A Brief History of Penicuik Curling Club
In 1815 a group of curlers from the parish met in a village hostelry to constitute a club that would ‘confer honorary distinction upon merit, which would naturally create an emulation which would terminate in improvement’. This move may well have been prompted by the local Laird, Sir George Clerk who was a curler himself. Sir George went on to award an annual silver medal for the Club Championship, and played as a member whenever his duties as a cabinet minister in the British government permitted.
Home ice for the Club was on the ponds of Penicuik House Estate. Once formed, the Club immediately involved itself in challenge matches with nearby clubs, playing Merchiston both home and away, Lasswade, and Newlands, in the winter of 1816-17. Competition for the Sir George Clerk medal was fierce, the winner becoming the Club President as well as the champion; the early consistent winner being James Dods, a local hotel manager and postmaster. These early championships were based on individual merit at playing Points. The Club still retains a strong tradition in Points, playing for two medals each season, and contesting an annual Team Points match against our opponents of long ago, Merchiston.
By the 1830’s, the Club was not only competing in inter-county matches, it was actively involved in organising such ventures. In 1838, several members, including Dr John Renton, were instrumental in the formation of the Grand Caledonian Curling Club, the forerunner of the ‘Royal Club’. Penicuik is one of the few clubs to have had continuous affiliation to this body since its formation. The Club gained its first Royal Club District Medal in 1843 and went on to gain a further 22 District Medals by the time of its centenary in 1914.
The Club assisted Sir George in hosting the first Grand Match, held at Penicuik in January 1847. Subsequently, as the town developed during the industrial revolution, effective patronage and influence was to transfer to successive generations of the Cowan family, a dynasty in the paper-making industry. The Club consolidated by building a Curling House at the Low Pond to store stones and equipment. In its first century members of the Club came from many walks of life; farmers, merchants, clergymen, craftsmen, tradesmen, physicians, soldiers, the odd scientist or two such as James Niven (botanist) and James Orr Ewing (animal biologist), and towards the end of this period also included employees from the local paper mills.
Moving into its second century, there may have been some reluctance on the part of the Club to fully embrace the ‘artificial ice’ that had become available at Haymarket Ice Rink in Edinburgh, the Club playing in Province Bonspiels at Cobbingshaw Loch but often opting not to play when the event was played at Haymarket. Never-the-less the Club maintained its membership base and by the mid 1950’s began to take regular ice at Haymarket for league matches. Intakes of new members in the period 1965-1980 were to prove influential, sparking a renaissance of the outward looking and challenging spirit of earlier days. More and more ice was required for a growing list of club competitions, and members participated extensively in inter-club competitions. In 1987, Martin Brown played in Lindsay Scotland’s rink that won the Scottish Championship and went on to represent Scotland in European Championships. Subsequently his father, Walter Brown, skipped a rink that included Ian McKay to win the Scottish Senior title in 1996.
Today, the Penicuik Club maintains links forged in times past through an annual challenge match with West Linton, the Points Match with Merchiston, and social fixtures with others. It is also building new links through fixtures with more recently established clubs. But whenever Jack Frost obliges with an icy world, the Club still delights in the pleasures, sights, and sounds of the ‘roaring game’ shared amongst friends on our old home ice, the Low Pond at Penicuik House Estate.
First Minute Book 1815-1838 (PDF 4.5MB)
Minutes 1838-74 (PDF 1 MB)
Minutes 1875-1916 (PDF 0.7 MB)