Friday, December 20, 2013

The History of Curling in London, Part 2 - the Nomadic Years


In the first part of this history I looked at the development of curling in London from 1951 to 1980, the “Richmond” Years, a period when I was not involved and which was based on the minute book of the London clubs and the Province of London. What follows is what happened since then until the opening of Fenton’s in 2004 – it all started on a May Bank holiday weekend in 1982. My apologies if this history is interspersed with personal stories and recollections but hopefully they will not detract from the story.

Streatham 1982-1983

A short article in the Scottish Curler notified readers that curling in London would begin again at Streatham Ice Rink on the Sunday of the May Bank Holiday. This would be for a trial period of 6 weeks and, if successful, might be carried on into the new season. So it began – my involvement with English curling - and it was a shock to find that not only were the stones not on the ice when we all arrived but there were people down on the ice scribing circles on the ice with a nail-studded piece of wood!!

This was the way life would be at Streatham and it is not surprising that curling did not last there beyond the one season – games were on a Sunday evening after the ice hockey finished – which could mean starting at 1030 or 1100 on pretty heavy ice with warm stones and scribed circles. Amazingly there were ice dancers going on after us and we also held an England v Scotland International there.

One of the games in that International ended as 3-2 – must have been a high quality game you might think, but no that was all the stones that got into the house in the entire game – an end sheet with a vicious swing caused by years of skating made it very difficult to reach the house. One unfortunate incident that day led to the death of Othma Brunner, then President of the POL who fell on the icy car park after the games and later succumbed to the effects.

Peterborough 1983 – 1987

As curling petered out at Streatham, Sandy Blair, President of the ECA picked me up from my home in Bedford and we travelled to Peterborough with two outdoor curling stones and demonstrated curling to Paul French the manager there. From that initial visit ice time was allocated on a Saturday evening at 6 pm to curling and a new club was formed under the presidency of Donald Barclay, formerly of Paisley.

In addition to the Province of London stones which were transferred there, 4 sets of brand new stones were purchased from the Billingham Ice Rink in Sunderland. These had been bought when that ice rink was first built but had never been used seriously and were in “as-new” condition. In addition two further sets of reconditioned stones were purchased from Kays.

The venture was supported by London curlers and lasted for 4 years until the ice rink decided that it wanted the time for more profitable activities and at the end of the 1986-87 season Paul French suggested that the curling should transfer to Chelmsford – this was managed by the same company and Paul was going as interim manager. There were a couple of final sessions in 1987-88 at Peterborough.

It should be noted that two Internationals between England and Scotland were held at Peterborough in 1985 and 1987 with sponsorship from Avon Insurance who did a lot of work with farmers and who were introduced to the club by George Gilmour, formerly of Hamilton and who had been involved at the very beginning of the Lanarkshire Ice Rink.

As an interesting sideline there were three trophies which were played for at Crossmyloof Ice Rink in Glasgow when it was operating – the Sandy Miller, the Alexander Blair and the Arthur Gilmour – all named after relatives of people who became very much involved in English curling – Connie Miller, Sandy Blair and George Gilmour.

Another notable feature of Peterborough was the enormous wooden cupboard complete with shelves and doors which was built by George’s son, Arthur to store the 96 stones – I wonder what happened to it.

Chelmsford 1987 - 1993

One morning in September 1987 I was interviewed for a job at Essex County Council, based in Chelmsford, and then met with Robin Gemmell, the POL President and Paul French and discussed curling beginning at the Riverside Ice Rink there. Both interviews were successful and I was now living within 5 minutes drive of my curling rink!!

Curling at Chelmsford followed the same pattern as at Peterborough with one session per week at 6 pm on a Saturday evening. Being closer to London it attracted a lot of the London curlers and a local club was formed, chaired by yet another Scot, Ronnie Scott. There were now sufficient stones to supply two ice rinks with 10 sets at Chelmsford and 8 sets at Peterborough.

For two seasons a healthy programme of events was held with very often 4 full sheets and a fifth sheet being used for coaching. A new manager, Martyn Girvan, a former British international hammer thrower and still the holder of the British record, took over and was enthusiastic about the sport, but even he was powerless when the management decided that ice hockey was going to bring in more people and for 1989-90 ice time was transferred to a Sunday evening, when it was available, and the numbers travelling out from London dropped off immediately, especially as the time was also moved to 10 pm. In the end only 7 sessions were held that season.

It got worse the next season and no sessions were held until January and even then it was now a Monday evening at 10 pm and it was a loyal band of local curlers who kept the game going. And in fact it survived another two seasons but by the end of 1992/93 it was obvious that it was not worthwhile carrying on – the numbers had dropped to 5 to 8 per night and 5 sessions were lost because there were not enough players or the ice was too bad to play.

Alexandra Palace 1990 to 1997

One of the factors which helped to bring about the demise of Chelmsford was the opening up of curling at Alexandra Palace in 1990. Martyn Girvan and Dave Loudfoot (the ice man at Chelmsford) transferred to AP and encouraged the curlers to go with them. Curling began there in June 1990 after the stones had been brought down from Peterborough by Gerald Biggs, one of the stalwarts of the Peterborough club, in a trailer behind his Land Rover!

Curling was played at AP for seven seasons but eventually the ice was so bad that the Province decided that it would not continue beyond the end of season 1996-97 as it was losing money paying for ice which was not being used. By this time Martyn Girvan had moved on and taken his enthusiasm for the sport with him.

However, there were many good times at AP and the club prospered with a variety of ventures being launched. The London Double Decker tournament was played for two seasons, attracting teams from across the World – the USA, Russia, Swizerland etc and the final was actually shown live on Sky TV – I have a copy if anyone wants to see it!! The 3 Nations (Scotland, England and Wales) International Weekend was held there in 1992 and a Corporate Cup was launched whereby members were able to introduce their work colleagues to the sport with the hope of winning a trophy.

While the origins of the name of the London Double Decker bonspiel might seem obvious, it did in fact derive from the content of a letter written to the Scottish Curler by Mike Hay, famous Scottish curler and later head coach of the British Olympic team in 2002. He had complained in the letter about the standard of play in the smaller countries in Europe who only had enough curlers to fill a double decker bus and yet who got the same voting rights at the Federation meetings as Scotland!

Aldershot 1990 to 1992

At the same time that curling began at AP, the ice rink at Aldershot also decided that it would experiment with curling and once again stones were moved around the country. In the winter of 1990 I had travelled up to Glenrothes in Fife to collect 96 assorted curling stones which had been used at the ice rink there for curling for a short time.

They were stored in a barn at Great Dunmow belonging to Chelmsford members Chris and Dawn Trembath and when I collected them they had to be cleaned to remove the evidence of animal occupation! 64 of these were transferred to Aldershot and a good club set up got underway. Many of those who played at AP also played at Aldershot but there were two distinct groups also. Of course in 1990-91 Chelmsford was also still operating and I did manage to play at all three rinks that season, at one time in one mad week!

Peter Welsh who later became the secretary of the Province and a great enthusiast for taking people abroad to bonspiels was the hero of the hour the next year when he had to rescue the curling stones from under the hands of the receivers who had moved in when the Aldershot rink went bust!

And there the story of curling in London and the South rested until Ernest Fenton opened up his rink in Kent in 2004. And that is surely a third part of this story which is yet to be written.

It is a tribute to the members of the Province of London that they managed to keep the spirit of curling alive through the barren years between the closure of AP and the opening of Fenton’s. The one trophy which links all the history of the Province of London is the Fleming Trophy which has been played almost every season since 1958, and this was played at various venues in Scotland through the turbulent years – the search for good ice on which to play in the South of England ended in 2004 and there have been many changes to the set up of club curling. There is still, however, a London club with a history back to 1951 and hopefully it will continue to flourish.


And, before anybody points out my omission, there is one other ice rink in London where curling has been played in the last 27 years – in October 1984, Coutts Bank held a curling day for its staff and customers at Queens Ice Rink in Bayswater in London. The curling stones were transferred from Peterborough to London and two or three sheets were scribed out on the rink which had not been melted for a very long time – the story was that if they melted the ice the barriers around the rink would collapse as they were only being supported by it. The ice was diabolical as it was not flat at all and the stones went everywhere.

And there’s more – in 2001 or 2002 a small temporary ice rink was set up in Covent Garden for winter skating and we were invited to demonstrate curling – as the rink was about 15m from corner to corner you can imagine that we were pretty restricted in what we could do. We were sharing the ice with figure skaters who did the most amazing jumps in such a confined space.

And how about curling at Center Parcs – in 1998 we were asked to provide curling equipment to the Center Parcs complex at Elvedon in Norfolk for the summer!! They had erected a temporary ice rink (under a tent) and wanted to offer curling to their clients – again it was shared with skating and I am not sure how many people ever played it – the rink was again not long enough and because they had erected a half size ice rink, they drew the circles at half size as well!! Unfortunately we only had full size stones – I think they played target curling – throwing from one end only.

The History of Curling in London, Part 1 - the Richmond Years

It is now 9 years since Ernest Fenton opened Fenton's Rink on his farm near Tunbridge Wells and many people probably think that the history of curling in the South of England began in 2004, but there has been indoor curling in the area since 1951 and the following blog tells its story, based upon work originally written by Bob Glasgow, the late secretary of the Province of London and then drawing on my personal participation. Part 1 is about curling at Richmond and Part which follows is about the years between 1980 and 2004 when curling took place at a number of ice rinks.

I would be grateful for any extra information that anyone can provide. I have all the Minute Books for the Province of London and London CC and in future blogs will attempt to flesh out some of the references made here.

Further history of curling in London can be found by clicking on locations identified in the Historical Curling Places website here .

The following is the first part of a potted history of the London Curling Club in all its manifestations since its formation in 1951. It draws upon a history written by Bob Glasgow and based on the old minute books. This part takes the story up to 1980 and the closure of curling at Richmond after 30 years. Part 2 will look at the much more unsettled history since that time which has seen the club play at 6 different ice rinks in 27 years and which is the period when I have been involved in curling in London.

Obviously this is a very short version of the history. I have grand plans to expand on Bob Glasgow’s work and perhaps even publish it at some time. There is so much more in the minute books which could be of interest, including the design of the London Curling Club badge which had a depiction of Richmond Bridge above a Scottish saltire with a rose in the middle of it. I have never seen a pin badge of this and maybe none were produced, but if anybody has one then we would be glad to hear from you. I would also like to transpose the minutes to electronic format and this may yet be done.


In 1951 a group of Anglo-Scots decided to form a club for the people who played curling at the Richmond Ice Rink in London. A preliminary meeting took place after play on the 21st May 1951. Following an experiment with curling the management of the rink had decided that future curling would be on Tuesday evenings in the winter between 6.00pm & 8.30pm. Five rinks were to be available to 40 curlers for 33 weeks.

An inaugural meeting of the club took place on the 10th July 1951 with Mr A.V.Hopkins General Manager & Director of Sports Drome Ltd. in the chair. It was decided that the subscription per season should be £2.2s0d (£2.10) with an ice charge of 7s.6d (37.5p). for each player and 10s.0d (50p). for each visitor. The opening date for the season would be Tuesday 18th September and the Royal Caledonian Curling Club was informed of the formation of the Club. The first Committee meeting on 31st August 1951 reported that there were 36 paid up members.

At the first AGM on the 22nd April 1952, it was decided that stones, originally borrowed from Crossmyloof Ice Rink in Glasgow, were to be returned and that more stones were to be purchased. However at a Committee Meeting on the 30th July 1954 it was reported that Crossmyloof had agreed to the sale of their stones which were at Richmond. The sale raised the sum of £26.00!

In 1956, the President (Mr Fleming) revealed details of the Sir Alexander Fleming Memorial Trophy on which would be depicted the hill on which his famous cousin was born. This Trophy is still the premium Trophy awarded by the London Club.

In January 1957 the first overseas curlers, from Prince Edward Island in Canada were entertained at Richmond. An official programme was produced and the home team won by 67 shots to 50 over 5 games of 13 ends!!

During 1959, it was agreed that the Membership limit should be increased to 80. Attendances had suffered during 1959 owing to fog!! At an Extraordinary general Meeting on the 20th October 1959, the decision was made to disband The London Curling Club and form the Province of London. This would consist of 6 different clubs – called City of London, London Northerners, Surrey and Sussex, Thames, Mogador and Hampstead.

1962 saw a tour of Scotland by two rinks, 1963 saw the addition of London Watsonians as a 7th club and for the first time, the England v Scotland International was held at Richmond while 1964 saw the Constitution of The Province adopted (5 years after formation!!). It was decided to purchase six sets of matched stones at £23.00 per stone.

The most important development during 1968 was the suggestion by Connie Miller that a Ladies Club should be formed. The matter was referred to The Committee. But Richmond Ladies was not formed as the eighth club in the Province until 1973!!

And then came the announcement on the 11th December 1979 that curling facilities would no longer be available after the current season. The reasons were purely financial – more money could be made out of skating than curling. So after 30 years it was necessary for the Province to find a new home.


Reading through the minutes it is fascinating to see that the problems which the committee had to contend with in those days were similar to those that still exercise our minds these days – attracting new members, the need to raise subscriptions, coaching new and junior members.

What is fascinating is that a cap was placed on the membership numbers at various times throughout that period. These days we try and get as many members as possible. It is also noticeable that throughout the 1950s and early 1960s the bad weather (principally fog / smog) affected attendances.

Monday, November 25, 2013

From the Coaches' Bench

I have now been to 19 European Championships as competitor, coach, representative and spectator in places as far and near as Ornskoldsvijk and Sofia, Kirkcaldy and Copenhagen and each has had its good and bad points and many have had their problems. I've been to some places I will probably never visit again (the aforementioned 'Ovik') and to others where I have later returned to enjoy a holiday (Grindelwald).

I have stayed in some grand hotels and in some very basic ones, eaten expensive meals and some ropey hot dogs and burgers, spent up to 4 hours in a bus to get from various airports and sat on a variety of coaches' benches either freezing to death (Sofia) or watching in luxury from behind the glass (Karlstad).

But I have never been anywhere that could only offer me black coffee before (there was no milk available - not just once but the next day as well)!!!! Or where a plate of pasta cost over £30. But here we are in Stavanger, oil capital of Norway, and I suppose those who remember the days when Aberdeen was the most expensive place to live in Britain will know what I am talking about.

The stadium here is vast - an indoor speed skating venue so that there is room to have the two ice pads for the A and B Groups in one place, separated just by the scaffolding supporting the A Group coaching, media and TV scaffolding - nicely draped for the A side but exposing the bare scaffolding poles to us here on the B side (see picture below). The curling sheet in the foreground is for the public to have a go.

As usual it is a full programme of games here with 28 nations represented, 26 in the men's competition and 20 in the women's. It is a first appearance in the main Championships by the Romanian men and the Slovenian women who came up through the C Group Championships played recently in Copenhagen.The other quailifiers from that competition were the Welsh men and the Belarusian women who had both been relegated last year.

Although the two ice pads are back to back there is not a great deal of noise filtering through from one to the other unless Andrea Schopp or Thomas Ulsrud is in full bellow setting.

However the standard of the catering in the stadium leaves much to be desired, especially considering it is a purpose built sports venue. There is a small cafe which was the venue of my milk shortage episode mentioned earlier and currently they are unable to produce any hot water for a cup of tea owing to an inoperative water boiler - the idea of boiling a kettle seems alien to them!! (problem has been resolved as just been and got a cuppa).

There is a standard menu of sandwiches, lasagne or chicken kebabs and one dish of the day which has apparently been variable in quality. The lasagne I had was tepid although full of meat. I presume it is getting better as some are still eating there but then people eat in Motorway service area cafes also because they have no choice!

It is funny however, that such a pattern has been repeated many times over the years- it is almost as if the venues have been unprepared for the demand and it is not until halfway through the week that the situation is resolved. The life saver here has been the hot dog caravan which sits next to the Group B ice pad and did a roaring trade in hot dogs last night.

Finally for this short introduction to Stavanger a couple of pictures of the equipment the Norwegian edition of Top Gear is developing for their Christmas special.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Greenacres International Bonspiel

Greenacres has been a very "International" place these last few weeks - they had the Welsh International Bonspiel followed by the European Senior Invitation Curling Championships (or ESICC to its close friends) and then last weekend it was the Greenacres International Bonspiel.

When many of the teams entered for the weekend it was going to be the Gormac as it has been for a number of years, but by the time we got to the rink on Friday the Gormac tag had been dropped (for reasons I am not necessarily able to talk about) and it was the G.I.B..

The International moniker was still relevant as there were 3 teams from England entered, plus the Irish team fresh back from the European C Division at Taarnby in Denmark.

With just 10 teams in total a straight 4-game Schenkel was played and then the top 2 teams played off for first prize and the next two for 3rd prize.

(I was going to blog a detailed account of the games but I cannot find my results sheet just at the moment - first rule of blogging - don't begin to write until you are sure you have all the necessary information ready!!!)

Going into the 4th session Alan MacDougall's England Champions were undefeated and would play Graeme Adam who was on 4 points and 14 ends. Graham Shedden (4 and 13) played James Dixon (4 and 12) and Tony Tierney (4 and 12) played Drew Gemmell (4 and 10) and the top 4 teams would come out of those 3 games. Other contestants were Alan Mitchell and Matthew McConnell (2 points) and Fergus Corbett and  Anna Fowler (0 points).

The first game to finish was the MacDougall - Adam game which Graeme won so that both teams ended with 6 points and 18 ends. By this time none of the other teams were going to be able to match that number of ends and so they would meet again in the final an hour later. The decision on who would play the 3/4 final then  came down to who would win the other games between the teams with 4 points. In the Dixon - Sheddon game the former had opened out a 6-2 lead to be pegged back at the 7th when Shedden took a two. The Dixon team then contrived to play the 8th end so badly that Shedden was lying 5 when James came to play his last stone - but a straightforward nose hit reduced that to 2 and the win went to Dixon by 6-5. The Tierney - Gemmell also went to the last stone before Gemmell squeezed through by 7-5.

And so to the finals - Alan MacDougall knew he would have to leave early to catch a plane back to London and he and Graeme romped through the first 5 ends before Alan left with his team losing. That situation did not change and so Graeme Adam, Drew Howie, Stuart Naismith and Jean Lesperance won the Greenaces International Bonspiel. Runners-up were Alan MacDougall, Andrew Reed, John Sharp and Tom Jaeggi, while Andrew Woolston also played in two of the games.

In the 3/4 final the James Dixon team never seemed to get into the game and Drew Gemmell's team, skipped in this game by Alec Wilson, won fairly easily by 11-5.

So a good weekend all round on the ice for those who participated - hopefully there will be more entries again next year and we can get back to the 24-team fields of the Gormac in the past.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

I'M BACK - I have been away for too long

Wow is all I can say - is it really January since I last posted on this blog - so much has happened since then - if you have found me again then please stick around as I hope to post more regularly again. And tell your friends as they may have forgotten all about me too.

Where to begin is the first question - well I should have more time as I gave up being ECA secretary back at the AGM in May - the new secretary is Nigel Patrick and we also have a new ECA President in Tommy Campbell - we wish them all the best. I am still treasurer of the ECA and also Competitions' Convenor and I have a new role in curling - I have been elected onto the WCF Commission on Competitions and Rules - having been proposed by the ECA, I was accepted and so, along with Hew Chalmers (SCO), Mark Swandby (USA), Danny Lamoureaux (CAN), Karel Kubeska (CZE) and Paul Ahlgren (SWE) under the chairmanship of WCF President, Kate Caithness and Competitions' Director, Keith Wendorf, we will be looking at the way forward for the sport after the Sochi Olympics - are there any rule changes that should be made or are there any competitions we should add or drop from our programme? Look out for more information coming through in the future.

We held our first meeting in Copenhagen in September at the WCF Congress and will be meeting again at the Women's Worlds in Canada in March.

The New Season

Closer to home the season has begun and for me there have already been 4 trips up to Scotland!! Firstly I drove up to support the English team in the European Mixed at Murrayfield where the team of John Sharp, Lorna Rettig, Nigel Patrick and Alison Hemmings won 3 and lost 4 games to finish midfield in their group. I was also supporting two of my team who play with me in the I'Anson Trophy at Stranraer - Dawn Watson who was playing for Wales and Louise Kerr who was in the Irish team. And also of course the Scottish team which included a regular at Fenton's, Karen Barthelemy.

Two weeks later I drove up with our Junior Women's team to the first Asham Under-21 Slam event at Kinross which was looking bright and sparkling after its takeover by the local curlers following a lot of hard work. The girls did very well to win 2 and peel one of their games and narrowly lost out on qualifying for the semi-final - that would have been good to see - an un-funded team from England doing better than some of the well-funded Scottish Academy teams. That might have been a difficult one for  Brad Askew, the Scottish Performance Coach to explain!!

Back home for just long enough to change my clothes and do a few hours work to help pay for the diesel, and it was back up to Murrayfield for the first ECA event of the season - the Duncan Stewart Trophy which is open to all ECA members and where teams are selected just before the first game. We had 4 teams this year and with some people playing just one of the days we had a total of 19 participants including a few playing in their first ECA event.

As can be seen in the photo on The View From the Hack blog, I was fortunate to win it helped by Alison Barr, Judith Dixon and Andrew Woolston (and Ian Paxton on the Saturday). It did not look like it at the start of the weekend - losing a 4 in the first end of the first game and then another single in the second end does not normally lead to a trophy, but we plugged away - came back to win the first game 7-6 and the second one by 7-4. With the top two teams qualifying for the final and those teams already identified after the first two games (two teams had 2 wins and two teams had 0), we then played new President Tommy Campbell twice on the Sunday - a friendly peel at 3-3 after 6 ends followed by a 7-4 victory in the Final.

A couple of weeks at home (including a win in a game at Fenton's in the league) before it was back up in atrocious weather for the Welsh International Bonspiel sponsored yet again by Glenfarclas. Things had gone badly even before I left when my lead player, Jean Robinson, contracted shingles and had to pull out - but my first message for help yielded a result and Alison Barr, who had played with me in Edinburgh, was available for all but one game.

I had a good feeling nevertheless about the weekend ahead in spite of also losing my regular third, Dawn Watson, who had defected to the Dark Side (well Wales). The last time my new third, Lana Watson (no relation), had played with me in the Welsh we had been undefeated, but only won the B Final, as a team we had peeled with qualified for the A Final, also undefeated, having won one more end than us over the 4 games. So there was unfinished business there. My regular second, Donald Forbes, played with me again for the 10th time in 11 years and the only time he had been unable to play, we had won the Bonspiel - yet more unfinished business. And having been undefeated in Edinburgh just two weeks previously with Alison in my team, the omens were good.

And then they began to look a little shaky as, without the hammer, we lost a 3 in the first end of the first game - but had not something similar happened in Edinburgh?? I am glad to say that we fought our way back into the game to be peels going into the last end where we were fortunate to steal a single to beat Margaret Meikle by 6-5. And it happened in the next game again - lose the toss and lose a 3 at the first end, and the next game - lose the toss and lose a 2 in the first end - but on both occasions we fought back to win, beating Laura Beever 11-6 and Gus Storrie 7-5.

So there we were sitting on top of the section with a nice rest before Sunday when we would surely be playing Graeme Adam who had come back from a first game loss to win the next two games, the second of those by 18-0 and winning all 8 ends - he was second in the table and we had not played him - but the Schenkel system is strange at times and it depends how the organisers use it to avoid duplicate games. This time if we played Graeme and the other games were played as the system required there would be a duplicate game being played and so we ended up playing Andrew Woolston, the holder, instead - not sure which was the worse option for us!!!

This was the game Alison could not play and we won the toss, won the first end and lost the game!!! And what a finish there was. I will try to explain as simply as possible - Graeme Adam was playing Gus Storrie and whoever won that game would qualify for a final on 6 points. As I was also on 6 points but losing to Andrew Woolston it would come down to ends - I had 15 before the start of the game, Graeme had 15 and Gus had 11. As the endgame played out with me losing it became apparent that if Graeme won then he would go to A, I would go to B, but if Gus won I would go to A and he would go to B with Graeme out. Going into the last end they were peeled. Hold it there.

Meanwhile, Andrew Woolston had peeled with Laura Beever the previous day and they were both on 3 points - if they both won then whichever had the more ends would go above whichever of Gus and Graeme lost and would qualify for the C Final. Laura finished her game first and Andrew then knew that he needed to win the last end against me to finish above her. He was leading me 6-2 - but I was lying (thus Laura would qualify) but I had a slim chance with my last stone to get the 4 to peel the game and guarantee myself a final even if Graeme beat Gus. As I began to consider my options for my last stone, Graeme threw his last stone on the other sheet and was a measure - so I still had to try for the 4 as I could not really hang around waiting for the measure - I had strung it out enough already!!

In the end my bid for the 4 and the peel failed to come off  but.........Gus won the measure and I was safely in the A Final and Gus was in the B while Graeme was out. Meanwhile in going for the 4 I had actually taken my own shot out giving Andrew the end and pushing him into the C Final above Laura - but only just - they had the same number of points, ends scored and shots scored and it went down to the shots up before Andrew broke the tie!

The other group was won by Ken Horton, who had a strong English contingent in his team. Hugh Stewart was second and Adrian Meikle was third.

In the idle moments before the Finals began it struck me that the Welsh International Bonspiel was really living up to its name this year - of the 24 players in the 3 finals, 17of them had at one time played for their country and all 4 Home Nations were represented. The full list:

John Brown (England Men and Senior Men)
Lana Watson (England Women and Mixed)
Alison Barr (England Senior Women)
Ken Horton (Scotland Junior Men, Men and Senior Men)
Lorna Rettig (England Women, Mixed and Mixed Doubles)
Ben Fowler (England Junior Men and Mixed Doubles)
Liz Horton (Scotland Senior Women)
Hugh Stewart (Scotland Senior Men)
Carolyn Hibberd (Ireland Women and Senior Women)
Jim Stirling (Scotland Senior Men)
Gus Storrie (Scotland Senior Men)
Adrian Meikle (Wales Men and Mixed)
Dawn Watson (Wales Mixed)
Andy Tanner (Wales Men and Mixed)
Andy Woolston (Wales Junior Men and England Men and Mixed)
Lesley Gregory (Wales Women and Mixed)
Martin Gregory (Wales Mixed)

Into the A Final then against my old team mate from 4x years ago, Ken Horton - usual scenario - lose the toss, lose the first end - but this time it was the third end as we blanked the first two - a situation repeated next door in the C Final between Adrian and Andrew. A quick reply with a 3 at the 4th end and then it was back to 4-4 after 6 - with last stone I was only able to take a 1 at the 7th and things looked to be against us but we were able to steal the 8th for a famous 6-4 victory.

Hugh Stewart won the B Final against Gus Storrie and Adrian Meikle beat Andrew Woolston in the C Final.

And then here we are  back home again - a weekend of family stuff and then back North for the next two weekends - to Greenacres for the tournament formerly known as the Gormac (where I am subbing for an injured player) and then to Stranraer for the I'Anson before 8 days in Stavanger at the Europeans. Two trophies in two weekends so far - can it continue - keep watching for further updates!!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Wales' Grand Slam at 4 Nations

In the early years of the 4 Nations Wales always struggled to win trophies, as a grand tally of just 3 out of 24  in 8 years demonstrates. Things turned around in 2008 when they won their first grand slam of all three  for which they compete - the Kay Trophy v England, the Welsh Stone v Scotland and the Meikle Trophy v Ireland.Since then they have always collected at least one every year until this year they got their second grand slam with two substantial victories over Scotland (46-18) and England (33-19) and a closer one over Ireland (27-24).

England won twice - beating Ireland 25-24 and their men defeating Scotland 58-45 while Ireland beat Scotland 24-22 and the Scottish women won their country's only trophy by defeating the English women in the Connie Miller by 25-8.

Snowfall in the South meant that some of the English team were unable to travel and this affected their women's teams in particular. In addition the Welsh were also short and both teams were helped out by local curlers, reflecting the spirit in which these games are played.


Connie Miller Trophy (England v Scotland women)

Debbie Hutcheon 4 Gail Munro 8
Debbie Hutcheon 4 Gail Munro 17

Tom Ballantyne Trophy (England v Scotland men)

John Brown 10 Alan Russell 8
John Sharp 4 John Paul 7
Kerr Alexander 5 Alan Durno 7
Tommy Campbell 8 David Jones 3
Alastair Fyfe 7 Alan Durno 8
John Brown 9 James Carswell 4
John Sharp 9 David Jones 4
Michael Sutherland 6 Alan Russell 4

Kay Trophy (England v Wales)

Doug Andrews 7 Andy Tanner 12
Alastair Fyfe 6 Hugh Meikle 6
Michael Sutherland 3 Andy Tanner 8
Debbie Hutcheon 3 Lesley Gregory 7

Turnbull Trophy (England v Ireland)

John Sharp 7 Bill Gray 5
John Brown 7 David Whyte 7
John Brown 3 Peter Wilson 10
Alison Barr 8 Marie O'Kane 2

Welsh Stone (Scotland v Wales)

Euan Lawrence 1 Andy Tanner 12
Robin Aitken 7 Adrian Meikle 9
Hazel Swankie 7 Laura Beever 7
Alan Durno 3 James Pougher 18

Marshall Millennium Trophy (Scotland v Ireland)

Kate Adams 7 Fiona Turnbull 6
Euan Lawrence 5 Bill Gray 8
Euan Lawrence 8 Bill Gray 5
Robin Aitken 2 Neil Fyfe 5

Meikle Trophy (Wales v Ireland)

Lesley Gregory 6 Neil Fyfe 8
Adrian Meikle 7 Peter Wilson 6
Lesley Gregory 7 Fiona Turnbull 4
Adrian Meikle 7 Jim Winning 6

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Will they ever win one??

A perplexing title perhaps but see if you can guess who we are talking about here.

They entered this competition in 2003 and have played 52 games since then without winning one. They have lost 13 of those games without scoring a shot and have a total shots aggregate of 83 for and 734 against. This year for the first time they scored more than 4 shots in a game in what was probably their best year to date as they scored 19 shots over 8 games and scored in every one of them. There is a job out there for somebody to go and coach this team because they keep coming back for more and if they are that keen we need to help them improve.

Their male equivalent entered the competition in 2003 and won their first game - but have not won any since - that is 58 successive losses but they have come much closer to that elusive win having lost one of those games at an extra end and a few others by just one shot.

You have to admire the way in which these teams keep returning to participate in the World B (2002-2004) / Pacific Asia Junior Championships (2005 onwards) - we are of course talking about Team Australia - we salute you for your perseverance and just wish we could get down under to help you out and find you decent curling ice to play on.

Is there a volunteer out there who fancies a winter in Australia? I am sure the Australian Curling Association would love to hear from you.

Oh and the identity of the team which the Australian boys beat in that first game - that would be Team Wales!!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Tidying up the loose ends in Prague

So here we are at the last day of the EJCC and after yesterday's confusing and exciting day what did we end up with??

GIRLS - Fairly straightforward here eventually: Germany beat Estonia, Hungary beat Latvia and Denmark beat Poland in the last round robin games which means that the semi-finals will be Germany v Hungary and Italy v Denmark.

BOYS - Estonia beat Austria 5-4 in the last round robin game which meant that they finiahed tied on 4-1 with each other and with Netherlands - Netherlands finished top with the best DSC and Estonia and Austria had to meet again in a tie breaker which went to an extra end before Estonia repeated their victory, this time by 6-5.

In the other section Italy beat Turkey 5-3 which meant they tied for second behind unbeaten Denmark and meant that they also had to replay their game this morning to decide who was second - Italy had beaten Turkey and had the better DSC but had to do it all again and this they did by 7-2 in just 6 ends.

So the semi-finals will be Netherlands v Italy and Denmark v Estonia.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Happy New Year from Prague (continued)

In the last blog I began talking about the girls competition - and just to remind you and to continue the story - here is what I said before:

GIRLS - There are 12 teams entered in the EJCC, a rise of 3 since last year and only the second time that the numbers have been above 10 since 2005 and 2 sections have been required. The teams playing are from Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Turkey. Italy won last year with an undefeated 9-0 record but came straight back down in Ostersund last year. Only one team was relegated as Russia, as hosts, are already in the WJCC, having finished 3rd last year.

Germany and Poland have been ever present in the EJCC since 2005 although Germany has qualified twice from it but been relegated straight back down again. Of the teams that have previously qualified from the EJCC only Italy and Germany are here this week and, as with the boys, they are both in the same section.

There is one game left in the girls draw - at 1830 UK time tonight. In Section WA Italy suffered their first defeat at the hands of unbeaten Germany and are finished their round robin games on a 4-1 record. Germany are undefeated on 4-0 and tonight face Estonia who are on 3-1 and so must win to stay in the competition. It would appear to be a Germany, Italy one-two in this section but should Estonia pull off the shock win then it would go down to the DSC results to decide ranking.

Italy have finished with a DSC of 39.5 which is currently better than either Germany (83.1)or Estonia (50.1), though both could still improve. The Germans will not be able to better either of the other 2 even if they draw the button and so would inevitably be in the tie break for second position if they lose - so it looks like a must win for Germany to save themselves the worry of a tie-breaker.

In Section WB, England had a great chance to seal top slot this morning when skip, Hetty Garnier played another superb draw to the edge of the button which gave her an average that neither Denmark or Hungary, who were tied with England could beat. However a poor performance by the English girls saw them lose to Turkey who joined them on 3-2.

Tonight Denmark and Hungary who are both on 3-1 play Poland and Latvia respectively and if they both win then they will be 1st and 2nd respectively. Even if Hungary lose they will be ranked second because they beat both Turkey and England, and so a defeat for Denmark is what England and Turkey must hope for. And having written that I am now not sure if that would be the case or would Hungary have to play whichever of the other two has the better DSC (and that would be England). We shall know at 9.30 tonight when all the games are finished.

My predictions are for Denmark and Hungary to both win and finish 1st and 2nd,  and the semi-finals to be Germany v Hungary and Italy v Denmark.


Meanwhile back with the boys and the games that are ongoing at the moment - the Austria-Estonia game on which much depends - see last post -  is finely balanced at 3-2 to Austria after 5 ends while in the other crucial game in the other section Italy lead Turkey 4-3 after 6 ends. If Italy win they would be tied for second place with Turkey after the round robin but would be ranked second as they will have won their round-robin game. I am unclear however if this means that there will be a tie-breaker or not.

More later.

Happy New Year from Prague

All the very best to all my readers for 2013 - having finished 2012 in Sweden I am now in Prague for the European Junior Challenge (EJCC), the top nation from which will join the rest of the World in Sochi in March for the World Juniors.Those who are interested in the detailed fortunes of the England teams can check that on my English Curling blog here, but I will try to be less parochial on this blog.

BOYS - There are 13 boys teams entered this year from Austria, Denmark, England, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia and Turkey and they are divided into 2 groups - 1 of 6 and 1 of 7. After a round robin, there will be semi finals and a final with only the winners qualifying for the World Juniors. Italy won this challenge last year and are here again having come straight back down after finishing 9th with one win in the Worlds at Ostersund last year. Finland who finished 10th in the Worlds have not entered the EJCC this year. Although 2 teams were relegated only one will get promoted as Russia, as the host nation, have a guaranteed entry in Sochi and so are automatically 'promoted' from the EJCC level where they played last year.

Turkey are the newcomers this year, while Slovenia return for a second time and England for a third time. The EJCC has been a home from home for France and Poland since it started in 2005 with neither country having made it to the Worlds. One of the most consistent performers since 2006 has been Estonia who have on at least two occasions been just one win away from getting to the Worlds and their skip Harri Lill returns for his 7th (and last) appearance. In contrast the lead in his team has been playing for just 2 months!!

Of the teams that are here, Denmark (1), Germany (1) and Italy (2) are those who have qualified previously from the EJCC (which replaced the World Junior B Championship in 2005) and intriguingly all are in the same section and all are in contention as the round robin draws to a close. Denmark are undefeated and will qualify at the top and as I write this they have just beaten Germany leaving the Germans on 3 wins and 3 losses and out of the competition as Turkey and Italy, who are both on 3 wins have to play each other later today.

In the other section it is Austria who are leading the way, undefeated after 4 games and sure of at least a tie breaker. Estonia and the Netherlands are the other two teams in contention. Things may change before this paragraph is finished however as the Dutch are currently peels with England and if they lose that game Austria will be guaranteed a semi-final place and the Dutch will have to depend on Austria beating Estonia to get into a tie breaker with Estonia. Phew - lots of nervous energy here with players and coaches alike going through the full gamut of emotions. And the Dutch have just won and now they on 4 wins and finished their programme. So if Estonia beat Austria then there will be 3 teams on 4 wins and a tie breaker will be required.

This is a competition where there will only be one round of tie breakers and so a team could go out of the competition without losing a tie breaker. This first happened at the World Seniors in Denmark in April when Japan were the losers. Here it would happen if 3 teams tied for second place in a section and could not be separated on their round robin results between them - i.e if A beat B beat C beat A -  as only one tie breaker will be played between the top 2 ranked teams, based on Draw Shot Challenge.

GIRLS - There are 12 teams entered in the EJCC, a rise of 3 since last year and only the second time that the numbers have been above 10 since 2005 and 2 sections have been required. The teams playing are from Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Turkey. Italy won last year with an undefeated 9-0 record but came straight back down in Ostersund last year. Only one team was relegated as Russia, as hosts, are already in the WJCC, having finished 3rd last year.

Germany and Poland have been ever present in the EJCC since 2005 although Germany has qualified twice from it but been relegated straight back down again. Of the teams that have previously qualified from the EJCC only Italy and Germany are here this week and, as with the boys, they are both in the same section.