Roslin’s links with the Roaring Game

Action on the Roslin Curling Pond c 1910. Photo: Bryce Collection, Midlothian Council Local Studies
Action on the Roslin Curling Pond c 1910. Photo: Bryce Collection, Midlothian Council Local Studies

For centuries, curling has been played in Scotland where the ‘North Winds doth Blaw’ – frequently, writes Winnie Stevenson (Roslin Heritage Society).

It was parish ministers who contributed to the early Statistical Accounts and they recorded that nearly every parish had a curling club.

During the 1700s, many clubs were instituted but there were many different forms of the game. It was felt that a national club should be formed to regulate this Scottish game and the Grand Caledonian Curling Club was instituted in 1838. It was granted the title ‘Royal’ in 1843 after Queen Victoria visited Scone Palace where the Earl of Mansfield gave a demonstration of curling on the polished floor of his ballroom.

Clubs instituted in Midlothian included Lasswade in 1785, Penicuik 1815, Rosslyn 1816, Glencorse 1830 and Dalkeith 1839. There were probably many others but records have not survived. Sir George Clerk of Penicuik was president of the RCCC in 1839/40, the Earl of Dalkeith in 1858/59, the Earl of Rosslyn in 1876/77.

Early curling stones or ‘Kuting-stones’ had finger holes rather than handles and were thrown over the ice. An ancient ‘Kuting-stone’, dated 1613, was found at the Roslin pond in 1826. We learn from the minutes of the Rosslyn Club that in the 1830s, they were fortunate to have the support of the Wedderburn family. Lady Wedderburn of Rosebank House, a thorough enthusiast and mother of Colonel Wedderburn, knitted worsted vests and presented them to the members of the five rinks of the club. The pond is in a very exposed situation..!

Roslin Curling Pond was extended in 1895 when a shallow artificial pond was added, allowing members to play in the ‘least degree of frost’. The value of this was shown during the winter of 1910/11 when they had 21 days of curling with 50 games taking place, but only two on the deeper pond. A verse from ‘Lament of the Roslin Curling Club’ by James Roger, describing a match between Roslin and Dunblane when Roslin was soundly beaten, reads: ‘But there’s hope yet for Roslin, a balm for their pain/ Whilst Bob o’ the Castle can curl up a stane/ With Glover and Thomson, with Mochrie and Law/ They will yet cock their bonnets and conquer them a’’. Bob was the gardener at the castle, Glover the grocer, Thomson the Earl’s land steward, Mochrie the bootmaker, and Law the joiner.

The first Grand Match held between clubs in the North and South of Scotland was held on the High Pond at Penicuik House in 1847 with 300 curlers taking part. The following year, a Grand Match was held on Linlithgow Loch which is very deep. With 680 curlers and thousands of spectators on the ice, when a large number congregate in one area, there is a danger that the ice may give way, even when it is six or seven inches thick. As interest in the sport grew, finding a suitable stretch of water that was not so deep caused great concern for the committee of Royal Caledonian Curling Club and Carsebreck, Perthshire was chosen. With curlers arriving from all over the country, the pond also had to be accessible and a temporary railway station was built. Between 1853 and 1935, 25 Grand Matches were held there until it too was considered to be unsafe.

From the records of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, the Grand Match on January 29, 1929, and only the 29th match in 80 years, was held at Carsebreck. The night before, the ice had been covered by a heavy fall of snow which quickly turned to slush. As well as around 2,500 competitors, there were between 2,500 and 3,000 spectators on the ice, some arriving with their fishing waders in view of the worsening weather conditions. A veteran of both the Roslin and Duddingston clubs, Mark Sanderson, at the age of 86, played for the South Side rink and went out with his team. He had played there in his youth but like many of the younger men, found the wet ice too heavy for him. Play lasted for three hours with the North Side winning the Bonspiel, perhaps due to their different design of stones being more suited to the ice conditions.

This beautiful silver cup was presented to Rosslyn Curling Club in 1924 by Mark Sanderson on the occasion of his Golden Wedding, 28th January 1874 ~ 1924. He presented a similar cup to Duddingston Curling Club where the Sanderson Competition continues but, sadly, the last winner of the Rosslyn trophy was Wm Howat in 1938. Mark died in April 1937 in his 95th year. His obituary said he was untiring in his activities with both Rosslyn and Duddingston Curling Clubs and ‘in his late life his energy and genial outlook were a source of wonder to all who met him.’

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