TommyP’s Earliest Curling Memories
Earlier this week, I caught up with Tom on his “earliest curling memories”. We are proud of the experience and knowledge that our Owner, Tom, has and we love hearing about his younger curling days and stories, we hope you do too!
Castle Stuart Estate
My first introduction to curling was at my local outdoor rink at Castle Stuart Estate, the home of Dalcross Curling Club (DCC). DCC was formed mainly of the tenant farmers of Moray Estates Devlopment Company (MEDCo). As tenants of the land, they were granted permission from Lord Doune of the Estate to construct the man made Curling pond within the Dalcross Woods. Some of the notable farmers were my father, Tom Pendreigh, Jim Cattell, Hamish Clark and Peter Pottie. The “pond” was dug out by the farmers and was fed by a small stream where a slum was constructed, by local the local joiner Mr Bruce, to divert the water into the pond whenever Jack Frost looked like he was going to pay a visit. Tom Burnett (Burnett’s Bakery) donated a chicken shed which was used as a hut to store the curling stones and other equipment.. (Whisky!) The area was also floodlit so that evening sessions could be played. All in all, a great set up!
The Winter’s of 1962 and 1963
To my memory 1962 and 1963 were very cold winters, with lots of winter ice and eventful days of curling. While the men all curled, the women often gathered round in support and made sure everyone was kept warm with their homemade soup and sandwiches. This soon changed and the women decided that they would like a go instead of doing all the catering. Soon some women’s teams evolved and they took to the roaring games, leading to the evolution of our great women’s teams today. How times have changed!
A Melting Pond
I do remember one day curling there was a sudden thaw… the hardy ones thought they would manage a curling session before the ice melted. The games were still ongoing when the loud sounds of ice cracking echoed through the woods. Cracks then showed on the ice as it began to sag and water engulfed the sheets as the curlers scuttled off the ice as quickly as they could. Some of the men tried to save the stones from sinking but they too slowly sank into the murky water. Fortunately, the pond was only a couple of feet deep so no lives were endangered, however funny it was to see the panic setting in! A few drams later and all was well, a recovery plan organised in the following days to rescue all the sunken equipment.
Building of Indoor Facilities
In the following years Aviemore Ice Rink was built and a few years later Inverness Ice Centre also arrived. I recall taking the train to Aviemore every Saturday to play, until Inverness opened in 1968, which was my preferred option. However, I often did still curl at Aviemore in many, many weekend events. The rink was a superb facility for the winter resort, owned by Stakis, which hosted the World Juniors in the mid 70’s and many other great events like Euro Curl, Under 35’s, several Scottish Championship District Playdowns and the long running Highland Week of International Curling, which is still going today. Aviemore was a a brilliant skating facility too, with a very successful Ice Hockey team (The BlackHawks). The facility was looked after by Jack Dryburgh, with a huge involvement from the South family, Dennis, Sandra, Ishy, Simon and Jonty, alongside many more helpers and volunteers.
The winter’s warmed and the indoor rinks took precedence over the outdoor curling facilities which had made for consistent conditions and no thawing… most of the time! 55 years on from its opening I continue to enjoy playing curling at Inverness Ice Centre, and long may it continue.