August 25, 2009

The Edinburgh International Senior Championship

For many years now, the Edinburgh International Senior Championship has been run in parallel with the main event. The event has been a popular on the seniors circuit and many teams have returned year after year to compete, to renew old rivalries and to socialise.

The competition is open to all over the age of 50 as defined by the RCCC, so can be used by teams preparing for their Scottish Senior Championships. It is open to men, ladies and mixed teams and is run in an interesting format, necessitated it has to be said, by the new demands on ice preparation time of the main competition. The Seniors event is now run on the Wednesday and Thursday before the main competition. This year that's November 25-26, 2009.

Four sections of four teams fight it out in leagues, guaranteeing each team three games of curling. The top team from each of the leagues progresses to a high road semifinal, while the runners-up in each section progress to the low road semis. The semifinals and finals of the High and Low roads are played at the same time as the semifinals and finals of the main competition, enabling the older hands to share in some of the limelight and razzmatazz on finals day.

England’s Michael Sutherland returns to defend his trophy; Hugh Meikle from Wales has entered a strong-looking team of Chris Wells, Mike Yuille and Stewart Cairns. There are a number of strong Scottish teams standing between them and ultimate success. Stalwart and long-standing supporters of the competition like Iain Hamilton, Walter Brown, Ritchie Stewart and Jimmy Green will fancy their chances in their local ice rink. Alan Durno brings Peter Fraser, Willie Young and Mike Watt with him and, if nothing else, they will challenge the bar staff to keep up! Sandy Nelson from Kinross is always someone to look out for. David Clydesdale, also from Kinross and runner-up in last season’s Scottish Senior Championships is bringing a team. Ken Watson and Iain Gillespie make up the 'all-male' teams. Ian has the irrepressible 'Lawyer fae Lenzie', Charles Jackson, playing third stones for him. There will never be a dull moment in any game involving Charles!

Former Scottish Senior Champions Ronnie Peat, Jim Jamieson and Mike Burton, all members of Reform Curling Club, have drafted in Jean Lesperance at third in a strong looking team who could well go all the way.

The ladies are represented by former World Ladies Champion, Kirsty Letton with her usual team of Judy Mackenzie, Pat Orr and Anne MacDougall. Janice Manson, Fiona Turnbull and Jean Robertson will also compete.

Tips for the top? Well, Alan Durno might be just the man to take on all-comers, but there again, I suppose it might depend on how things stack up on the Wednesday night! Sandy Nelson is another who will feature strongly and would be a good tip for the semi finals. Kirsty Letton is a doughty campaigner and Ronnie Peat could also challenge.

Oh, but what about David Clydesdale’s chances? Never write him off!

The draw will appear on the official website in the next fortnight and competition results will be posted on the website at the conclusion of each session.

Compiled by Robin Copland

Top photo: Last year's winners L-R Alan Collett, Frank Forrest, Jim Wood and Michael Sutherland (skip). Photo by Bob Cowan.

August 16, 2009

Who's coming to Edinburgh?

Robin Copland provides an update on the entries received so far for the Edinburgh International Curling Championship.

There is an exciting looking field developing for this year’s Edinburgh International Curling Championship.

Already received from Scotland are entries from Teams Warwick Smith, Peter Loudon, Jamie Dick, Iain Watt, Graham Shaw, Colin Hamilton, Keith Prentice and Tom Brewster. David Murdoch’s GB Olympic team has entered the competition; they will use it as a final shakedown before representing Scotland in the European Championships in Aberdeen.

Team news is also interesting. Team Smith remains as last season and looks as competitive as ever. Warwick stays with Craig Wilson, Dave Smith and Ross Hepburn. All are multiple winners of the Scottish Championship; Warwick and Craig will be anxious to demonstrate that the Olympic selectors got it wrong when they overlooked their claims to be included in the final five-man squad.

Pete Loudon has stayed with Logan Gray and Richard Woods from last season, but has been joined by Edinburgh’s Colin Campbell at lead. Colin had played lead for Tom Brewster for a number of seasons. Pete mixes youth and experience again, although he will argue that he is still youthful! It is a strong looking team; Logan Gray skipped his own teams to three Scottish Junior titles and was unlucky to win only two Bronze Medals at World Junior level. He has just run a hugely successful Summer Skins competition in Stirling’s new rink in the Peak sports village at Forthbank. Richard Woods is a World Junior Silver Medallist from 1998 (interestingly, playing with David Murdoch) and Colin Campbell was runner-up in last season’s Scottish Championship. Pete himself was a member of Hammy McMillan’s World Championship winning team of 1999 and has also won the European Championship three times.

Tom Brewster, who came so close to winning last season’s Scottish Championship, replaces Colin Campbell at lead with David Edwards. David has skipped his own team these last few seasons and had a fair bit of success – indeed, he is a former winner of the Edinburgh International. He managed a pretty impressive double that season, winning the Perth Masters as well! Duncan Fernie proved himself a fantastic third player last season and ran Ewan MacDonald close in the 'who was the best third in Scotland?' competition. He remains Tom’s third player. Tom’s brother, Ron Brewster, is the team’s second player. Ron has always been a keen curler, but I suspect that his real love can be found away from the curling rink and in the paddock; Ron works with heavy horses and regularly enters them in competitions throughout the UK. See Ron’s home page here.

Jamie Dick, runner-up in last season’s Scottish Junior Championship, has joined John Hamilton’s team and takes over the skipping duties from John. Andrew Craigie and Graeme Copland are the team’s front end. John, Andrew and Graeme are three of GB’s Silver Medallist World University Squad from 2007 and John and Andrew played in the same competition again in 2009, finishing sixth. They should get the local support as three of them play their curling in Murrayfield; even Andrew Craigie has answered the call of the Central Belt – he has relocated from Inverness and now lives in Glasgow’s leafy west end!

Former winner, Alan Smith, is another skip who has turned his back on the last stone! He joins Iain Watt, reigning Scottish Junior Champion Steve Mitchell, and Andrew Dolman in a strong looking outfit.

Graham Shaw returns with his team of Sandy Christie, Robin Niven and Mike Niven. Graham has been a great supporter of the event over the years and had a good run last season.

Hammy McMillan, a semifinalist last season, returns with his team of Philip Wilson, Ross Paterson and local Sandy Gilmour. Hammy needs no introduction and will challenge in whatever competition he enters. Ross and Sandy are former Bronze Medallists in the World Junior Championships and Philip Wilson represented GB in the Nagano Olympics. The McMillan family has been at the forefront of curling development in the south west of Scotland since Hammy senior opened the ice rink at the North West Castle Hotel in 1969. As well as Hammy junior, the rink has produced a host of World Junior and Scottish Champions and is a major centre of the game in Scotland. The hotel’s website is here.

Former Scottish Junior champion Glen Muirhead brings Greg Drummond and new recruits Thomas Sloan, the reigning Scottish Junior Champion and Michael Goodfellow to the competition. It will be interesting to see how this strong junior team shape up against their more seasoned rivals on the ice.

Team Murdoch, the reigning World and European Champions, will be warm favourites for this season’s Edinburgh International. The competition will be an important last plank in their competitive build-up to the European Championships.

From overseas, Andy Kapp returns to defend his trophy and entries have also been received from the Czech Republic, Latvia, Ireland, England, Russia and Sweden. More about the visitors in a future post.

Entry forms can be found at

August 10, 2009

Curling in Edinburgh

Robin Copland describes curling in Scotland's capital city, and how the Edinburgh International came to be:

A parcel of land adjacent to the railway station of Haymarket in Edinburgh’s west end became available in 1912 when James Swan and Company Ltd, the famous animal auctioneers, relocated to a greenfield site in Chesser on the western edge of the city. The baleful bleeting of sheep and cattle on the way to their final date with destiny was replaced by the roar of curlers in their splendid new Haymarket Curling Rink.

The rink was strategically placed on the main road out of Edinburgh going towards Glasgow and beside the busy, bustling mainline railway station at Haymarket. In addition, it was well-served by local and national bus services, indeed it was the rink’s proud boast that it was easily the most accessible ice rink in Scotland.

The rink quickly established itself as the home for many famous east of Scotland curling clubs. In those far-off days, the rink provided the ice but the curlers provided their own curling stones. Lockers for the stones were available and, as well as preparing the ice for curling, the ice rink staff used to keep a record of who was curling and ensure that their stones were ready for them on the ice, suitably cooled and ready for play.

The First 'Worlds Curling Championship'

At that time, each of the large ice rinks in Scotland had a number of 'open' competitions where all the top curlers of their day would gather and play. Curling in those days was essentially an insular sport played by two great nations, Scotland and Canada. Links between the two had developed to the extent that regular organised tours took place between the two countries. The Strathcona Cup was keenly contested by curlers of the two nations and regular tours were already taking place every five years or so.

Those tours apart though, Scottish curlers lived in something of a vacuum and the sport had not yet made the inroads into Europe that would happen later. Each of the main ice rinks held one 'major' open championship each year and they each attempted to outdo the others in naming their trophies. Thus Falkirk Ice Rink hosted the 'British' – a competition that is played for to this day in Stirling Ice Rink; Crossmyloof, the first of the large indoor city rinks built in Scotland had the 'Queens' Trophy; Perth had the 'Scottish'.

Against this backdrop, Edinburgh Ice Rink Ltd, the holding company that owned and operated Haymarket Ice Rink, decided to put up a trophy for annual competition. This trophy was the somewhat grandly named 'Worlds Curling Championship'. A magnificent solid silver trophy was presented by the Edinburgh Ice Rink Ltd and it is this trophy that is now presented to the winners of the Edinburgh International Curling Championship each year.

From 1922 until 1975 the competition was hotly contested each year. The first winning rink was skipped by one of Scotland’s all time greats, W K Jackson. Indeed, his name appears on the trophy more than once. In his first winning rink there is an equally illustrious name, T B Murray. Later, Murray donated the magnificent Murray Trophy for curlers under the age of 25. Since 1975, this trophy has been presented to Scotland’s Junior Mens Champions (Under 21).

Other winners included top curlers like Willie Young of Airth, Bill Muirhead from Perth, Bob Grierson from Stranraer and Alec Torrance from Hamilton.

A scene from the second last end of the 1954 'Worlds' final at Haymarket, between teams skipped by James Sanderson and James Sellar. From the December 1954 Scottish Curler magazine.

A A Wighton, Chairman of the Edinburgh Ice Rink, presents the trophy to (L-R) James Sanderson, John Cooper, Alec Allison and Robert Moffat. From the December 1954 Scottish Curler magazine.

The Edinburgh International Curling Championship

An accommodation had to be reached with the International Curling Federation which was anxious to have exclusive use of the name 'World Curling Championship' for their own event. Up until 1967, the fledgling World Curling Championship had been growing each year. In 1968, new sponsors for the World Championship, Air Canada, presented a new trophy, the Air Canada Silver Broom, replacing the Scotch Cup.

By 1975 matters came to a head and, 53 years after W K Jackson won the first 'World Curling Championship', Edinburgh Ice Rink Ltd agreed to relinquish the name and replace it with the 'Edinburgh International'. The competition, instead of being run as a midweek knock-out tournament, became a weekend invitation tournament on the domestic circuit along with other new generation competitions like the Perth Masters, the Famous Grouse at Inverness and the Benson and Hedges at Lockerbie.

The competition thrived in the latter years of the by now old Haymarket Rink and regularly attracted foreign teams like the future World Champion Swiss rink skipped by Jurg Tanner.

Few will forget the Jurg’s sportsmanship during the 1976 final against the local rink skipped by Jimmy Sanderson. One of Jimmy’s stones picked up on what later transpired to be a Swiss coin. Immediately on learning what had happened, Jurg marched the stone back down the ice and insisted that Jimmy replay it. The big crowd that lined the barriers cheered the act as if he had won the game! Playing third on Jimmy’s losing side that day was none other than Iain Baxter, now Murrayfield Ice Rink’s manager.

The Search for the Competition’s New Home

Haymarket eventually shut down for good in 1978 and there followed a period of uncertainty as Edinburgh was without a curling venue for the first time since the Second World War. A temporary home for the competition was found in Ayr until Murrayfield Curling Rink opened its doors in 1980 and for the next seven years, the competition moved on from strength to strength as television took a serious and live interest in the sport.

Each year, STV broadcast the event showing a highlights package each night and the last five ends of the final live on the Sunday afternoon. Indeed, the Scotsport programme was hosted in Murrayfield and Arthur Montford, the legendary Scottish football commentator, regularly trod the boards in the new rink.

In the meantime invitations went out every year to the semifinalists at that year’s World Championships, so many famous curlers played for the famous old trophy. Eigil Ramsjfell, Peter Attinger, Jurg Tanner and others made the pilgrimage to the curling’s spiritual home, there to cross swords with the top Scottish curlers of the day like Chuck Hay, Colin Hamilton, Graeme Adam, Ken Horton, Willie Jamieson, Hammy McMillan and David Smith. At this stage, in the 1980s, the Edinburgh International was one of the top weekend competitions in Europe and certainly the most prestigious of the Scottish weekend competitions.

Retrenchment and Rebirth

As often happens in life, things tend to come and go in cycles. When television lost interest in the sport in the late 1980s, large-scale sponsorship dried up and the Edinburgh International, in common with other domestic competitions, had to cut its cloth. Gone were the regular visits by glamorous foreign teams; gone were the big prize pots; gone were the spectators even; and the event became just one of many on the domestic curling circuit – indeed for a couple of years, it became a mixed event!

The organising committee has been determined to raise the profile of the Edinburgh International as befits its long and illustrious history. To that end, they approached Armin Harder of the World Curling Tour – Europe in late 2007 to find out the circumstances in which the competition could be included on the growing WCT-E circuit. As it happened, the WCT-E had a window in its diary for late November and the Edinburgh International took its place again at the top table of European curling.

The competition is now a member of the newly-branded 'Champions Tour' of competitions. The 2009 event will take place at Murrayfield Ice Rink, November 27-29, 2009.

August 02, 2009

Gala Dinner and Fun Evening

The two speakers at the Gala Dinner on Saturday, September 12, have been announced as John O’Neil and Sheriff David Smith.

John is a well-known after dinner speaker on the Scottish circuit. He has a wonderfully dry delivery and tells a tremendous story. He is a keen curler and a member of the Duddingston Curling Club, regular curlers at the Murrayfield rink. He recently spoke at the Oxenfoord Curling Club Annual Dinner and brought the house down!

Sheriff David Smith needs no introduction. He is Scotland’s leading authority on curling’s history and author of Curling: an Illustrated History. He is a Trustee of the Royal Club Charitable Trust that has been set up and charged with creating Scotland’s first curling museum. His Curling History Blog is regularly updated with research into the history of 'Scotland’s ain Game'.

Tickets for the dinner are selling well. They are priced at £25 per person. The dinner will take place on Saturday, September 12, in the Edinburgh Curling Club rooms at the Murrayfield curling rink.

Tickets can be obtained by contacting Robin Copland (Email: robin at, or download details as a pdf file from here.

The photo of David Smith in serious mood was taken at the recent opening of the restored Thomson Tower at Duddingston, see here.