The British Open Curling Championship

Towards the end of 1944 it appeared that the war in Europe was going well and the management at the Falkirk Ice Rink were looking to the future.  After much discussion, in the first week of December, the Falkirk Herald carried a promotional news story:

“Arrangements have been made to hold the British Open Curling Championship at the Falkirk Ice Rink in the week commencing 5th February, 1945. It is anticipated that entries will be received from all over Great Britain.  Most of the leading British players have already played over the Falkirk Ice and have congratulated the management on its quality.  It is a fitting reward for all the work which has been done to obtain this standard, that the British championship is to be staged on the Falkirk Rink.  Mr Festus Moffat, who is acting as secretary of the tournament, informs us that the championship trophy is open for competition to any four curlers.  The winners, in addition to retaining the trophy for a year, are made the recipients of individual prizes, and the runners-up also receive individual prizes.  During the championship week, a curlers’ dinner is to be held on the Tuesday, and an ice hockey match is being staged for the Wednesday, and on Thursday a dance, which will consist largely of old-fashioned dances, with Harold M’Ardle and William Hannah and his band, will help to make the championship week of greater interest.”

The Falkirk Ice Rink management said that they were keen to promote the ancient game of curling which they saw as a national cultural asset and adopted the motto “The Game for the sake of the Game.”  The British Championship Trophy was a 15ins diameter solid silver bowl of Queen Anne design with a fluted body on an ebony plinth.  During the week before the competition it was displayed in the window of W B Callander, jeweller, 130 High Street, Falkirk.  To emphasise the importance of the occasion it was arranged that the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Right Hon, Thomas Johnston, PC, MP, would present the trophy and that the event would be recorded for broadcasting.

Feb 1945William Scobie, CorstorphineJ Wardlaw, Laurieston70
Feb 1946R B Dick, BraidwoodA A Mayes, Falkirk98
Feb 1947D S Rutherford, BiggarJ Scott, Falkirk102
Feb 1948J Robertson, Crossmyloof  (Glasgow)William Smith, Mauchline96
Feb 1949J Sellar, MerchistonWilliam Scobbie, Corstorphine96
Feb 1950William Young, AirthW Robertson, Little Denny102
Feb 1951William Young, AirthGeorge Lindsay, Kilmarnock102
Feb 1952James Sanderson, Oxenfoord108
Feb 1953William Young, AirthT Timmons, Ballingry108
Feb 1954John Robertson, GlasgowWilliam Young, Airth96
Feb 1955J Sellar, Merchiston (wife)K Melville, Glendoick96
Feb 195644
Feb 1957
Feb 195896
Feb 1959George Lindsay. Waterside96
Feb 1960David Kinnaird, KinglassieBonnybridge98
Feb 1961
Feb 1962WW McIntosh, Gask
Feb 1963George Haggart, Crieff96
Feb 1964Chuck Hay, Perth
Feb 1965George Haggart, Monzie & Cultoquhey
Table: The British Open Curling Championship Winners at Falkirk.
Illus: Front cover of the March 1954 issue of the Scottish Curler captioned, “A Full House … and Willie Young and his rink look for a way in.  In this grand head, the 6th end in the ‘British’ final, 14 stones are grouped round the tee and Willie Young has the last stone.”

It is not surprising given the nature of the game and the venue of the championship that the majority of the curling teams were from Scotland.  The Canadian representation increased over the years and in the early 1960s there was even a team from Wigan!  Those from Central Scotland dominated.  The establishment of the Falkirk Ice Rink had done much to promote the game in the locality and the local teams did remarkably well.  In 1950 there was an all Falkirk final when Willie Young skipped a team from Airth against that of W Robertson of Little Denny.  Young triumphed on three separate occasions.

Indoor curling had advanced the playing of the game by women and in 1949 a ladies’ rink caused a surprise by beating the 1946 winners in an opening round.  They were eliminated by a Canadian team in the following match.  It was 1955 before the first woman had her name on the trophy.  That year James Sellar was the winning skip and his wife, Rena, was the lead on his team.

Illus: 1954 – Drinking from the Trophy traditionally filled with whisky.
March 1955J McGregor,StrathavenPark, Larbert
March 1962Nicol, Thornton
March 196258
Table: Some of the Ladies British Open Championship Winners at Falkirk.

In 1950 the Ladies British Open Championship was inaugurated at the Falkirk Rink and took place there annually at the end of the usual curling season in mid-March.  It was unique in that the Muirhead Bellsdye trophy was played in the same week for those not successful in the first round.

When the Falkirk Ice Rink closed to ice sports in 1977 the British Open Championship was transferred to Stirling.

G.B. Bailey, 2022

To read about Boxing at Falkirk Ice Rink, CLICK HERE