Curling was once an outdoor game, played on natural lochs or stretches of standing water, or on shallow water behind specially-made dams. The game grew in the Scottish countryside, the sport of farmers of all kinds – outdoor work like ploughing was impossible during the time when, as curlers put it, ‘the ice is bearing’. Upper Clydesdale was ideal country for the game, where there were a large number of ponds in use for curling in the 19th century.
In the early 20th century the sport started to move indoors, to ice rinks such as that at Haymarket in Edinburgh which opened in 1912.
The famous story of the 1924 Olympics is the one of Eric Liddell. It is less known that four Scots had already won Olympic gold medals that year – the curling team, in the first Winter Olympics at Chamonix. The lead up to the games was less than ideal with several organisational issues.
However, at the last moment, Scotland’s Willie Jackson, the finest curler of the period, and two men he played with regularly (his son Laurence and Tom Murray), were on the train from Edinburgh, plus another well-known curler, Robin Welsh.
Britain beat both France and Sweden, and so became Olympic champions. The telegrams which brought the news to Edinburgh are still preserved, and the four Scots were awarded gold medals. However, curling was dropped from the Olympics after 1924 and did not return as an official Olympic event until 1998.
This exhibition at Biggar Museum celebrates their success, displaying some of the Jacksons’ medals, and the albums in which Tom Murray recorded his travels and victories.
TB Murray, WK Jackson and his son were from Biggar and R Welsh was from Edinburgh.
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