Hamilton & Thornyhill Curling Club
The following details are taken directly from the booklet produced to celebrate the Bicentenary of the club in 1977:
HAMILTON CURLING CLUB - Early Years
Hamilton Curling Club was instituted in 1777. Unfortunately, the original Minute Book of the Club has been lost, and despite extensive advertising in the Glasgow Herald, Hamilon Advertiser and extensive local enquiries at the beginning of this century, its whereabouts still remain a mystery. However, interesting extracts can still be found in the Jubilee Volume of the R.C.C.C.'s History of Curling, where it is stated that the Minute Book of the Hamilton Curling Club begins with this manifesto:- "We, Subscribers-curlers in Hamilton, considering that the lovers of the sport of curling have never yet incorporated themselves into a society, and are still labouring under the want of many valuable advantages which might be attained thereby."
From the present Minute Book, which dates back to the Annual General Meeting on 25th October, 1872, an easier pace of life a century ago is apparent from the fact that, not only the Club's Annual General Meetings are faithfully recorded, but also every committee meeting. During the period from 1872 to 1977, the Club has been fortunate in that it has only had three Presidents. Samuel Ford Simpson, President at the Annual General Meeting in 1872, died in the course of the year 1883-84, then at its Annual General Meeting in 1884, the Club elected as its President Mr T. S. G. H. Robertson Aikman, The Ross, Hamilton, the father of the present President. Colonel Aikman (below left), as he later became, was continuously President of the Club until his death in April 1948. He was, therefore, President of the Club continuously for 64 years, and his son, Mr William H. Robertson Aikman (below right) was elected President in his place, and has remained so ever since. The Club is truly proud of the fact that such a father and son have both, in their time, been Presidents of the Royal Club and that each of them, in their season, has represented their country in this their favourite sport. The history of the Hamilton Club is very much linked to the development of the town itself, and it is interesting to note that we have almost gone full circle, since the first pond mentioned in the records was situated near the Roman Catholic church between Cadzow Street and Muir Street, only a few yards from the present Lanarkshire Ice Rink.
As the town expanded, the centre for curling activity moved to the Bent area, where a site was rented for the annual sum of £9, and a large pond was formed there by the Club at a cost of £140. In 1845, this site reverted to the Duke of Hamilton who, himself being an ardent curler granted a lease to the Club without any payment of rent whatsoever. During the late 1870's, the condition of this pond was giving cause for concern, and strenuous but leisurely attempts were made to find ground suitable for new Ponds. In March 1882, a suitable site was found at the Back Moor Plantation (off Bothwell Road) and His Grace, the Duke of Hamilton, was again prevailed upon to help the Club out of its difficulties, which he did by leasing them the ground at Backmuir for the nominal rent of one shilling per annum. Two Ponds were constructed there at a total cost to the Club of £273:2:3 1/2d and on Friday, 8th December, 1882, the President threw the first stones on the new Ponds and declared them open. The construction of the new Ponds put the Club into debt and the records show that they continued to be in debt for many years thereafter. Troubles never come singly, for on 11th December, 1882, only three days after the new curling Ponds had been declared open, the Club met to compete for the President's Prize at points where, according to the Minutes, " . . . the rather twisted ice rendered good scoring difficult."
COL. T. S. G. H. ROBERTSON AIKMAN, C.B
An ardent and keen curler of the old school, he played most of his life on natural outdoor ice. He never really thought that the indoor game could be as much fun as the outdoor one; and always continued to play indoors with silver grey stones to the end, as he considered Ailsa Craigs as cheap, bulky trash. He won sundry competitions at Crossmyloof, but was always willing to give his time to the administrative side as well. He captained the Scots teams to Canada and America in 1912-1913 and again in 1922-23; was Captain of the Scots team at the Olympics played at Chamonix in 1924, the only occasion curling was included in the Olympic programme. He was Vice-President of R.C.C.C. 1895-1896 and President in 1924-25; President of Lanarkshire Province for many years and President of the Hamilton Club from 1884-1948.
One Club from Two
By the end of the First World War, the Club was still in debt. The Duke of Hamilton had given the Backmuir Plantation to the Town Council, who were unaware of the Curling Ponds' history and who were demanding that the Club give up the Ponds. The Club advised the Town Council that they had a lease of the ground on which the Curling Ponds and hanging rooms were built, and at their Annual General Meeting in 1919 it was proposed and agreed that the Provost, Magistrates and Town Council should be added to the list of the Club's Honorary Members. The Club was still in debt to the extent of £233:18:4d. The Town Council had offered £200 to the Club as a consideration for giving up their rights over the Backmuir Ponds, but were persuaded to increase this offer to £400. This offer the Club accepted and the Town Council became the owners of the Ponds, though the Club obtained a ten year lease at an annual rent of one shilling. Mr W. Arthur Anderson, a Baillie of the town, who had recently purchased Muirhouse, Cadzow Street, had offered the Club the use of the old artificial curling Pond there, at a nominal rent of ten shillings per annum. The Club carried out extensive repairs to the Pond at a cost of over £70 and the Minutes record that they even considered introducing floodlit curling. The curling Pond at Muirhouse never seems to have been a great success. There is little record of much play taking place there and up to the late 1920's the bulk of the Club's games were still being played at Backmuir. By 1927, the Club was beginning to run into expense in connection with the Pond at Backmuir, and the surface of the rink was coated with a layer of Pitch and Bitumen. By 1928 the facilities at Backmuir had become a liability and the site was cleared by the Town Council. The Club now had a vested interest in the Scottish Ice Rink Company to the extent of £50 and they even agreed to sell unclaimed pairs of stones to the Company - fifty-two pairs and some old stones were delivered to Crossmyloof, and the Club funds benefited by £34. By 1929, the Club Championship Competitions were being played at Crossmyloof and by the end of the following year the Club Curling Ponds had fallen into a state of disrepair, and though by now financially sound, the Club had no outdoor ice.
On the other hand, Thornyhill Curling Club had ice, but was not financially sound, and after much debate and wrangling, the two clubs amalgamated on 7th October, 1931. Thereafter, the Club curled at Crossmyloof, but the important curling always took place out of doors on the old Thornyhill Pond at Limekilnburn. Before 1931 drew to a close, a enerator was installed in the Clubhouse, poles were erected alongside the Pond to carry electric lamps, and on 31st December, 1931, they played their first games under floodlights until 10 o'clock at night-" . . . under the most satisfactory conditions." The curling Pond at Limekilnburn survived until August, 1951, when the Club Committee decided to relinquish the tenancy of the ground and dispose of the Clubhouse. Thereafter, all their curling was done at Crossmyloof until the Lanarkshire Ice Rink opened at Hamilton in 1967.
1784: Tam Pate, playing in the match between the Duke of Hamilton and McDowall of Castlesemple, proved that a stone could be curled round a guard. Tam had a three neuket stone like a cockit hat. When it struck any stone it did not stot or fly off like common stones, but it ran round about and lay still. This seems to have initiated a quarrel between the rinks and for a while the Lochwinnoch men would not take up a stone against the Hamilton men because of this. In later years this delivery became known as the "Fenwick Twist" and a poem was written of the famous match, which contains a stanza as follows:-
Six Stones within the circle stand, And every port is blocked, But Tam Pate HE DID TURN THE HAND, And soon the port unlocked. An advanced type of stone seems to have been first used at Hamilton, for it was here in the Hamilton v Garthland Bonspiel that the hollow bottomed stone was first used.
1792: The first Inter-Club Match, of which there is record, was played against the Cambusnethan Club. Hamilton won by 24 shots.
1796: The Hamilton Club was evidently more cosmopolitan than its neighbours for on 27th December the following were admitted to the Club:- John Robison of London; William Rowe of London; John Torrance of Hampstead; Robert Walkenshaw of Glasgow.
1822: A Challenge went the round of the newspapers whereby the Hamilton players were offering to play all, or any part of Scotland for love, or from one to a thousand guineas. Lochwinnoch Curlers accepted the challenge for love and offered to meet them halfway. The Hamilton Curlers, it would appear, declined to do so as they never returned any answer to the Lochwinnoch Curlers' acceptance of their boastful challenge.
1830: Archibald the Handsome, 9th Duke of Hamilton, was a great patroniser of the game of Curling and occasionally headed the parties from Hamilton to compete with the adjoining parishes. Upon one occasion, when the fate of the game was very doubtful, and depended upon a critical shot being played, his Grace called out to the person who had to take it- "Now, John, this is a shot requiring all the dexterity and art you are master of, as being one of extreme nicety;-an ye break through this narrow port, and carry out the winner upon this half-inch-your mither shanna want meal a' the winter, I'll send her a boll." Thus encouraged, we need not add that John, like a dutiful son and good Curler, exerted all his skill and might, and won the boll for his old mother, which was faithfully paid by his Grace.
1836: The curlers of Hamilton had long been accustomed to play seven, sometimes eight men a side, and up to 1836, two years before the founding of the Royal Club, one stone per man was the rule; and in delivering the stone they never used the hack, but each player braced himself by a "crisp" or "sticker" which gripped the ice.
1875: On New Year's Day a bonspiel was held, the proceeds of which went to the benefit of the poor. A total of £11.8.6 was collected and this was distributed to 38 people each receiving 6s. each, one receiving an extra 6d.
1877: A Dinner was held in the Black Bull Hotel to celebrate the Centenary of the Club. A large number attended and it would seem that a most enjoyable evening was had by all.
1884: A letter was received from the Eaglesham Club -"It is only a few years since the Eaglesham Club had the satisfaction of winning a Medal from the Hamilton Club at your own place. The memory of the miserable ice we had on that occasion has led our Club to decide not to meet you at Hamilton at this time. Could the prospects of acres of the finest ice not induce a few of the keen curlers of your club to come to Eaglesham?" Thereafter representatives of the Hamilton Club met with representatives of the Eaglesham Club in "His Lordship's Larder", Glasgow, and, on the toss of a coin, it was decided to play the match at Hamilton. The Eaglesham Club failed to put in an appearance and the Medal was awarded to Hamilton.
1905: The Annual General Meeting -"The proceedings were very much hampered owing to the persistent interruptions of Mr R. Bell, so much so that several of the members left the meeting in consequence." The minutes continue -"In the intervals between Mr Bell's interruptions, the following business was transacted . .
1920: A member of the Club, William Meek, who died earlier in the year, directed his Trustees to pay "To the Hamilton Curling Club a legacy of £200 "- a very substantial sum of money at that time.
1931: At separate meetings of the Hamilton Curling Club and the Thornyhill Curling Club on 7th October, the two Clubs agreed to amalgamate. The meetings were held in adjoining rooms in the Commercial Hotel, Hamilton, and after the appropriate resolutions had been passed by the two Clubs, the Hamilton Club invited those attending the Thornyhill Meeting to join them.
1946: On 18th January, a rink game was arranged, the proceeds to be donated to the local W.V.S. Fund. Entry money was fixed "at not less than 2/6d." and the prize was 4 dozen eggs, donated by Club members. The sum of £7.0.6 was raised.
1951: At the Annual General Meeting in June, "reference was made to the recent marriage of our President, and as the Members could not let the occasion pass without recognition, a sum of £22.5.0 had been collected. A heater is in order for The Ross, and we hope it will arrive in good time, and add greatly to their comfort during the cold nights."
1963: A Club badge was designed by John Brown and the first badges were purchased towards the end of the year.
1967: The Scottish Farmers' Curling Championship was won by the Rink of Torrance, Torrance, Torrance and Torrance, better known to all as Abe, John, Big Alex and Wee Alex.
1969: The first Club Dinner Dance was held in April and this has proved to be a popular annual event since.
1971: The final of the Bob Mcintosh Trophy, an Open Competition at Hamilton, saw eight Club members taking part. The eventual winners were Isobel Waddell, Isobel Torrance, Alex Torrance and Jim Waddell. The runners-up were Torn Penrice, Robert Dalglish, Bobby Kirkland and George Raeburn.
1977: Looking to the future, Vice President Alex F. Torrance donated a Trophy to the Club, for competition amongst the Club's young curlers.