records the great care lavished on his stone, named "The Dean" in his poem, "My Channel Stane",

Where lone Penkiln, ’mid foam and spray,
O’er many a linn leaps on his way,
A thousand years and mair ye lay
Far out of sight.
My blessings on the blythsome day
Brought thee to light.

curler illistration At this time stones could be any shape and size and each curler played with only one stone which could be easily identified as his own. Many gave their stones names and came to know their properties intimately. During this period stones increased in size until weights of 70lbs became commonplace. One stone belonging to a Lochmaben curler was named "The Hen" because "when once she settled, there she clockir" and could not be displaced.

It is not known when curlers discovered that sweeping the ice could affect the delivery of a stone, but the earliest illustrations of curling show the use of the broom or kowe. These were bunches of twigs gathered together, often but not necessarily of broom. Curlers gave their attention to the construction of their kowes and much curling lore centres around them.

The original design prevailed late into the 1800s but by this time kowes could have elegant silver or ebony handles. They were often awarded as prizes in curling competitions and became as much an emblem of the game as the curling stone itself. Silver medal, Keir Curling Club, 1840, showing the curler’s stone and broom or kowe. He wears crampits to improve his foot hold.

Curlers first addressed the problem of keeping a firm foot hold on the ice by the use of crampits, also called cramps or tramps. These were spiked iron plates attached to the boot or shoe in the same fashion as modern hill walkers use crampons. As the game developed in the 1800s they became the source of considerable dissent, as they damaged the surface of the ice, especially during sweeping.

Crampits were used in Dumfriesshire into the early 1900s despite censure from the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. In 1902, Rev John Kerr wrote of the Waterlow Cup competition at Lochmaben,

I was disappointed to see the antiquated and barbarous "Tramps" still in use …

Another method of securing a loose hold when delivering the stone was the use of trickers, also known as triggers or crisps. These were small metal platforms set into the ice, but removed again after each game. illistration of various trickers

The most progressive curlers of the 1800s favoured the use of the hack, a flat metal plate secured to the ice and used by all players. This became the fore runner of the hack used in the modern game.

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