John Polson Tour Captain
Past-President Port Glasgow C.C.
Past-President S.I.R. Club
Margaret Polson Kilmacolm C.C.
R.C.C.C. Council Member
Secretary Old Grammarians C.C.
Past-President S.I.R. Club
Secretary Greenacres Curling Rink
Isobel Gillespie President Old Grammarians C.C.
Robin Duthie President Ardgowan C.C.
Hugh Knox Past-President Beith Morishill C.C.
Past-President S.I.R. Club
Dalry Union C.C.
Liz Knox Past-President Beith Morishill Ladies C.C.
Steve Wilson Past-Presdent Beith Morishill C.C.
Margaret Wilson Vice-President Lochwinnoch C.C.
Beith Morishill Ladies C.C.
Bill McKenzie Past-President Whitecraigs C.C.
Marjory McKenzie Secretary Double Four C.C.
George Murray Past-President Ardgowan C.C.
Vice-Preident Partick C.C.
Largs Thistle C.C.
Large Thistle C.C.
Allan Magowan Secretary and Past-President Kilbarchna C.C.
David Bannatyne Kilbarchan C.C.
Robin Richmond Old Grammarians C.C.
Alex Hunter Old Grammarians C.C.
Ian Connel Secretary Lochwinnoch C.C.
Beith Morishill C.C.
George Casey Vice President Lochwinnoch C.C.
Moira Gillespie Old Grammarians C.C.
Win Miller Old Grammarians C.C.
We all congregated
We made our way to Terminal 3 where Eric Gillespie checked in our tickets en bloc. This took time so we didn’t have long to wait after passing through Passport Control. Consequently, there was a bit of a rush to buy Duty Free Grouse Whisky and tobacco.
We boarded out Jumbo
Jet at about and
then had long wait before taking off – nearly an hour late. What a huge plane a
Jumbo Jet is !! We were told to put back our watches
five hours to suit Canadian time. It was a long time before we had our lunch,
but when it came it was delicious. There was an in-flight movie – “All Castles”
– which helped pass the time. To many of our fellow passengers’ chagrin they
discovered the Scots aboard had drunk the place dry of Whisky!! But it wasn’t
the only due to the curlers – as there were 40 Scottish Farmers also on board.
Tea was served before landing at
We disembarked from the plane into ‘space age’ buses that came right up to the level of the exits of the plane, then lowered to passenger unit before driving to the Airport Terminal.
We arrived at the Lord Elgin Hotel at and were pleased to see Robin and Noel Duthie there to greet us. We had to wash and brush up quickly as we didn’t have much time for a meal before attending Ottawa Valley Curling Association’s Reception in a private suite Room 909 in the hotel. It was hosted by Rose and Frank Dicola, Jean and Elwyn MacDonald, Doris and Keith McLaren, Gerry and Roger Wilson and Joyce and Grover Clare (President of O.V.C.A.). Despite the late hour (to our British time) we all enjoyed meeting our brother and sister curlers, who produced plenty of variety to drink, plus cheese and biscuits etc. Isobel Gillespie took some Polaroid snaps, which were a great attraction, then after about an hour or so, some of us slipped away to bed, but Bill McKenzie got his accordion and played and sang songs till about which was
After breakfast (all
voted an excellent meal) we went up to Room 909 where we had more coffee, etc.
with our hosts of last night. They then organised cars for our transportation
Perth Curling Club
is a privately owned three sheet rink with excellent club rooms and windows
overlooking the ice, both upstairs and down. We were given coffee before the
first three teams played at (and again at ). They were skipped by John Polson (Tour
Captain), Eric Gillespie and Robin Duthie. (John had
two Canadian substitutes, the Dicolas in the first
game and two other Canadians in the second). At the second three skips George Murray, Hugh
Knox and In Connell took their teams onto the ice (and again at ) and fared a little better with Hugh Knox’s rink
winning. All told, Perth Curling Club had six rinks against
Between games we had a very good snack lunch – all homemade and produced by the ladies of the Club. After the second games we given a sit down dinner – in two sittings – as the ladies cooked and catered for about 150 people. It was a truly magnificent meal, attractively produced and served with so much pleasure – all under the guidance of Shirley Conlon, the Ladies President.
After dinner Frank Dicola said a few words and John Polson replied and
presented a XIIth Province Banner to the Club. Glen Blanchard,
as President, accepted it and also said a few words. Ottawa Valley Curling
Association was warmly applauded for all their arrangements and Shirley Conlon
was given one of the Ladies neckerchiefs in token of our thanks to her and her
team of helpers. We were all given silver teaspoons, made in
Finally, everyone was entertained by a most amusing whistling act by Murray Kirkpatrick, who came in stripped to the waist, wearing an enormous top hat which completely concealed his upheld arms, and head. The remainder of his torso being transformed into a huge ‘face’ with his tummy button being his mouth. Below his waist he wore what appeared to be a tail coat with arms, and trousers. He was excellent.
There then followed a bit of a ceilidh with songs and stories and the party broke up about with Auld Lang Syne.
We were all sad to
say goodbye to our new friends after a very happy day. We were then driven back
to our hotel in
The morning was free, but as it was Remembrance Sunday we went to the War Memorial to watch the Remembrance Parade. At there was the traditional two minute silence, followed by a bilingual service. Lots of people were milling about and it was an excellent opportunity for us to see a cross-section of Canadians. Vera Lynn sang a moving Abide With Me before the laying of wreaths by the Governor General and other dignitaries. The Parade marched past and eventually disbanded, as did the crowd. A cold but dry day.
At we met in Room 909 to be allocated cars to
take us on a tour of
By we had all met at the Ottawa Hunt and Country Club, which is a beautifully appointed Clubhouse catering for both golf and curling. The rink is a six lane sheet of ice which was a joy to curl on. Spotlessly clean, true and keen. Once again local knowledge came into its own and the Hunt and Country Club won 49 – 39, but we all enjoyed the games.
After drinks we went
downstairs to their well equipped locker rooms to change for diner at An excellent meal was produced, followed by
speeches. Roger Wilson was the Chairman and called on John Polson to say a few
words. John presented a XIIth Province Banner to
Harry Floyd, Vice-President of the Club, and presented a wooden plaque to
Grover Clare as President of the Ottawa Valley Curling Association from Bob
Cowper, Provost of Renfrew. John then called on George Murray to say a few
words. George made a very good speech expressing the feeling of the
Hugh Knox and Allan Magowan repeated their party pieces from last night which went down well (when translated). Margaret Polson recited a poem especially dedicated to Gerry Wilson, who had ably supported her husband. Then our own ‘choir’ sang a couple of songs and so the evening flew past and it was time for last drinks and last stories before Auld Lang Syne. We departed about
Anne Fisher, wife of Tom Fisher, a collector of curling memorabilia and on the executive of Curl-Canada asked for a copy of this diary to keep with their historical curling records.
We all congregated
in the hotel lobby at and our Canadian hosts took us in their cars
to the Ottawa Curling Club. This is one of the oldest Curling Clubs in
As mentioned the Ottawa Club is an old club, built about the turn of the century and it was most interesting to see that in spite of its age the ice was superbly clean, true and keen, with little ‘hogs’ marking the hog’s score. The atmosphere was the coldest we’d so far experienced, but not any worse than Crossmyloof on a cold winters day.
Some keen games were played and all enjoyable, though yet again Ottawa Curling Club and their guest clubs – Granite Curling Club and Hylands Curling Club – beat the XIIth Province 39 – 21.
Drinks were the order of the day before we went upstairs to their dining room where we had soup, sandwiches and coffee.
Afterwards Roger Wilson officiated and introduced us to David Smith, the President and Marjory Thorne, the ladies President. John Polson presented a XIIth Province Banner to David Smith for the Club, then he called on Bill McKenzie to say a few words. He expressed all our thanks interspersed with a few amusing stories, ending with a song.
About we were driven to the Rideau Club – about 5-10 minutes away. This is yet another Club and they all have their own character. This one had different tartan panels around the walls – upstairs and down. The Canadians are more Scottish than the Scots !!!
At five rinks curled against us. There were two Rideau rinks plus guests from City View Curling Club, Carlton Heights Curling Club and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Curling Club. After three or four ends our host skips suggested stacking brooms and we went off for a drink. Some of us felt very cold when we returned to the ice. Once again, despite some close games the overall result was against us 27 – 40.
To use a Canadian expression – we “prettied ourselves up” for dinner about and on arrival in the dining room we were met with a delicious aroma and found an enormous roast of beef – 70 lbs. no less – which the chef carved individually for us, plus all the trimmings. It was a sight to be seen, as well as tasted.
Afterwards the top table was introduced by Keith McLaren, including Jim Anderson, Rideau’s President. Keith then asked Swattie Wotherspoon to play his tape of the Scottish Curlers visit to Canada in 1975 which recorded the tour song introducing all the Scottish Curlers, many of whom we knew.
John Polson then
called on Eric Gillespie to speak and he recalled memories of that tour as well
as talking about the hospitality of the Canadians then and now. He also told us
our new rink at Greenacres and hoped it would be as good as those we played on
John Polson then called on Robin Duthie to present the flowers to Doris McLaren, Gerry Wilson, Rose Dicola and Jean MacDonald. He also gave Jim Anderson a tour tie and his wife a ladies neckerchief. Bottles of Grouse Whisky were given to Keith McLaren, Elwyn MacDonald and Frank Dicola, and finally as Roger Wilson was the prime mover he was given four Caithness Glass Goblets.
We were also introduced to “Mr Curler” himself – one Roy MacMillan – in his late eighties (in fact, at the age of 80 he won the Club Championship). He said a few words and from them we gathered he was quite a character, so we were very honoured to have met and spoken to him.
Allan Macgowan again recited his David and Goliath story – which on the third rendering many of the Canadians really got the meaning of, and it went down especially well. Hugh Knox also read his poem and Bill McKenzie played his squeeze box and sang.
Finally, we had a display of Scottish Country Dancing by
four charming girls who had been taught their dances by Elwyn
MacDonald’s daughter-in-law, who has a
Before we left the traditional Old Lang Syne was sung. This time it was very poignant as we
realised this was the end of our visit to
There was a Professional’s Shop in the Club which was opened especially for us and some of us bought curling gear, such as shoes, gloves, sportsbags, etc., and so back to the Lord Elgin Hotel – believe it or not our hosts again were gluttons for punishment and asked us to Room 909, but politely some of us made our excuses as we had to pack for our early start the following day. However, a few did go ad had a farewell drink.
During the day some of the curlers had taken the opportunity of visiting other clubs to pick up information to help make Greenacres as successful as the Canadians Rinks.
Tuesday 13th November
All up early as we had to pack, pay our bill at the Lord Elgin Hotel, as well as have breakfast before
A bus took us to the Airport, but despite the hour all
We got the plane at and had an easy flight to
We arrived at the Desert Inn about and were told we were having a Reception from the Mayor of Cambridge – we had to stay dressed ‘for the road’ and not curling.
We were taken to
Just a block or two away was the Galt Curling Club – it is the oldest rink in Canada, but despite its age was fresh and clean with good ice as we had come to expect. The Ice Master – Richard Bullock – was a big jovial person who was very proud of his ice, and the different colour scheme of brown, white and orange. One of the older members of the Club – George Cowan – made history while we were there by getting and 8 ender against one of our rinks. We all stopped to see the head and take photographs. Even without an 8 against us, once again, we were well and truly beaten – 43/31.
While upstairs having drinks (plus crisps, biscuits, etc with a dip) John Polson presented a XIIth Province Banner to Doreen Gourlay, the President of Galt Curling Club. Mike Gourlay’s father – 94 years old – walked down the Club to see us and he told us that even his father curled at Galt Curling Club.
We didn’t have much time at Galt as we had to leave for
The Ice Rink at the K W Granite Club is an eight sheeter and the biggest we’ve seen so far. It was more impersonal with many people milling about, so our tour didn’t involve everybody as it had done in the other Clubs.
Tuesday 13th November (cont’d)
We had dinner first before curling, so we didn’t change.
The meal was quite different as it was a more German part of
After dinner John Polson presented a XIIth Province Banner to Ron Shane, the Men’s President of the K W Granite Curling Club who called upon his Vice-President, Al Badly, to plug the “commercial” about the Uniroyal Junior Curling Championships being played in Kitchener from 9th – 16th March 1980, and he hoped we would all come !!!
And so to the ice – all feeling pretty full and weary. Six rinks played with the Gourlays becoming adoptive Scotsmen – we lost 30 – 66.
Our drivers had, had a log day and we were glad to returned to the Desert Inn at However, we did congregate in Room 100 to hear of tomorrow’s plans before going to bed.
Wednesday 14th November
The morning was free so most of us a long lie and enjoyed a lazy morning.
Bill and Majory McKenzie were
off to visit Bill’s sister in
At we were picked up and taken to the Galt Country Club where there is a golf course as well as a curling rink. Another beautiful club house with a rink of four sheets of ice. We found the ice pretty keen right from the first stone but still we were beaten 20-35.
On coming off the ice we went straight into a Reception given by the Famous Grouse Scotchy Whisky Company. Bruce Norman, the Curling Director of Galt Country Club, introduced Mrs Evelyn Gordon, Secretarty to Chris Speyer, the local M.P. who, on his behalf, presented a small Canadian pennant to all the Scottish curlers. John Polson expressed our thanks to her and to the Famous Grouse Whisky, which he said “is nicer than other whisky in a sliver box” and he hoped the Canadians would get the message.
We had an early dinner, all mixing well at the various tables, and very good the meal was too.
Bruce Norman introduced Blane and Barb Renevire (the President) Gene and Beth Parks (Ontatio Curling Association) Iver White and Barry Oldfield, Mike Gourlay, then gave thanks to the Clubs at Galt and Kitchener and to Gort Clark who represented Ontario Curling Association.
John Polson presented Mike and Doreen Gourlay each with two Caithness Glasses. Then a special plaque from Robin Welch, Secretary of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, for the Ontario Curling Association was given to Mike Gourlay for safe keeping. John Polson gave Bill Meyer a photograph of Lord Elgin and Bill taken at the Grand Match and then for an 8 ender John presented Bob McBain, in lieu of George Cowan who was not present, a small brass curling stone as a memento.
Robin Duthie was called upon to say a few words which he kept brief and to the point expressing our genuine thanks to everyone involved.
Hugh Knox recited his poem and Allan Magowan his David and Goliath story. Finally Bob van Wagner, for the local Canadians, told a few stories.
At we curled again, which was an effort after drinking and eating. Two rinks came off for a drink half way though, while the other two rinks played on. One rink peeled, but the others lost – final score being 17-32.
Back to the Desert Inn about where a party ensued, all present being our guests on the strength of contributions from the Famous Grouse. There were about 50 or 60 present and it went on for about two hours. We had all had a good day. Bill Meyer gave us a gift from Curl Master (the makers of corn brooms) in the shape of a brush and comb combination, and Mr & Mrs Macnamara (exiled Scots) played the guitar and sang to entertain us.
Thursday 15th November
We were all up early this morning as we had to pack up and leave the Desert Inn by It was snowing too, though fairly wet and not lying. All the drivers appeared, despite their late night with us last night !!
Guelph Curling Club is a big rink with eight sheets of ice. We had a coffee and were welcomed by John Eccles before playing at Once again we were beaten, but there were some very good games. The ice was rather dour to start with but it became keener. We had three Canadian curlers to make up numbers as Allan Magowan couldn’t curl as his ankles were swollen and sore.
We were a nice lunch of soup and roast beef plus apple pie and coffee.
Afterwards John Eccles asked Nick Presthill,
the President of the club, to say a few words. He had been on the Scottish
Rotary Tour and had happy memories of it – he was duly pleased to receive the XIIth Province Banner from John Polson. John also thanked
Murray McGregor for all his arrangements made on our behalf, also hid wife
Betty, who is on the Canadian Lady Curlers Executive busily planning the tour
Unfortunately we could not be received by the Mayor of Toronto in the City Hall as planned as the Mayor was involved with the visit of Princess Anne.
We all adjourned to John and Margaret Polson’s room for
drinks (by courtesy of Famous Grouse) is entertain and
get to know our new
Our time was now own for the rest of the day and we
enjoyed the freedom and lack of rush. We went our own ways in the evening to
have dinner and see the town. Some of us went to the Top of the Town Restaurant
up to the
Friday 16th November
A free morning !!! Shopping ??
We all congregated in the hotel lobby at 12.30 where Bill Thomson and other members of the Toronto Granite Club came and met us and kindly took us in their cars to the Granite Club. What a magnificent place – and surprise, surprise – the ice rink is two floors up !! Plus the fact that there are three floors of parking in the basement.
We didn’t have much time before we went on the ice to curl.
Five Granite Club members played as substitutes, as Hugh and Liz Knox and David
Bannatyne had gone to the Toronto Agricultural
Exhibition. The condition of the ice was as expected and the opposition had the
measure of it, so we Scots were beaten again. Even the mirrors (as at
Off the ice briefly for a drink before curling again for another eight ends – “back to back curling” they call it. The games were pretty tight and our President had a good win so we haven’t disgraced ourselves.
We then went and changed straight away and met
downstairs for drinks before dinner, Bill Thomson called on Ian Connell to give
a traditional Curlers Grace before sitting down to a magnificent meal which we
all enjoyed – it was interspersed with introductions, etc. from Bill Thomson in
the Chair. He introduced Herb Blakey (the Curling
Convenor), Doctor Garnet McCartney and the President of the Toronto Cricket
Club – Lachlan McTavish, who was to be our host
tomorrow. He also introduced President of the Granite Club – George Scott – who
later said a few words of welcome. The members of the Club who represented
Bill also mentioned the generosity of the Famous Grouse
Whisky whose name wasn’t much known in
Then he gave the apologies from the Mayor of Metropolitan Toronto for having to cancel our visit to the City Hall yesterday owing to the visit of a “Royal Sassenach”. On the Mayor’s behalf be presented all the Scottish team with notebooks from the City.
At the end of dinner and after various speeches during
the meal John Polson thanked everyone for giving us the facilities of the Club
and all the hospitality received. With regard to curling, he said the Scots
brought the game to
Alex Hunter was called upon to speak and he made an excellent speech of thanks on our behalf.
Friday 16th November (cont’d)
Hugh Knox gave a rendition of his poem about lady
curlers and Bill McKenzie sang. Then there were a few funny stories told by
curlers from both
And so we returned to the
At the Granite Club we had been presented with their beautifully engraved crested tumblers as well as badges, etc., also a cake mix was given to all the ladies (Canadian and Scots) who had curled during the day. We came back laden.
Saturday 17th November
The morning up to was free so last minute shopping was done.
At drivers from the Toronto Cricket Club arrived and took us on a tour of part of the City before delivering us at the Cricket Club. It has its own cricket ground with tennis courts and swimming pool adjacent. Inside as well as the curling rink they have a skating rink, squash courts and sauna.
We had a very nice buffet lunch, sitting round low tables and talking to new friends. Before going on the ice Lachlan McTavish, known as the Duke, welcomed us and read out the curling draws. At this moment George Murray asked if he might say a few personal words of behalf of all the Renfrewshire Curlers.
He said the tour would not have happened if it hadn’t been for three people – Eric Gillespie, our Secretary, who had all the work sending out details and getting us together to give marching orders: Robin Duthie, who organised the tour on the Canadian side by contacting so many people and curling clubs and arranging all our transport and hotels: last we would like to thank our President and Tour Captain, John Polson, (capably assited by Margaret) who acted as our Ambassador, carried the flag for us and arranged all the rinks. George then called on Aline Murray to present a small memento (consisting of a silver water jug which will be engraved on returning home) on behalf of the Scottish Curlers. John was taken completely by surprise and was very touched.
The first game of curling at and it was the first ice we met that was a bit tricky. Hugh Knox and his rink had a good win and the other games were well fought. When we come off the ice we had a drink.
At this juncture Duke McTavish introduced us to Doug Taylor, Chairman of the Club, who apologised for the notice “welcome to seniors’ curling” still up, but the competition had only taken place this week and they had not removed the notice.
Duke then presented “hardware” (badges, etc. plus a silver dollar) to all the Scottish rinks and their photographs were taken.
John Polson also presented a XIIth
Province Banner to Duke McTavish for the Cricket
Club, and at this moment said he had omitted to give one to the Galt Country
Club, so would Mike Gourlay (who had come to the
Cricket Club with Doreen to play as reserves) step forward and receive the
Banner for Galt. He also gave a
Steve Wilson was then asked to say a few words, and that was what he did as his voice was still a bit hoarse. He did mention the great fellowship of curling and hoped that the youngsters coming into the game would not forget it.
Saturday 17th November (cont’d)
Duke thanked Doug and Berry Wright for all they had done – Doug being the Chairman of the mixed curling and his wife was responsible for getting the rinks together to play us today. She has also taken the photographs.
Ian Connell was then called forward and given the Ontario Curling Association pin, normally given to all curlers getting an 8 ender, but the skip of the opposing rink deserved consolation.
Hugh Knox recited his poem and Allen Magowan told of David and Goliath. Then the choir sang “Merry Band of Curlers” and two other songs. This made a happy break between our two back to back games, as really we were all pretty tired today.
Another enjoyable game, our last in
Instead of having drinks in the Club some of the Scots
went to private homes and then about 8.00 p.m. we all had a final party in the
Polson’s room at the
The evening ended with some of us going onto the McTavish’s house for a buffet supper, while others went out for a meal and onto a show.
Sunday 18th November
We all had to pack and check out of the hotel. About
twelve of us were being taken to
The weather was a big foggy on route, but thankfully by
the time we reached
The Falls were truly impressive, but we were all
surprised at how wet it was from the spray. We were also impressed by the nice
parkland alongside the river. Some of us went down to the lower level and
through the tunnels behind the Falls. Our drivers –
the Shaws and the Fergusons
– took us along the
It was foggy again on our return to
The others, who hadn’t gone to
Other members of the tour were going their own ways, but the ten returning to G.B. all joined up at the Airport and had a few drinks before getting the plane at 8.00 p.m. John and Margaret Polson, George Casey and Ian Connell came to see us off.
It has been a Grand Tour and so successful we all hope it will be repeated.
Rideau C.C. 5 Ices Keith McLaren
Galt C.C. 5 Ices Mike and Doreen Gourlay
K.W. Granite C.C. 8 Ices Ron Shane
Galt Country Club 4 Ices Bruce Norman
Granite C.C. 10 Ices Bill Thomson
Cricket C.C. 6 Ices Duke McTavish
Every ice rink immaculately clean.
Not “Rink” 1 or 2, etc., but “Ice” 1 or 2.
Not “3rd” but “Vice”
No score cards, but Vice responsible for making up own score on score board.
Dividers between ices, with benches for sweepers to use.
Tissues provided (plus litter bins) and sometimes even sweets.
Permanent hacks suitable for right and left handers.
No smoking on the ice.
Revolving electric brushes to clean shoes, or at least, a piece of carpet at the end of each ice.
Each ice swept between each game.
First class equipment – burners, vacuums, motorised scrapers, etc. the ice being scraped at least four times a week.
Tables for drinks reserved for “Ice 1” etc.
Push brooms coming in for the youngsters.
Creeches for the kids of young wives while curling.
It is impossible to convey the wonderful spirit of friendship we met with during our happy tour. Our hosts at the three centres did their utmost to make our first visit to their country a memorable one. We were absolutely astounded at the hospitality received everywhere and were delighted when we received a letter from the Ottawa Valley Curling Association requesting a return visit to Renfrewshire in November 1980.