granite, ice and brooms

'tis the season to be curling.  The Galt Museum in Lethbridge posted all their old curling photos at the Lethbridge Curling Club last fall hoping that some of the older curlers could identify the people in them.  It was on the radio and someone from the museum was talking about the very earliest curling there where the rocks were carefully and cunningly selected river boulders with flat bottoms.  A hole was drilled and a handle attached.  These were personal rocks: each curler would learn the peculiarities and weight of each rock, all of which would have been different.

Compare this to the official description of curling stones: 'traditionally, curling stones were made from two specific types of granite called Blue Hone and Ailsa Craig Common Green, found on Ailsa Craig, an island off the Ayrshire coast in Scotland'.  The Ailsa Craig quarry has closed; now granite comes from north Wales: Trefor, in blue-grey and red-brown, and is sent to the Canada Curling Stone Company for manufacture.  However, Kays, the Scottish stone manufacturer that took the last of the Ailsa Craig granite out in 2002, has stockpiled 1500 tons of it and supplies the curling stones for the Olympics. 

Did we want to know any of this?  Well, no, but it is sort of interesting.  Evidently Blue Hone, the preferred stone, does not absorb water, thus escaping freeze-thaw cycles which weaken the stone.  This is all worlds away from going down to the Oldman River and choosing a lovely stone.  If it freezes and cracks, well there are a zillion more there for the taking.

This is a rather sweet film of the Queenshill Cup at Castle Douglas in 1952.  It clearly shows why curlers all hold brooms.  I thought it was to polish the ice. Silly me. 

The Queenshill Cup, Castle Douglas, Scotland. 1952

Stephanie Whiteweather