Curling in Scotland: The Grand Match

The most extravagant curling match in Scotland is known as the ‘Grand Match’. It is played between the North and South of Scotland on outdoor ice. Here we will take a brief look at the history of the Grand Match.

The most extravagant curling match in Scotland is known as the ‘Grand Match’. It is played between the North and South of Scotland on outdoor ice. Here we will take a brief look at the history of the Grand Match.

The Grand Match of curling really is a spectacular sight. Over 600 rinks of curlers may fight it out to be crowned champion. It is played on one of Scotland’s lochs, but therein lies the problem – it needs to be frozen. Before any curling can take place, at least 7 inches of black ice are needed, most years it doesn’t get cold enough.

(Curling outside in Scotland in 1860 - Image Source)

The first Grand Match was held at Penicuik in January 1847 where a total of 96 curlers took part. The following year, a total of 280 curlers competed on Linlithgow Loch.

Since the first Grand Match of curling took place there has been a total of 38 events. A total of 33 of them were played on outdoor ice; because of the differing weather over the winter months in Scotland, it can be hard to organise such events. That is why most do not go ahead. Of those that did, 1 was in November, 9 in December, 16 in January and 7 in February. The other 5 Grand Match curling events were, scandalously, held indoors – at the Edinburgh and Glasgow Ice Rinks. Such a decision did not go down well with the curling traditionalists who claimed that an indoor Grand Match was not a ‘Grand Match’ at all.

Where such traditionalists stood on the idea of having it outside, but on a ‘man-made’ flooded area, is not quite clear. In 1851, at the Royal Club, a meeting proposed the idea of renting an area of land that could be flooded simple to afford a ‘safe’ playing curling area. Such land was soon found when a Mrs Home Drummond Stirling Moray of Abercairney gave permission for some of her land to be flooded when need be.

By flooding that area, a total of 25 Grand Match curling tournaments were held between 1853 and 1935 and they turned out to be very successful. The last ever Grand Match held there was on the 24th of December 1935. A grand total of 2,576 curling competitors turned up. Things were going well until a rise in temperature caused the ice to thaw. Before long, some curlers found themselves up to their knees in water.

(The Grand Match in 1979 - Image Source)

For those of you who believe that global warming is a real threat then you won’t be surprised to hear that it has only been cold enough in Scotland to play a Grand Match outside in Scotland on 3 occasions since the end of the Second World War. Loch Leven, in 1959 and the Lake of Monteith (Scotland’s only lake) in 1963 & 1979 were hosts.

Every year since 1979, there has been much anticipation that the Grand Match of curling would be able to go ahead, but the weather has not been cold enough to sufficiently freeze one of the lochs.

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Val Mills
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Posted on Jun 4, 2010