ECC 2016 taking place "miles from curling's birth place"

  • © WCF / Laura Godenzi

England has football, Canada has ice hockey, France has cycling and Japan has karate! When England held the World Cup or France hosts the Tour De France there is a feeling of a homecoming to the origins of the sport. In four years, karate will feel at home at the Tokyo Olympics.

The same applies to Scotland and their rich history in curling with the Le Gruyère AOP European Curling Championships set to take place in Braehead, Renfrewshire next month (19-26 November 2016). One of the greatest curling competitions in the world will fittingly take place just miles from curling's birth place – Paisley Abbey.

Paisley has had a past when it comes to hosting major competitions. The town hosted the World Women’s Curling Championship 11 years ago, but is no longer home to an ice rink. However, clubs in the area are expecting a similar atmosphere to when their own town was the buzz of the curling world. One of these clubs is Paisley St Mirren Curling Club who are one of the closest to where it all started.

Club Secretary of Paisley St Mirren, Iain MacDonald, thinks that curling coming back to its roots will create a real upsurge in interest in the sport among local people, “It is quite exciting for those who are involved in the curling” he said, “As far as the wider public is concerned, quite a number of people might look and say ‘I would quite like to have a go’ and the more tournaments that are on our doorstep the more it raises the awareness.”

With the championships so close to home, Iain’s hoping that the occasion will rub off on some of the youngsters he coaches back at their curling rink in nearby Howwood.

“We have some kids that are developing really well at the moment. I know a couple of girls who could be in the Scottish team in five years’ time: they are really trying so hard practising and playing whenever they can. These competitions will spur on the youngsters and could make a huge difference to them.”

But curling history does not stop as you leave Paisley. 20 miles north-east of Braehead lies the town of Kilsyth near Stirling. Here lies arguably the oldest active curling club in the world. According to records from 1884, Kilsyth Curling Club will celebrate their 300th birthday this year and plan to tie it in with the European Curling Championships, hosting a bonspiel and a dinner to commemorate the occasion.

“We’re expecting 48 teams from around Scotland on Friday the 25th of November for our bonspiel, of which some of the curlers will stay overnight for our anniversary dinner on the Saturday which coincides with the end of the championships in Braehead,” said Findlay Brown, Secretary of Kilsyth Curling Club.

With the history behind the club, there is interest worldwide. Many Canadian curlers tour Scotland in hope to pick up a Kilsyth club badge as well as visit one of the oldest spots in the history of the sport.

“The Canadians bring with them a whole pile of boxes and in them is a pin for their province, their club and sometimes their national badge.”

“They take great pleasure in presenting the pins because they are a big thing in Canada. The Scots always in return give a pin of their club in return as a memento of the match and they are always very pleased to get a Kilsyth badge,” said Brown.

However, the club are not all about their past. One of the curlers in their ranks has reached dizzy heights. Stirling lad Michael Goodfellow was part of the quintet to take silver in Sochi at the Olympics two years ago.

“When Michael had the success it certainly raised the profile of the game in Stirling and although he won’t be representing Scotland in Braehead, a lot of the club are still thinking of buying tickets to support the country,” said Brown.

These are just two stories from two individuals who are a part of curling history. When looking at Scotland’s history in curling, we’ve barely scratched the surface.

The Le Gruyère AOP European Curling Championships is the qualifying event for the World Women’s and Men’s Curling Championships in 2017, which in turn are the last opportunity for Member Associations to earn Olympic Qualification Points for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, Korea.

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