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History of Curling
John Kerr (1890)

The Marquess of Breadalbane


IN view of the Fiftieth Annual Meeting of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club in 1888, a Special Committee was appointed at the Meeting of the previous year to consider what should be done in the way of celebrating the Club's Jubilee. Among the suggestions sent up in the Report of this Committee, and adopted by the Club, was one to this effect:-- "That a Literary Committee be appointed, with powers, for the purpose of preparing a sketch of the Royal Club's history during the last fifty years." Of this Literary Committee, the Rev. John Kerr was appointed Convener, and the preparation of the volume was thereafter entrusted to him to be carried through under the Committee's supervision.

Some words are necessary to explain how a work thus primarily intended to be a sketch of the history of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club should gradually have developed into a "History of Curling." The story of the Royal Club was obviously but the concluding chapter of a long history which had yet to be written. It was thus very early seen that, to do justice to the subject, it would require to be treated more fully than was at first contemplated. At the Jubilee Dinner in 1888, Lord Balfour of Burleigh said "that one of the wants which might reasonably be filled in the Jubilee year of the Club was a really good painstaking history of the game, which would hand down to posterity all that was known of it at the present time." That want, it is hoped, has now been supplied; at all events, every effort has been made to do so.

To all who have assisted in the work hearty thanks are due—to the Secretaries of local Clubs for their answers to the queries sent out by the Committee; to Professor Forster Heddle for his valuable contribution; to T. Thorburn, Beith, for the great amount of trouble he has taken to give us information of a practical kind on stone-manufacture; to Messrs Kay & Keanie for similar information and last, but certainly not least, to Mr William Douglas, the son of the esteemed publisher, who has in every possible manner done his best to make the volume worthy of the subject.

All curlers will join in an expression of regret that while the work was being written three noble veterans have been removed from the ranks--Mr Charles Cowan, Admiral Maitland-Dougall, and Sir John Ogilvy.

The volume having greatly exceeded the limits originally designed, it has been found necessary to omit a Glossary of Curling Words and Phrases, also a large collection of Songs and Humorous Stories marked as worthy of preservation. The ground having been so far cleared by this "History," justice may yet be done to the other subjects referred to, in a second volume, which will be forthcoming whenever an earnest demand is made for its production. The trouble and anxiety connected with the preparation and publication of a work such as this commemorative volume is have been great; but these, it is believed, will soon be forgotten if by its means a fresh enthusiasm be inspired in a game which develops all that is manly and good in social life, and unites in one brotherhood all ranks and conditions of men.

EDINBURGH, 15th April 1890.






Auld Daddy Scotland sat ae day,
Bare leggit on a snawy brae,
His brawny arms wi' cauld were blae,
The wind was snelly blawing:
As icicles froze at his snout,
He rowed his plaid his head about,
Syne raired to heaven a roupit shout,
Auld Albyn's Jove misca'ing:

Chorus—"Oh! for a cheery, heartsome game,
To send through a' the soul a flame,
Pitt birr and smeddum in the frame,
And set the blude a-din'ling.

"Oh, dool and wae! this wretched clime;
What care I for our hills sublime,
If covered aye wi' frosty rime?
I'm right nuisehantlie dealt wi'."
Quo' Jove, and gied his kilt a heeze,
Fule Carle! what gars you grunt and wheeze?
Get up! I'll get an exercise
To het your freezing melt wi'.
I'll get a cheery, heartsome game, &c.

"Gae, get twa whinstanes, round and hard,
Syne on their taps twa thorn roots gird,
Then soop the ice for rnony a yard,
And mak' baith tee and colly:
If in the hack your fit ye hide,
And draw or inwick, guard or ride,
Syne wi' your besom after't stride,
We'll hear nae main o' cauld aye.
That, Sawney, 's what I ca' a game," &c.

"Great thanks!" auld Daddy Scotland cries,
"Sly, pawky chield, for thy advice,
We'll birsle now our shins on ice,
Instead o' owre the ingle:
Let ilka true-born Scottish son,
When cranreuch deeds the snawy grun',
'Mang curling cores seek harmless fun,
And gar his heart's blude tingle."
Oh! curling, cauld•defying game, &c.


Curling in Canada and the United States
A Record of the Tour of the Scottish Team, 1902-3 and the Games in the Dominion and the Republic by the Rev. John Kerr (1904)


IT was incumbent on me as Captain of the Scottish curling team that I should prepare and publish a full and permanent record of our historic tour in Canada and the United States in the winter of 1902-3 an event quite unique in the annals of curling, and fraught, as I believe it to be, with most important and beneficial results from a National and Imperial point of view. This was due to the Mother-club, the Royal Caledonian, which sent the team with a Message of Goodwill to her bairns across the sea; to the members of the team, who so loyally supported their Captain and so manfully played their various parts; and to our brother -curlers in Canada and the United States, who extended to us such a hearty, enthusiastic, never-to-be-forgotten welcome wherever we went. A bald but faithful record was all that was at first intended. But, like Topsy, it has "growed"; In fact, the book developed on my hands to such an alarming extent that I began to be afraid that it would make a Frankenstein of me. Quite a modest tome might have been made of the bare record of our famous Curling Trek in the Dominion and the Republic. But as I proceeded with this, it became apparent to me that a favourable opportunity was offered, which it would be wrong to neglect, of adding a new and interesting chapter to the History of Curling which I had written for the Royal Club some years ago, by giving a historic résumé of the origin and development of the game at the various Transatlantic centres visited by the team. This I have, at considerable trouble, been able to furnish, and I hope it will prove to be a solid and reliable basis for any future history that may be written of Curling in the land of its adoption, where the game has such a glorious future before it, and where it is destined to play a most important part in the evolution of a great race. The testimonies of love arid loyalty which are here recorded unite to form a necklace of sparkling diamonds for our Empire-Queen, Britannia, and I feel certain that the result of our tour will be what was intended by the Royal Club a closer and more sympathetic fellowship between Canada and Scotland, and a notable advance toward Imperial Federation. The description of the charms of the Canadian winter, more especially from a curling point of view, and the incidental references to other pleasant features will, I am sure, make this book a powerful Emigration Agent, so that many may be induced to leave the old country and settle in the Land of Promise and Plenty. The wonderful gallery of portraits and illustrations which I have brought together in these pages will, I trust, supplement the good work done by the team, and unite as "brithers a'" the Knights of the Kowe at home and on the other side of the water; while its story of friendly forgathering and genial good-fellowship will, no doubt, be an inspiration to the generations that come after us to follow the best traditions of the grand old game. It has been my good fortune to make a kinematograph of the busy pursuit of this healthy pleasure in the Dominion and the States, and transfer to permanence its fleeting forms and figures. The picture is worth preservation, and at the opening of the twentieth century it is an augury of hope for centuries to come. The motto thereof may well be the words of the old Scots psalm

Behold how good a thing it is,
And how becoming well;
Together such as brethren be,
In unity to dwell.

My friend, Mr. John L. Low, of golfing fame, when he was going out to America with some Varsity players last spring took a "wick" off our team by saying that he and his men were simply going out for a jolly time of it, apart from match winning or losing, unlike the Scots curlers, who, when they; "discovered the quality of their opponents, abandoned the idea of conquest, and gave out to the world that they had come on a mission of peace", etc. When I tackled friend "Johnny"; with this misrepresentation he went down on his knees and confessed that he; "had made a chronological mistake by post-dating the moment when the missionary spirit entered into your broom-fellows." Knowing his addiction to story-telling I frankly forgave him. This volume furnishes facts which show to Mr. Low and others that our Mission of Goodwill was really our first aim, and our winning of matches a secondary matter, and that our success in both was far beyond our expectations.

It is no easy matter to place in the forefront of our book, as the custom is, the names of those who have been helpful. In trite phraseology "they are too numerous to mention"; If I omit some, or fail to acknowledge contributions of any kind which I have made use of in this volume, such overlook, I trust, will be forgiven. I also hope that any errors as to matters of fact will be pardoned, for at such a distance from the scene of action it was impossible to verify many references.

I must thank the Royal Club for all that was done for our Mission, and her many members who took an interest therein. The stars in their courses seemed to fight for us, so far as the Club s officials were concerned. It was most fortunate that Lord Mansfield was the Club s President, for he has proved no mere figurehead as so many have been in that office, but the most practical and painstaking President the Club ever had: true to his inheritance, he took a deep interest in our tour, and the team owe him a great debt of gratitude for the manly and dignified way in which he supported them.

Then what shall I say of that Prince of Club Secretaries .Mr. Adam Davidson Smith, whose breezy enthusiasm is at all times such a freshening force to the Royal Club and all its agencies and endeavours, and who with sleepless anxiety and unremitting attention looked after the preparations for our tour? No wonder, when he saw us off at last, that he lay back in his secretarial chair and felt like Othello that his occupation was gone. The strenuous advocacy of Sir John Gilmour also greatly assisted us, for the Baronet of Montrave's support of any cause always ensures its success. Nor can I forget the assiduous labours of the special Committee who were entrusted with the selection of the team and the arrangements for the tour, and the able manner in which their arrangements were carried out by Mr. W. Lindsay of Messrs. J. and H. Lindsay, who, though overwhelmed with other calls, seemed to regard our trip as the sole concern of his life.

Time would fail to detail the assistance received from curlers across the water. Among numerous helpers I may name Mr. F. C. Simson, Professor Murray, Mr. Keltie-Jones, Dr. Parke, Colonel Stevenson, Mr. D. Guthrie, Mr. W. D. Aird, Mr. W. J. Beatty, Dr. Thorburu, Colonel Edwards, Mr. J. D. Flavelle, Mr. M Fadden, Mr. Milne, Mr. Davies, Mr. Forrest Macnee, Mr. James Thaw, and the late Mr. D. Foulis. But I must say that the greatest of all my helpers in this work was the venerable ex-Secretary of the Ontario Association, Mr. J. S. Russell, who furnished me with a large quantity of carefully prepared material specially concerning his Province. Second to him I name Mr. J. P. Robertson of Winnipeg, who deserves to be held in everlasting remembrance for all that he has done for curling in Manitoba. As regards the publishing of this volume, I deem it right to say that when I was hesitating whether to venture or not because of the expense, Mr. Arthur Sanderson came forward and by his generous order of a thousand copies "right away"; encouraged me to proceed. If the volume as now issued meets the approval of such a cultured patron of the Fine Arts as Mr. Sanderson is, I shall be more than satisfied. My fidus Achates, Major Scott Davidson, has done me invaluable service, as he did throughout the tour, and for revision of proofs I am obliged to Secretary Husband and Mr. Provan.

To the engravers of the most of the illustrations, Messrs. M. and T. Scott, Leadervale Works, Edinburgh, and to the printers of the volume, Messrs. K. and E. Clark, Ltd., I feel much indebted for their great patience, and for the pains they have taken to make the volume worthy of its subject.

J. K.

DIRLETON, February, 1904.

You can download this book in pdf format here! (51Mb)

An Account of the Game of Curling
With songs from the Canon-Mills Curling Club (1882) (pdf)


As works relating to Curling or in any way connected with it are scarce, and not readily procurable, two of the scarcest of their kind have been selected for. re-publication, with the view of bringing them within reach of the numerous admirers of this agreeable and exhilarating pastime. They will be the more interesting to citizens of “Auld Reekie,” from the fact of their being productions from the pens of members of old local clubs, and were probably the earliest works on this subject ever printed. One is entitled “An Account of the Game of Curling,” by a Member of the Duddingston Curling Society, dated 1811, and the other is a collection of the “Songs for the Curling Club, held at Canon-Mills,” by a Member, dated 1792; both published in Edinburgh. The former of these has been largely drawn upon by writers on this subject, and the compiler of “Memorabilia Curliana Mabenensia” frankly admits that the second chapter of his book, containing the historical portion, has been abridged from the intelligent pages of this work. Sir Alexander Boswell, Bart., was a member of the Duddingston Curling Society, and composed and sung several amusing and witty songs at their anniyersary dinners, and he is mentioned in the list of writers, whose pens have given interest to the Game of Curling; and than whom there never was “a more facetious companion, a more accomplished scholar, or enthusiastic curler.” James Miller, Esq., Advocate, and the Rev. James Muir of Beith, were also members, and composed some excellent songs. Lord Cock-burn’s name stands in the list, but he does not appear to have recorded his curling experiences in the pleasant “Memorials of his time.” The songs of the Canon-Mills Club are humorous and amusing. In addition to their poetical merit, they are interesting as being, so far as known, the earliest collection of Curling Songs ever printed, and from the proof they afford of the enthusiasm evinced for the game at that period.

The Canon-Mills Loch, on which the members of the Club were wont to assemble, has long since disappeared, having been drained and built over many years ago. In his plan of the City of Edinburgh and its vicinity, published in 1837, Hunter places it in the angle formed by the junction of the roads leading down from Bellevue Crescent and Eyre Place, adjoining the ground occupied by the Gymnasium, but better known in those days as “ the Meadow.”

A Glossary has been affixed to enlighten those not conversant with the technical terms and phrases in use among curlers, which will render the meanings more intelligible, and point out the beauties and subtleties conveyed in the verses.

J. M.
Edinburgh February 1882.

Scotch Curlers' Visit
Welcome to Auld Scotia's Sons - Heartiest Greetings to o'ur brethern frae across the water, January 19th and 20th, 1912 (pdf)

Banff & Macduff Curling & Skating Clubs
By Stanly Bruce (2022) (pdf)

Essay on Curling and Artificial Pond Making
By J. Cairnie, Largs (1833) (pdf)


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