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The Canadian Curler's Manual
Part II


The early history of Curling is involved in such obscurity, that the time even of the antiquarians might be better employed in eating Beef and Greens, or in playing the Game, than in endeavoring to discover its origin. Some of these gentlemen have, from the definition given of a certain word in an old dictionary, come to the conclusion that Curling was originally the game of quoits played upon the ice. Kilian, in his Etymo-logica Teutonicae Linguoe, renders the Teutonic words “kluyten,” “kalluyten,” ludere massis, sive glohis glaciatis; certare discis in aequore glaciato. The term kluyte, or klyte, is still used in some parts of Scotland, where it always signifies to “fall flat” or to fall so that the broadest part of the falling body first comes in contact with the ground; but it never has any reference to moving on a plane surface. The words ludere and certare throw no light on the manner in which the globus or discus was used. But until it can be shown that they were moved upon the ice—not pitched through the air—it is difficult to perceive the relation between “kluyten” and curling. As soon as the stones were played by being slidden—if the antiquarians could only determine the period of that event—a new game was introduced, affording opportunities equal to those of the quoit for muscular exercise, and a much wider field for the exercise of the judgment.

The earliest notice of Curling which has been discovered is in Cambden’s Britannia, published in 1607. In it, Coppinsha, one of the Orkney islands, is mentioned as famous for “excellent stones for the game called Curling.” This shows that it was then in considerable repute. In the “Life of William Guthrie”, who in the year 1644 was ordained minister of Fenwick, in Ayrshire, it is stated that he was fond of the innocent recreations which then prevailed, “among which was Curling.” In 1684, the game is taken notice of in FountainhalFs Decisions. Pennycuik, also in the seventeenth century, declares that

"To ourl on the ice doth greatly please,
Being a manly Scottish exercise."

And he celebrates the game as calculated

"To clear the brain, stir up the native heart,
And give a gallant appetite for meat."

Ramsay has alluded to Curling. Burns, in “Tam Samson’s Elegy” shows, in few words that he himself understood the game. Grahame, the author of the “Sabbath” has illumined the rink with the lustre of his own genius; and Curling forms the subject of a beautiful part of “Fisher’s Winter Season.” Though the game has never been universal in Scotland, it has long been practised in almost every county south of the Forth and the Clyde. The shires of Ayr, Renfrew, Lanark and Dumfries are remarkable for their attachment to Curling. It is played in Perthshire, the Countess of Mansfield, being now patroness of the Scone and Perth Club; but we are not aware of its having been, until lately, practised farther north. In Aberdeen —that city of northern lights—it is unknown. The Editor of the Aberdeen Herald, who is a native of a Curling district, laments in his paper of 13th January, 1838—that all was then bound up in the icy stillness of the season, and that in a place abounding with the material for making admirable curling stones, and with arms strong enough to wield them,

“No friendly combatants contested the field.”

The game was played near Inverness, in 1838, when Loch-na-Sanais (or the whispering lake), with the picturesque hills of Tomnahurich and Torvain, echoed, for the first time, to the booming of the stones over the ice.

Curling has long been held in high estimation in Edinburgh. About the beginning of last century “the magistrates marched in a body to the North Loch, to spend the day in Curling. In going and returning they were preceded by a band of music, playing appropriate airs.” It was the custom in Paisley, not many years ago, to send round the town drummer, after two or three nights’ hard frost, to proclaim to the inhabitants where the Curlers should meet in the morning; and in the morning, should the frost continue, hundreds might be seen—manufacturers, bailies, weavers, and clergymen,—resorting promiscuously to the rendezvous; for on the ice all are on a level—all ordinary distinctions in society are, for the time, forgotten in the love of the game, and the noble and the learned are there willing to be directed by the most skilful player, though this should happen to be the humblest of their neighbors.

In some of the agricultural districts of Scotland, the extent of Curling Clubs is regulated by the legal divisions of the country, being again sub-divided among themselves into rinks, who always play together under their respective skips; — the organization resembling in many respects that of the Militia of Canada—and on the occasion of a contest with another club, every man who, if in this country should be liable to serve as a soldier, turns out willingly for the honour of his corps. There, however, age procures no exemption from service. In the words of Grahame,

"When rival parishes and shrievedoms keep,
On upland loch, the long expected tryst,
To play their yearly bonspiel, aged men,
Smit with the eagerness of youth, abe thebe,
While love of conquest lights their beamless eyes,
New nerves their arms and makes them young once more.”

On 20th January, 1838, the parish of Lesmahagow, in Lanarkshire, met the neighboring club of Avondale, on a sheet of ice, near Strathaven. Each club consisted of twenty-one rinks of eight players, making the number of players on each side one hundred and sixty-eight, so that three hundred and thirty-six Curlers were engaged in the match. Such a bonspiel as this may not take place every season, but this instance, which is referred to, as being of recent occurrence, is sufficient to shew the interest which in such districts is taken in the game, and, also, the excellence of the organization which could bring so many players together on a notice so short as that which can be given, where the continuance of hard frost cannot be depended on.

It is now about twenty years since Curling was introduced to Canada, and since that time the game has been regularly played at Quebec and Montreal. The Clubs of those Cities, in imitation of their friends on the other side of the Atlantic, have occasional contests with each other. The match which they last had, came off in March of the present year, and was played at both places on the same day— one-half of the players from each City having proceeded to the other—so that the result of the joint game could not be known at either place, until the parties had time to communicate. A few years ago, the Bonspiel took place at Three Rivers. The distance which, in those cases, the players had to travel, sufficiently shows how warmly they are devoted to the game.

During the last winter, the officers stationed at some of the posts to the south of Montreal, relieved the monotony of military duty, by engaging in Curling. The game has been practised at Perth, in the Bathurst District, although now fallen into disuse there. At Niagara, a rink was formed four years ago, one gentleman having imported a sufficient number of stones for their use, and great interest is now taken in the sport. At Newmarket, about 30 miles to the north of Toronto, there is a Curling Club, the minister, like many of his brethren at home, being an active promoter of the game, and an exact and skilful player. Curling is now also a favorite amusement at Dundas at the head of Lake Ontario; at Guelph, in the new District of Wellington; and at Fergus, in the township of Nicholl. There are also, many first-rate players in Scarboro’ who are always ready to measure their strength, in numbers and skill, with those of Toronto, and both enjoy the certaminis gaudia in their annual bonspiel. They played at Toronto, on 12th February last, with twenty-four players aside, when their Excellencies the Governor General and the Lieutenant Governor were spectators of the game.

The Fergus Club has been mentioned above, but is worthy of more particular notice, being perhaps, the first which was regularly organized in Upper Canada. The settlement of that neighborhood was begun in 1834, and the gloom of the first winter was dispelled by the introduction of the game. In the course of the winter following, the Honourable Adam

Fergusson, who is the principal proprietor and the enlightened founder of the settlement, succeeded in forming the players into a club, of which he was the first President, and which now numbers upwards of thirty members. They play with blocks of hard wood, turned to the proper shape, which they have found to answer the purpose, except when the ice is dull. The experiment has been made of loading the blocks with lead, in order that the size and weight may bear about the same proportion to each other as in Curling stones, and this they consider a decided improvement.

The example of the Curlers of Fergus, in constituting a club, ought to be followed in every neighborhood where there are players sufficient for one rink. The permanency of the game and opportunities of playing may thus be secured in places where, without such arrangement, the greatest difficulty might be experienced in bringing the players together. Although the game has been played at Toronto, every winter, since 1829, it was never enjoyed to the same extent as it has been since the formation of the Club in 1836. By the judicious arrangement of the managers, in appointing the hours of playing, and in having the ice ready before the Curlers meet, the time which was formerly wasted in preparations that may be performed by laborers, is now spent in the game; and thus the recreation can be shared by many, who should otherwise, by the nature of their occupations, be excluded from the rink. Wherever, on this continent, Curling has been introduced and not continued, its decline is attributable to the want of that system which the proper organization of a club would ensure. Wherever Curlers have been united, in the way now recommended, they have been enabled to attract constant accessions to their numbers, and, by spreading throughout their respective neighborhoods a love of the game, to establish its permanency beyond the chance of decay.

Mr. John Graham, of New York, the best authority in the United States, in every matter connected with Scottish nationality, as existing there,—and who permits his name to be used on this occasion,—stated during his recent visit to Toronto, that the game was sometimes played at New York, but there being no Club, a special arrangement was always necessary before any meeting on the ice could take place. If the New York curlers were to unite, there can be no doubt that the game would “go a-head” there, and that in a few winters hence, we should hear of their having a bonspiel with their friends in Canada, either at Montreal or Toronto.

A few plain rules are sufficient for the government of a Curling Club. The following Constitution, which was agreed upon by the Toronto Curlers, has been found to answer every purpose for which it was intended. A few additional regulations have since been made, but these are only of a local or temporary nature.


Article 1st.—The Office-bearers of the Club shall consist of a President, two Vice Presidents, four Managers, and a Secretary and Treasurer, who, after the first election, shall be elected at the Annual Meeting in December, to be called as provided in Article 5th.

Article 2nd.—Any person wishing to become a Member, may be proposed at any regular Meeting of the Club, and if the proposal be seconded, the election shall proceed, when the votes of a majority of three-fourths of the Members present, and the payment of the Entrance Fee and of one year’s subscription, as provided in Article 3rd, shall be required for the admission of the applicant.

Article 3rd.—In order to provide a Fund to meet necessary expenses, Members shall pay on admission the sum of an entrance fee, and also the sum of as their first year’s subscription; and shall afterwards pay such annual subscription as may be determined by the Club at the Annual Meeting.

Article 4th.—The Committee shall draw up the Rules of the Game according to the prevailing practice in Scotland; which Rules, when entered on the Books of the Club and read at a regular Meeting, shall regulate the playing, and shall be decisive in all disputes among the Members; and may also, in case of playing with other Clubs, regulate the match, unless objected to by such other Club.

Article 5th.—The Annual Meeting, when Office-bearers shall be elected, shall be held on the first Tuesday of December; and regular Meetings shall also be held on the first Tuesday in January, February and March in every year, at such place as the President may appoint; to be properly intimated to the Members; and occasional Meetings of the Club may also be called by the President, whenever he may consider it expedient.

Article 6th.—Members shall pay their annual subscription to the Treasurer within one month after the amount of the same shall be determined; and on failing to do so, they shall be considered as having withdrawn from the Club.

Article 7th.—The Rules of the Club may be altered or new rules added, with the consent of three fourths of the Members present at any regular Meeting; such alterations or additions having been proposed at the regular Meeting preceding.

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