Page images

challenge another; these contests were waged, year after year, with all the keenness of hereditary feuds. In latter times, however, it is generally one society or parish against another. These encounters are of course invested with all the interest which anxiety to support the renown of the respective parties can create; though attended, at the same time, with all the harmony and good humour for which curlers are proverbially celebrated. These meetings form the grand field-days of an ice-campaign. Numerous private matches, for trifling stakes, form almost the daily routine of the curling season; and are carried on in a spirit of rivalry which gives zest and variety, during its continuance, to what may be called a society's domestic or everyday sport.

The author of Curliana is a Dumfries-shire man, which is a great curling county, and he writes of his native region with an eloquent enthusiasm. Throughout Dumfries-shire, he tells us that various Curling Societies exist, some with, and others without, a constitution. There, in general, bonspiels are played with forty players a-side-and the parish of Lochmaben, which abounds in lakes, and is very populous, enrols about 150 names in her Curling list, all of whom are eligible to play in parish matches. By the resolutions of the society, however, to meet the general custom of the district, it is judiciously provided that forty of the best players shall be chosen annually in November, to play in all bonspiels -a number amply sufficient to uphold the honour of the parish on the ice. These forty players are divided into five rinks, headed by five Skips, who are ex officio President and Vice-Presidents of the society, and who, together with the Secretary and Vice-Skips, form the annual committee of management.

"We regret the want of a minutebook prior to the year 1823, merely on this account, that no written memorabilia exist of the days and deeds' of those champions of the broom whose fame has filled the ears of the neigh bouring parishes, and which is still fresh in the proud recollection of our own. A regret, however, which this reflection goes far to extinguish-that it is invidious to blazon forth the defeats of others,

[blocks in formation]


'Though the mantle of oblivion shrouds, then, many of these exploits, enough of modern victories remain to be told to arouse the jealousy of our curling confreres. Among the heroes, too, of the days of old, there are not a few of whom we have to say, Nomina stant umbra. Of those who are still familiar in our mouths, we have space only to enumerate one or two. The first of these in time, if not in fame, is

"Deacon Jardine, who flourished from the beginning of the 18th century downwards. He was a very celebrated player, and is the oldest preses of the Lochmaben rinks whose name has survived the lapse of an hundred and thirty years.

"Walter Dryden, his successor, flourished about the middle of the century, Great things are spoken of his skill and prowess; and of the numerous bonspiels he fought and won, He was succeeded in his office by his great rival and cotemporary


"Bailie James Carruthers-the doubted Bonaparte, so dubbed from the distinguished success with which he long headed our ice. He died full of years and honour about the close of the last

century-and was succeeded by his pupil in the glacial art, the reigning President, under whose conduct the society has reached its present high and palmy state; and of whom, when he shall have thrown his last stone, it may be truly said, take him for all and all, we ne'er shall see his like again.

"In addition to these magnates, a long list might be given of the eminent iceplayers who under their banner fought alongst with them, side by side, sharing the honour and the pride of victory. Of these, however, it is sufficient to mention Dr Clapperton, of antiquarian memory-his son Alexander-Mr Edgar of Elshieshields- Provost Henderson of Cleugh-heads-Dickson, called the "Tutor," of whose superior skill many anecdotes are still afloat-the late Mr Johnstone of Thornywhat-Convener Fergusson-Provost Dickson-Captain Hog

gan-Mr Lindesay-Bailie Bell-Mr Robert Burgess-John Fead of Duncow, and our late regretted schoolmaster, Mr Glover, &c.; referring such of our parish readers as may feel interested to the numerous list appended to the minute-book of the Society; and which will be found to contain the names of all of any note who have appeared upon our ice during the present, and the greater part of the last, century.

"These were leading Curlers of their day-nor do the present time, trebled as to number, boast of fewer in skill. In the existing roll of the Society, are many names not thrown into shade by even the most renowned of any former age; of these the President, and Messrs Irving, Johnstone, Watt, and Brotch, skippers and their vices, Messrs James Burgess, Thomas Johnstone, jun., William Graham, James Jardine, and John Henderson, may be considered as the chief."

[ocr errors]

It would be an endless task to attempt to record the triumphs of the Lochmaben Curlers in great parish matches. They have conquered Tinwald, Torthorwald, Dumfries, Mousewald, Cummertrees, Annan, Dryfesdale, Hatton, Wamphray, Applegarth, and Johnstone. In the midst of a contest with the Kirkmichaelites, the ice gave way, and six persons having been drowned, the roaring play" was hushed and stilled, stones and besoms suffered all to remain where they were, without a thought. The names of the heroes, whose skill and prowess were mainly instrumental to such conquests, have been preserved in the of pages Curliana. 66 During the course of the French War, the following eight Curlers, Sir James Broun, Bailie William Smith, Bailie Francis Bell, Messrs D. Irving of Righeads, Robert Bell of Elshieshields, James Johnstone of Belzies, Alexander Harkness of Gotterby, and David Tavish of Todhillmuir, sustained the renown of the Lochmaben ice; and after numerous victories over the Curlers of the adjoining parishes, obtained, like Bonaparte's famous legion, the name of the Invincible


Among the Curlers of the south of Scotland, then, let it be said that the INVINCIBLES of " Margery o' the Mony Lochs," have for time immemorial been distinguished-and let

it likewise be said, that the success sors of the Invincibles are a set of tall fellows. But how came they on in their contests with the celebrated Closeburnians? You shall hear.

"The Curlers of Closeburn having ac.. quired, by their prowess upon the transparent boards, as much celebrity amongst the parishes of the Nith, as their rivals of Lochmaben amongst those upon the Annan, resolved, during the ice campaign of winter 1819-20, to try which of the parties should bear the palm: accordingly a challenge was dispatched by them, bearing that they would take up a position upon the Lochmaben ice, with forty players, upon a certain morning, and then and there, either lose or win honour with the men of Old Margery. This challenge was not more gallantly given than it was cordially accepted. From the moment, as may be supposed, that the tocsin was sounded, Lochmaben through all her curling population was quite on the qui vive. Rinks were assorted-preparations made, and all arranged for the redoubted con

test. At length the morning, big with the fate of channel-stones and fame, breaking upon the horizon, witnessed the pouring in of the adjacent population eager to see the exploits of the day-and the lengthened file of the Closeburnian champions bearing down upon the scene of action,

'Wi' channel-stanes baith glib an' strong,
Their army did advance;
Their crampets o' the trusty steel,
Like bucklers broad did glance.
A band wi' besoms high uprear'd,
Weel made o' broom the best,
Before them like a moving wood
Unto the combat prest;

'The gallant gamesters briskly moved,
To meet the daring foe'

"The renown of the respective combatants-the distance travelled by the chal lengers-the numerous body assembledall investing the encounter with an inte rest, rather approaching to that which attends the inroad of some hostile aggression, than the engagement of eighty peaceable and friendly curlers, whose stake was the honour of their respective parishes the forfeit, beef and greens.

"About eleven o'clock the parties marshalled their way to the Kirk Lochs, where the Presidents having agreed to take up each other, and the other Skips having arranged among themselves, the boards were selected, the tees cut, and the roaring sport begun.' At first, notwithstanding the cautious tact, and cool possession of the Closeburnians, success seemed to promise a hollow triumph to the Lochmaben party. Their

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

senior rink gained an easy victory over the adverse president's. The second stood at one time 20 shots to 4: when security bred carelessness, and it ultimately won, though with but small credit, comparatively, to itself. The third and fourth eventually lost. The fate of the bonspiel now turned upon the success of our junior rink: all then crowded around to witness the termination;

and the anxiety of both parties and of the spectators, wound up to the highest pitch, accumulated as the game approached, and became more and more intense till it reached its ultimatum upon both combatants attaining to twenty. The 'decisive spell' remained!

How stands the game!-'tis like to likeNow! for the winning shot, man!' The stone was thrown amidst the 'eager breathless grins' of the players-the sweepers 'plied it in'-Lochmaben had it!-and of course, if

Triumphant besoms flew (not) in air,' and if the moment's silence still as death,' which had pervaded the anxious throng, gave place to no sudden burst

of the victor's shout,' or to

'Hurrahs loud and long, man !'

it was only because an honourable etiquette forbids all such vociferous rejoicings over a prostrate foe. Thus terminated, however, the first great match with Closeburn. Both parties then shaking hands, left the ice together in the height of good fellowship and adjourned to the Crown Inn, where smoking cheer awaited them after the labours and amusement of the day: and where, amid new-formed friendships, the evening was spent with as much harmony, sociality, and glee, as perhaps ever crowned a curling board.”

Nothing can be more lively and good-humoured than all the above; but on what follows, we must construct a scold. "It was this same Bonspiel, however, which a Reverend Professor, connected with Closeburn, laid hold upon to serve up to the public in a caricaturing article in Blackwood, for February 1820, under the title, Horæ Scotica, No. I.' in which, with a total disregard of facts, persons, places, and circumstances, and without a particle of truth, or manly sincerity to redeem

-to quote his own words the small wit floating in an under current,' which runs throughout it-to give way to a paltry feeling of malevolent jealousy, he


Uplaced his reputation,
And spent his rich opinion.'

Few people in possession of their senses abuse Blackwood's Magazine now-a-days. This sudden sally of the historiographer of the Transparent Board-manifestly an amiable man-startled us not a little; and Christopher, "like Grey Goshawk stared wild." Black, indeed, thought we, must be the crime perpetrated in our February Number for 1820, unforgetable, unforgiveable, ineffaceable, and inexpiable, and most unprofessorial, which, after "the long lapse of twelve revolving years,' ," thus deepens with fouler and fouler stains before the moral and religious imagination of the Chronicler of Curliana. We had for nearly the tenth part of a century been indulging the delightful dream, that all the early sins of Maga had passed into oblivion, and that her reputation was pure as that of Vestal virgin. With a queerish and qualmyish feeling we turned her up for February, 1820, expecting to be horrified with the blackness of the concern, when, to our delighted astonishment, Horæ Scotica, No. I., smiled upon us, of all white things in this world, the most innocent and ingenuous


"In wit a man, simplicity a child." So far from time, place, persons, circumstances, &c., being all misrepresented, not the most remote allusion is made to one single human being in all this blessed world! That the reverend Professor who wrote that admirable article, may have curled as a Closeburnian, against the Invincibles of Lochmaben, among the dominions of " Margery o' the Mony Lochs," is very probable, for he excels in many a harmless and manly pastime. But Hora Scoticæ, No. I., is a fictitious description altogetherand the bonspiel there described is as completely a creation of Dr Gillespie's brain, as Burning the Tweed is of Sir Walter's, in one of his novels. These men of Mony-Loched Margery sometimes imagine all the world are thinking, and speaking, and writing about them, when she is looking after, and wholly engrossed with her own affairs. Never till

this hour have they been even so much as once alluded to in the faint

3 R

est degree in this Magazine. The author of Curliana certainly owes an apology to the author of Horæ Scoticæ; and unless he make it in a month or two, and expunge his folly in his next edition, we must reluctantly inflict the knout.

It was not till the winter of 1822-3, that a suitable opportunity present ed itself for the Clcseburnians to regain their honours, and bear" their trophied besoms back again." The defeated party, of course, sent the challenge; and of the contest and its result, we have here a narrative, in a letter written by one of the Lochmabenites-a Curler, on whose assertion the Curling world may rely as firmly as on his stones:


"About ten in the morning, besom shouldered, I went into the burgh, which was all astir. The Closeburn party being already arrived, and our own men, with the turn-out of the parish and neighbourhood in waiting, we proceeded forthwith to the Halleaths Loch, where, preliminaries adjusted, issue was joined. The ice, unfortunately, was far from being strong; but as the morning was clear, and rather frosty, appearances were so far favourable for the amusement in which we all took so lively an interest. played in our senior rink, which again opposed the leading one of CloseburnPresident v. President. At first we were most successful, numbering eleven shots before our opponents reckoned one; and we were cheered by similar intelligence from our other boards-the spectators, who moved from rink to rink, informing us that Lochmaben was carrying all before her; and that on three of the other boards, they stood eight and ten love. Our party, as you may well suppose, were quite elate. On the other hand, never did I witness more anxiety than what our opponents evinced. As the game advanced, they seemed to lose all heart.

Let no

man, however, despair upon ice-well is it called a slippery sport.' Our game now stood nineteen to seven-a fearful odds when the day, which previous to this had inclined to be soft, now changed completely, and became a thaw. To add to our misluck, from the pressure of the on-lookers, (some hundreds,) who the more crowded around us, expecting that we should finish by an end or two-the water rushed up at both tees, and covered in a short time almost the entire rink. The tide now turned-the Closeburn Curlers having greatly the advantage of us, as their stones were much narrower

in the bottoms, and did not run upon half the surface of ours. The board soon became unplayable, and forced us-maugre opposition-to remove. The new tees, however, were scarcely cut, when a rent ran from end to end, and before a dozen stones were thrown, we again stood and played in water nearly ankle deep. Our party once more proposed to change the board, but to this the Closeburnians would by no means consent, alleging, as we were the winning party, we had no right to change. Seeing, therefore, that they wished to take advantage of

playing amongst water, we determined yoked as we were, we could not beat to try it out, and see whether, unequally water became so deep, that few could get them. Accordingly, we played till the over the hog, so that at last it came to be, that he who threw farthest won the shot. Indeed, for several of the last ends, only four or five stones, out of the sixteen, got over the score. Under these circumstances, twice did the stone of a Lochmaben Curler pass every other, and we came off victorious-if I may so prostitute a term which can only apply to a scientific spiel.

"In the mean time, with reversed success, it fared equally ill with all our other rinks. Our second, in whose favour the game at one time stood thirteen to one, was the first to lose. Shortly after, two others finished, one in favour of either side. Both combatants being thus equal, every one ran to witness the termination of the remaining rink. The parties were well matched, and their game by this time stood nineteen to nineteen. Two shots were still to be gained. It is impossible for me to describe the anxiety now felt by all. Every one pressed for ward to see-and scarcely was a stone delivered, till its owner lost sight of it by the crowd of heads stretched out to witness what effect it produced. At this critical juncture, as

Oft it will chance as the doubtful war burns, That victory will rest on one high-fated blow,' when the Closeburn party were lying the game shot, Lochmaben being second and third, it happened, just as our vice-skipper was in the act to throw his stone,

All eyes bent on him who decides the great stake-'

-the rink swept, and all expectationthat a Closeburn Curler called out to him in an impertinent tone, 'Fit your tee, Sir!'

-The Lochmaben player, a stout young fellow, and passionate withal, could not brook the insult thus wantonly, and so publicly given, and a quarrel ensued. The consequence was what the Closeburnian

intended: the player was unhinged, and missed the shot. But for this circumstance, there is scarcely a doubt that he would have taken it-for it was quite open, and he was one of the very best players on the Lochmaben ice. Every one felt indignant at-and even his own party scouted-the sinister trick; for as our player was actually at the instant fitting his tee, the motive was obvious with which it was done.

"We then left the ice in a body, and nearly a hundred sat down to dinner in Smith's inn. Upon the cloth being removed, appropriate speeches and toasts were made and given; and our worthy President introduced in a song a verse or two complimentary to the Closeburnians, which was received with enthusiastic applause. Old Robert Burgess also, with the true feeling of a Curler, sung more than once, that capital ice-song,

The music o' the year is hushed,' with equal effect. The bands of friendship got tighter the more they were wet and we were all in the height of sociality before we arose. The best of friends however must part. As many of the party had their horses at the Crown, we convoyed

them so far: but here there was no parting, without their duich-an-dorris, before they went. Accordingly here we all rejoined when there was again nothing but shaking of hands-professions of kindness, cordiality, and glee; the Closeburnians saying that they had never met with heartier or better fellows,(and we thinking of them the same,)-and that we looked more like conquerors, than having suffered a defeat. After many kind invitations, and assurances of the satisfaction it would afford them to see us upon their own ice, we at length separated, 'resolved to meet some ither day.'

"A friend and myself had just left the inn, when a message overtook us, that our company was requested in a private apartment. Here we found two Closeburn players-opponents to our rinkwho wished to express to us, over a bowl of brandy, how highly pleased they had been with the sports and entertainment of the day. After expatiating at length upon this topic-Skill depart frae my right hand,' exclaimed one, if, when your challenge arrives, I do not send down a special messenger to invite you both to my house. Me and mine have possessed the farm I occupy for the last hundred years, and there's naebody I shall be so proud to see as yoursells.' Upon this we parted with mutual feelings of regard.

"As I know you to be curious in stones, I may mention, that upon this occasion the Closeburnians brought down

several great ones with them, and amongst others an enormous crag, which ran upon four feet. It was too unwieldy, if I remember right, to play with-but it was placed upon the ice, both, I suppose, as their præsidium et dulce decus.

"The above is a transcript of what came under my own observation, and you may rely upon the accuracy of the facts and statements that it contains. I remain, always, my dear Sir,

Yours very sincerely,

So much for the second spiel. Our author says that no notice had been taken by the Lochmaben party— though they had felt it acutely-of the unhandsome manner in which they had been treated by the fictitious account of the first bonspiel published in Blackwood. Blockheads were they for their pains. Even had they been quizzed in Maga, there was no need for the men of Margery to feel it acutely; but to feel acutely a fictitious general description of the game of Curling, is a stretch of sensibility with which no sempstress could sympathize. The acuteness of their sufferings, however, having been blunted by years, perhaps they might have regained some tolerable composure after this their undisputed defeat by the Curlers of Closeburn, had not

a gasconading poem from the saine pen appeared in the Dumfries paper of the week following, entitled, "Hurrah for Closeburn." This atrocious song was "adapted to the double purpose of throwing, with one hand, dirt and disgrace upon Lochmaben, to the uttermost; with the other, holding up Closeburn to the skies." This atrocious song we have never seen to our knowledge; and we trust its wickedness is not so fiendlike as it seems to our fierce Lochmabenite. There certainly is something devilish" in throwing with the one hand dirt and disgrace on Lochmaben, to the uttermost;" yet

is that devilishness almost redeemed
by the seraphic sentiment, "of hold-
ing up Closeburn to the skies." On
the appearance of this song," it was
turned into parody, [by the author of
Curliana?] and a copy forwarded to
the Lochmaben president to be pub-
lished en retorte." But he and his
party had the "forbearance,"-we
say the magnanimity-to keep
it from the press. But in the spring

« PreviousContinue »