Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

The Canadian Curler's Manual
Part I

Curling.—Is a Game played upon the ice, by sliding stones, made for the purpose, from one point to another. In some respects it resembles Bowling, but with these differences, that the stones are slidden upon the ice, not rolled—neither are they made like Bowls, to curve on their passage; the points, also, to which the stones are played are stationary, whereas in Bowling the Jack is moveable; and in Curling, the ice in the path of the stone may be polished by sweeping—and thus the players may compensate for the want of force with which a stone may have been thrown.

Pennant, in his “Tour through Scotland” gives the following rough description of the Game:—“Of all the sports in those parts, that of Curling is the favorite. It is an amusement of the winter, and played upon the ice, by sliding from one mark to another, great stones of 40 to 70 lbs. weight, of a hemispherical form, with a wooden or iron handle at top. The object of the player is to lay his stone as near the mark as possible, to guard that of his partner which has been well laid before, or to strike off that of his antagonist.” Such is a brief outline of that Game, a fuller description of which is attempted in the following pages.

Stones.—These are made of granite, or of any other stone which is hard, free from sand, and not liable to break. They are cut into a spherical form, flattened at top and bottom, and the angles rounded off and polished, particularly that at the sole. The handle is inserted in the top. Though they must all be made circular, the proportion of the diameter to the thickness varies in different districts; some being made more and some less than twi ce as wide as they are thick. The Grand Caledonian Curling Club has lately suggested the following scale—the first attempt that has been made to regulate the proportions of Curling Stones—and which for the sake of uniformity, it is hoped, will be adopted, viz:—

“When the weight is under

35 lbs. imp., the height not to be more than 4¼ inches.
38 lbs.................................4½    inches.
41 lbs.................................4¾   inches.
44 lbs.................................5    inches.
47 lbs.................................5¼   inches.
50 lbs.................................5½ inches.

“Whatever be the diameter or weight, the height ought never to exceed 6 1/8 inches, nor be less than 4 ¼inches—None ought to be allowed in a set game of greater diameter than 12 inches, nor of a greater weight than 50 lbs. imperial.”

Stones are sometimes so finished as to slide on either of the flattened surfaces, one of which in such cases, is made slightly concave, and on this side the stone is played when the ice is hard and keen; the other, a little convex, being used when the ice is soft and dull.

In some parts of Canada, where suitable stone cannot readily be procured, iron or wood has been substituted. At Quebec and Montreal, castings of iron, in the shape of Curling Stones, are played with—the intensity of the cold there, rendering the stones liable to break on striking against one another. Iron is used also by the Curlers of Dundas, in the Gore District; and at Guelph, where the Game has some ardent admirers, they play with blocks of hard wood. At Toronto, and the Curling localities in the neighborhood, stones only have been used; part having been imported from Scotland, and others having been made by the stone-cutter to the Club, from blocks of excellent quality picked up by him on the land in the vicinity. Several of the stones imported to Toronto have been made from Ailsa Craig, which, it appears, has long been known as an excellent material for the purpose; one of those now referred to having been played with by the father of the present owner, at least sixty years ago.

The Rink.—The ice on which the game is played is called the Rink. This should be a sheet of fifty yards in length and four yards in width; perfectly free from every inequality. At the distance of four yards from each end of the rink, and in the middle crosswise, a circular hole is made, about an inch in diameter and the same in depth, called the “tee.” Round the tee two or more circular lines are drawn, the largest having a diameter of about five feet, the others smaller and at intermediate distances. The space within the largest circle is called the “brough.” The use of the circular lines is to shew, while the game is being played, the comparative nearness of the stones to the tee; actual measurement not being allowed until all the stones have been played to one end of the rink. A line is also drawn across the tee, at right angles with the rink lengthwise, and extending to the outermost circle, the use of which will be shewn in the remarks relating to sweeping. At the distance of seven yards from each of the tees a line is drawn across the rink, called the “hog-score,” and stones which on being played do not pass this score are called “hogs” and lose for that time the chance of counting, being distanced or thrown off the rink.

Playing.—When the player is about to throw his stones, he places himself at one end of the rink, rests his right foot in a notch, or “hack” made in the ice,1 and in such a relation to the tee that when he delivers his stone it must pass over it. He is directed by one of the players of his own party, styled the “skip” who stands at or near the tee to which the stone is to be played, and who usually makes use of his broom to indicate the point to which, or the line along which, he wishes the stone to be played. Should the stone be delivered with the proper degree of strength, and in the direction pointed out to the player by the skip, it will either rest at the spot required, or receiving, as the skip intended, a new direction by coming in contact with some other stone, will effect the desired purpose. The player on delivering his stone raises it off the ice, and swinging it once behind him to acquire a proper impetus, and to make surer of his aim, keeping his eye, at the same time, steadily fixed on the broom of the skip, or on any stone, or other object towards or against which he may be desired to play, throws it in that direction. The stone reaching the ice on its sole about two feet in front of the player—his body naturally following the same direction until the stone be fairly delivered.

Sweeping.—For the purpose of Sweeping, every player is furnished with a broom, by means of which the ice may sometimes be so polished that a stone may reach the tee, which, without sweeping, could not have passed the hog score. When a stone, therefore, in its progress up the rink appears to the skip to have been thrown with insufficient force, he directs his party to sweep the ice in its path. The party opposed to that whose stone is coming up is not allowed to sweep in front of the line drawn across the brough, but may sweep behind it, so as to let the stone, if it should pass the tee, go far enough beyond it, to lose the chance of counting.

The brooms used in Scotland are usually made of “broom,” sometimes of birch twigs, and occasionally of heather, as one or other may be found most convenient to the place of playing. In Canada, “corn brooms” which have been used for domestic purposes a sufficient length of time to be stripped of the knotty parts which might break off and obstruct the progress of the stone, have been found to be the best. Some Curlers in Scarboro', near Toronto, who have immigrated from Lanarkshire, have imported stocks of the genuine Scotch broom, which, under their cultivation, thrives so well as to promise to supersede the use of every other material.

The Game.—The usual mode of playing the game is with 16 stones on a rink. This number is sufficient to impart interest to the playing, and more would towards the end of the head, crowd the ice. Sometimes these are played by four players on each side, playing two stones each, which mode may be preferable when a few only are exercising for practice; but in such case the sweeping, which —unless the ice be very keen—is essential to success, can never be properly attended to, as the skip and player being sufficiently occupied in their own departments, only two brooms can be effectively employed at the same time. The most interesting game, therefore, is where there are sixteen players on a rink, with one stone each, eight players on each side; and a game so played is now to be described.

The parties determine by lot which is to “have the ice” or in other words, which is to play the first stone. It is doubtful whether it be an advantage to win the ice, as the party who loses this plays the last stone—the most important in determining the result of the head. The side who wins the end plays the first stone on the end following.

The skip of the party who is to play first, stationing himself on that tee towards which the stones are to be thrown., directs the player who is to “lead” or play the first stone, on his side. When this stone is played the skip of the opposite party takes the same post, pointing out to his first player how he wishes his stone to be played. Each side plays one stone alternately, and the object of each successive player is to draw nearer the tee than any of his opponents, to strike out their winning shots, or to guard the winners of his own party. The earlier stages of the end therefore appear simple enough; but after the first eight or ten stones have been played, especially when they have been played well, the game becomes more intricate and more interesting. One party may have a stone covering the tee, apparently guarded on every side, and impregnable to attack, the stones of their opponents having only strengthened its position; yet some stone which, either from a ruse on the part of the director, or from being badly played, has rested near the edge of the rink and seems to be lost for that end, may furnish a point to which another stone may be slidden, and receiving thence a new direction may reach the winner, and removing it from the tee, become itself the winning stone.

The director generally plays the last stone on his own side. The seventh player is usually appointed to that position in the order of the game on account of his being a correct and powerful player, so that he may, when necessary, open up a path for the stone of the “hind hand.”

When the stones are all played to one end of the rink, the game is counted, and every stone which either party has nearer the tee than any stone of their opponents, counts one shot or point; and such portion of the game is styled an “end” or “head.”

The number of shots in a game is variable, depending on agreement. The Toronto Club usually play for 31, in a regular game; and in their matches among themselves, or with the Scarboro’ Curlers, when more than one rink has been engaged, the practice has been, either to play to an hour specified, or to stop before that hour should the aggregate shots of either party on all the rinks collectively amount to thirty-one for each rink. In Scotland, where the continuance of the curling season is very precarious, all who have it in their power, play the whole of every day while the ice will permit, and, consequently, the number of shots played for is more uniform. At Toronto, where Curling may be practised almost daily, fully three months in the year, the rink is resorted to for one or two hours’ recreation, and seven, thirteen, or twenty-one shots are frequently fixed on as the game, according to the time intended to be devoted to the exercise.

Laws of the Game.—In every district of Scotland, and in almost every club, some differences are to be found in the mode of conducting the game. Little difficulty, however, is there experienced from the want of written laws, the lex non scripta of every parish or county being perfectly understood where it is in force. Still in Edinburgh and a few other places where Curlers from distant Clubs are likely to meet, it has been found necessary to have their laws reduced to writing so that from whatever part of the country the player might come, he could not be ignorant of the rules by which his playing was to be governed. At Toronto, the want of a written code of laws, was for a number of years, felt to be inconvenient—few of the original Curlers having been accustomed to play exactly according to the same system. It was, therefore, one of the first objects of the Toronto Curling Club, after its formation, to draw up a set of Rules, founded on the prevailing practice in Scotland. The following, therefore, were agreed to—and although not applicable to every case that may be conceived, they have been found sufficient to decide, satisfactorily, every difficulty that has occurred during the experience of four years; and have been cheerfully agreed to by the Scarboro’ Curlers, in their matches with those of Toronto.

1st.—The Rink to be forty-two yards from tee to tee, 2 unless otherwise agreed upon by the parties. When a game is begun the rink cannot be changed or altered unless by the consent of a majority of players, and it can be shortened only when it is apparent that a majority cannot play the length.

2nd.—The hog score must be distant from the tee one-sixth part of the length of the rink. Every stone to be deemed a hog, the sole of which, when at rest, does not completely clear the score.

3rd.—Every player to foot so that in delivering his stone, it shall pass over the tee.

4th.—The order of playing adopted at the beginning must not be changed during a game.

5th.—Curling-stones must be of a circular shape. No stone to be changed during a game, t unless it happen to be broken; and the largest fragment of such stone to count, without any necessity of playing with it more. If a stone roll or be upset, it must be placed upon its sole where it stops. Should the handle quit a stone in the delivery, the player must keep hold of it, otherwise he will not be entitled to replay the shot.

6th.—The player may sweep his own stone the whole length of the rink; his party not to sweep until it has passed the first hog score, and his adversaries not to sweep until it has passed the tee—the sweeping to be always to a side.

7th.—None of the players, on any account, to cross or go upon the middle of the rink.

8th.—If, in sweeping or otherwise, a running stone is marred by any of the party to which it belongs, it must be put off the rink; if by any of the adverse party, it must be placed agreeably to the direction which was given to the player; and if it be marred by any other means, the player may take his shot again. Should a stone at rest be accidentally displaced, it must be put as near as possible in its former situation.

9th.—Every player must be ready when his turn comes,3 and must take only a reasonable time to play his shot—should he, by mistake, play with a wrong stone, it must be replaced where it stops, by the one which he ought to have played.

10th.—A doubtful shot must be measured by a neutral person, whose determination shall be final.

11th.—The skips alone shall direct the game. The players of the respective skips may offer them their advice, but cannot control their directions; nor is any person, except the skip, to address him who is about to play. Each skip may appoint one of his party to take charge for him, when he is about to play. Every player to follow the direction given to him.

12th.—Should any question arise, the determination of which may not be provided for by the words and spirit of the preceding Rules, each party to choose one of their number, in order to determine it. If the two so chosen differ in opinion, they are to name an umpire, whose decision shall be final.

When a few players are curling for practice, or recreation, some of the above laws may not be rigidly enforced; but any relaxation should always be noticed, so that there may be no difficulty in strictly adhering to them when playing a Bonspiel, or set game.

The preceding account has been, as far as practicable, divested of technical terms, in order that it might be the more intelligible to the uninitiated. Many of the words and phrases, however, used in Curling are peculiar to the game—throwing light on its origin and history,—and it would now be as difficult for

Curlers to abolish the language of the rink, as it would be for the gentlemen of certain learned professions, to substitute the Queen’s English for their most unclassical Latin. An explanation of the following terms, which are in constant use, is therefore indispensable in a work of this nature;

Angled Guard—A stone which obliquely covers or guards one stone or more.

Bias—An inclination in the ice, tending to lead a stone off the direction given to it by the player.

Block the ice—See '‘fill the ice.”

Boardhead—See "brough."

Bonspel, bonspid, bonspeel—(French bon, good, and Belgic spell, a play—a good game; or Suio-Gothic, bonne, a husbandman; or Belgic, bonne, a village or district; because one district challenges another to play at this game.) A match at Curling between two opposite parties. Break an egg on—To strike one stone very gently with another.

Brough—(Alemanic, bruchus, a camp, often circular). The space within the largest circle drawn round the tee.

Channel-stane,—A Curling stone is so named in the southern counties of Scotland, probably from stones found in streams having been first used for curling.

Chuckle to—To make two or more inwicks up a port to a given stone.

Creep—(Come creeping up the rink) the stones are said to creep when they are thrown with little force.

Curling—(German, kurzweillin, to play for amusement; or Teutonic, krullen, krollen, sinuare, to bend,—as the great art of the game is to make the stones bend, twist (quod vide),Curl, towards the mark, when they cannot reach it in a straight line.) Sliding stones along the ice towards a mark.

Dead guard—A stone which completely covers another, concealing it from the view of the next player, is a dead guard upon that other.

Deliver—To throw the stone.

Director—The same as “skip” or “skipper.”

Draw a shot—to play to a spot pointed out by the director, having no other stone to strike or rest upon.

Dour, drug, dull—The state of the ice when the stone cannot easily be thrown the length of the rink.

End—That portion of the game in which the stones are all played to one end of the rink.

Guard—To lay a stone in a line before another; or the stone so laid.

Hack, or hatch—(Icelandic, hiaka, or Suio-Gothic hacka, a chop, cut, or crack), a cut in the ice, in which the player places his foot to prevent it from slipping as he delivers his stone.

Head—See “End.”

Hindhand—He who plays the last stone on his side.

Hog Score—The line drawn across the rink, about seven yards from the tee; stones which do not pass this are thrown aside.

How ice—The ice in the middle of the rink, hollowed by the friction of the stones; also called white ice.

Inring, inwick—See “Wicking.”

Keen—The opposite of dour.

Leader—He who plays first in order in his party, c

Lie in the bosom of—To play a stone so as gently to touch and lie before another.

Outwick—See “Wicking.”

Pat lid—A Curling stone lying on the tee.

Port—An opening between two stones, wide enough to admit another to be played through.

Rack—A word used in some districts instead of rink.

Redd the ice—(Icelandic, rada ordinare, to put in order; also, to warn, to advise,) to clear the ice, or to break the guards with a stone strongly played, so as to expose the tee or the winner; to “ride” successfully.

Rest—To draw to any object or point so as not to pass it.

Ride—To throw a stone with great force towards one or more other stones, in order to remove them from their position.

Rink—The ice on which the game is played.

Shot—A stone played; in another sense, a stone which counts.

Skip, or skipper—(Probably from Suio-Gothic, skeppare, a master), a director.

Tee—(Icelandic, tia, to point out the place; or, Teutonic, tygh-en, to point to), the winning point to which the stones are played.

Twist—To give to a stone, on its being delivered, a rotary motion, so that it revolves on its sole as it slides along the rink, and bends from the straight line, when the force with which it has been thrown is nearly exhausted.

Wicking, wick, inwick—(Suio-Gothic wick, a corner; or Teutonic, wyck, a turning), to make a stone take an oblique direction by striking another on the side.

Note 1

Other contrivances than the hack are used in some places to prevent the foot of the player from slipping. Sometimes a thin board is laid on the ice, on which he places both his feet. At Toronto, the hack is considered the best, and although the Club has “crampits” for the benefit of those accustomed to them, they are required only by strangers or novices, experience demonstrating their uselessness.

Note 2

The Grand Caledonian Curling Club recommend that rinks have double tees at each end, the one at least two yards behind the other; the whole four to be nearly as possible on the same line. The stones are to be delivered from the outer tee and played towards the inner; this saves the ice from being injured around the tee played up to.

With regard to double-soled stones, the Grand Caledonian Curling Club has a law that the side commenced with shall not, under forfeiture of the match, be changed during the progress of the game.

Note 3

An excellent method of obviating the confusion which is sometimes experienced in the early ends of a game, by players being doubtful of their places is, that before commencing, the players on each side of a rink should ‘ ‘fall in’ ’ in the order in winch it is intended they shall play, and “number off from right to left.” The player who makes a mistake after this has been done is fit neither for a Curler nor a Soldier. This method has been practised at Toronto since the winter of 1837-38—when military terms and ideas were infused into every department of life.

Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.