On 23rd December, 1845, ten gentlemen met at the George Inn, Paisley, and decided to form a Curling Club. They then proceeded to draft rules for the club and the first of these was that the dub should be called the St Mirrens Curling Club, a name gradually adjusted to its present form.
Other rules adopted at this initial meeting covered the annual election of office bearers and that all members must be proposed, seconded and admitted by a majority of the members. Later minutes show that latter rule was extended so that members were proposed, seconded, balloted, admitted and initiated! Rejections are also recorded in the minutes.
It was also decided at this initial meeting that each member of the club must be provided with a pair of curling stones and that any six members meeting shall have the power to arrange a game which must adhere to the rules and regulations of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club and which would in these early days be played on outdoor natural ice.
Following this first meeting, members of St. Mirrens Curling Club met for business meetings in the Saracens Head Inn in Paisley and on 29th December 1845 agreed to accept an offer from Robert Horton, mason of Auchinleck, to supply the club with a pair of curling stones each week at a price of fourpence per lb. It was agreed to take five pairs of stones of 30 to 34 lbs each, for delivery by the second week of January 1846. It should be noted that this price meant that, in todays money, a pair of stones cost £l.l7p. Members entry money had been fixed at ten shillings (50p) and the annual subscription at two shillings and sixpence (12½p). An advertisement was also placed in the Glasgow Herald and the Kilmarnock Herald to obtain a further 15 pairs of stones.
On 5th January 1845, the club members met again and, after the business of electing further new members and a committee to look after a curling pond, agreed to a new rule that no member of this club can be a member of any other curling club in Paisley. Competition was under way, and not only on the ice! In 1848 a member of St. Mirren C.C. was reported to be a member of Paisley Iceland Curling Club and was struck off!
The club, apparently through the initial stages of formation and having purchased sufficient curling stones, now applied for membership of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club and was admitted as a member at a meeting in Edinburgh on 30th January, 1846. In 1846 also, a lease was taken of a pond at Hole in Bush (or Holly Bush) Farm, a pond also used by Paisley Union Curling Club. During the winter of 1846-47 curling took place at this pond and also at arranged matches around the district. At a match played at a dam near Barrhead against the Mearns Club for an R.C.C.C. Medal, not only was St. Mirren beaten by 50 shots, but a St. Mirren stone was broken. Later, at a meeting of St. Mirren members, since the stone broken at the Mearns match had been taken to the match without permission of the owner, it was agreed to replace it!
A club medal was purchased and competed for at the Hole in Bush Pond in 1847 and curling continued there until complaints were made about difficulties in transporting curlers, curling stones, crampets and tools for preparing the ice from the town to that pond. These problems also prevented practising the roaring game and in due course another curling pond belonging to the Greenock Railway company at Underwood Railway Arch was found and became the home of the club until it moved to a new curling pond at Corsebar. The Corsebar Pond was used for outdoor curling from 1853 until it was given up in 1933 and a new Clubhouse was built there in 1881 to hold stones and other gear. Although this clubhouse solved some of the transport problems, there still remained the difficulties of transporting stones and equipment when St Mirren rinks played matches at other locations such as at the R.C.C.C. Grand Match held in these days at Carsebreck, the Twelfth Province Bonspiel played then at Castle Semple Lochwinnoch Loch, and R.C.C.C. District Medals competed for at various ponds throughout the West of Scotland, some as far afield as Kilbirnie Loch. Members must have been keen, keen curlers!
In the minute books of the club, covering the 150 years to the present date, there are full and detailed accounts of matches won and lost, of bonspiels, of dinners and curlers courts, of lists of names of office-bearers and members, distinguished, not only in the district and surrounds of Paisley but also throughout the country However, since space is limited and a full history of the club could fill more than one weighty volume, it is proposed to refer now to only some important dates, decisions, occasions and incidents recorded in the minute books.
In 1860, when he was President of the club, Mr. Archibald Gardner became the first President to give a Presidents Prize and, ever since then, the Presidents have followed his example. Trophies and cups also became available for competition at club games. Colonel Archibald C. Campbell, who had been Patron of the club since 1847, presented a handsome trophy to the club for annual competition and this was won at a points game on 18th February, 1873, by Mr. Stewart Clark. This trophy continues to be competed for in the St. Mirren Main League at Greenacres Ice Rink. Mr. Stewart Clark himself presented a cup to the club and members played for this for many years from 1901.
A further cup which had been provided by Mr. John Baird of Saucel for competition by all the curling clubs of Paisley was returned to St. Mirren in 1946 because all the other clubs – Union, Iceland and Boreas – had disappeared, leaving St. Mirren the sole survivor. This cup being surplus to requirements was handed to the directors of the Paisley Ice Rink for competition as a Curling League Cup. When curling was abandoned at the Paisley Ice Rink, the cup was returned to St. Mirren and disposed of.
In 1887 the Patron, now Sir Archibald Campbell Bart and later Lord Blythswood, presented a further cup to the club. About this time there seems to have been long spells of frosty weather when outdoor curling was available. Records show in 1885/86, 21 days of frost fit for curling, 1886/87 had 18 days, 1887/88 gave 19 days, but in the year 1894/95 there was frost from 1st January to 5th March 1895, giving 49 days for curling. There is a note in the minute book that in 1879 there was frost for 5 months!
By 1907 artificial ice was becoming available for curling and by 1908 St. Mirren Curling Club was booking ice at the Scottish Ice Rink at Crossmyloof, Glasgow, and also entering rinks to play in the open competitions on offer there, such as the Stirling Maxwell and the Club Championship Competitions. Thornly Park Tennis Club in 1908 was proposing to form an artificial ice rink on one of their tennis courts in winter to accommodate three rinks. St. Mirren curlers found this scheme too expensive and did not accept. St. Mirren curling still continued at the Corsebar Pond but the ice at Crossmyloof provided regular games which could avoid the weather fears and the dreaded thaw.
In 1914 ladies were admitted to membership of St. Mirren C.C. and six ladies joined. No entry fee was charged, the subscription was the equivalent of 12½p but the ladies were permitted no voice in the club affairs. At the present time there are no ladies who are members of St. Mirren C.C., but ladies are invited to play in bonspiels and, of course, they always attend the dinners which follow the bonspiels and also join the male members in curling weekends at Forrest Hills and Pitlochry or Stranraer.
On the death of Lord Blythswood in 1909, Sir Thomas Glen-Coats, Bart., was invited and accepted the office of Honorary Patron in his place. In 1919 Mr. J. Armour Brown of Moredun, Paisley, also accepted the invitation to serve as an additional Honorary Patron. Mr. Brown was the ground superior of Corsebar Estate and the club was indebted to him for his support and help during their tenancy of the Corsebar Pond and Clubhouse.
At the annual meeting in 1931, reference was made to the jubilee of Mr. Peter McDonald, ice officer of the St. Mirren Curling Club, who had been engaged in 1881 to take charge of the pond at Corsebar and who had served the club faithfully there for fifty years. He had been appointed greenkeeper of Priorscroft in 1881 and during these fifty years had never been absent from the Bowling Green or the Curling Rink in their respective years. Unfortunately Mr. McDonald died suddenly before he could receive the testimonial which the St. Mirren C.C. had planned to present. In the R.C.C.C. Annual 1931-32 a tribute to Mr. McDonald was published together with his photograph.
The lease of the pond at Corsebar was given up in 1933 but the Clubhouse was retained to house the stones and equipment belonging to the club. Eventually the Clubhouse had to be abandoned and was eventually demolished in 1935, with the remaining stones and equipment transferred to an outhouse at Lounsdale Home Farm for storage. Outdoor curling had become only an occasional pleasure to be enjoyed when a suitable sheet of ice could be found. Regular curling now took place at Crossmyloof Ice Rink but the XIIth Province Bonspiel continued for some years to be played at Castle Semple Loch at Lochwinnoch when conditions permitted. On 24th December, 1935, the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Grand Match was held at Carsebreck and St Mirren was represented by two rinks. Curlers had to wait until 16th January 1963, for the next Grand Match.
With the outbreak of the Second World War the activities of the club came to an end and there is a gap in the minute book from the annual meeting in October, 1938 and the next annual general meeting on 5th March, 1946. This meeting was called by the Secretary, well- known Paisley solicitor, Mr. James Gardner Jr. and it was held in his office at 3 County Square. Mr. Gardner had been elected secretary and treasurer in 1929 and he now called together the members, not to arrange celebration of the clubs centenary, as would have been expected in normal times, but to undertake the task of reviving the club. The spirit of curling had still been abroad in the war years for it was reported at this meeting that one afternoons curling had taken place the previous season at the Foxbar pond made available by Mr. Stuart Jack!
From then onwards, the club was in action once more. Over the next few years ice was booked at the Scottish Ice Rink at Crossmyloof, fixtures and competitions arranged and new members enrolled. A few rinks were booked at the Paisley Ice Rink at Lacy Street, but curling soon ceased there. Trophies and cups were called in and examined and to provide additional funds for the club, a decision was taken to sell the Stewart Clark Cup and other silverware deemed to be surplus to the requirements of the club at that time!
From 1946 until 1962, much of the credit for the revival and reorganisation of St. Mirren Curling Club must go to Mr. James Gardner who, when he died in office in 1962, had served the club as honorary secretary and treasurer for over 32 years. Mr. William Roberts, who followed in office, also gave the club enthusiastic service over a long period. When he retired in 1976 he had been in office almost 20 years, with 5 years as match secretary before he was elected to the post of secretary and treasurer. In present times, the secretary is expected to serve for three years only!
The big event in 1963 was the Grand Match of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club at Lake of Menteith on 16th January of that year. The match between North and South was enjoyed by some 1,800 curlers, including one rink representing St. Mirren C.C. The next time that Jack Frost provided the ice for a Grand Match, it was also played at Lake of Menteith in the 1978/79 season and 7 curlers turned out to play for St. Mirren. In recent years St. Mirren curlers have, on a few occasions, enjoyed curling outdoors at the Peesweep and the last game on natural ice was at the Candrens area.
In the 1960s curling continued with club games mainly at Crossmyloof with some extra ice for one or two rinks at Hamilton and Ayr Ice Rink. Some decisions were taken to improve the running of the club. These included limiting membership to 32 playing members, membership to be by invitation only and a new President to be elected each year so that the honour might be spread throughout the membership Over the years too, the ancient appointment of a Patron has disappeared and the club now has an Honorary President and there are also two Honorary Vice-Presidents in addition to the usual office-bearers. The present Honorary President of the club is long serving member Mr. Alec Martin.
A further new rule brought in about this time was a decision to increase the annual subscription of the club to include all ice charges for League, Supplementary, Presidents and Vice-Presidents Games with the Secretary becoming responsible for bulk payment of ice charges. This arrangement has proved most successful and continues today.
In the 1970s the club members became dissatisfied with both the condition of the ice and the allocation of rinks at Crossmyloof. When the Magnum Sports Centre was built at Irvine, the club applied and received an allocation of ice at the ice rink there. For several seasons the supplementary League games were played at that rink.
Travelling to Irvine presented a problem for some players and, when the new Greenacres Ice Rink was built, St. Mirren Curling Club decided to support this venture and each Member contributed to the interest free loan scheme offered by the Greenacres Ice Rink. Application for ice was made and curling began there from September, 1979. St. Mirren members also took up the offer of Life Membership of the Greenacres Curling Club. The club secretary was instructed to apply for the St. Mirren normal allocation of ice at the Scottish Ice Rink and at the Magnum Centre, dropping applications to both Ayr and Hamilton.
The use of Greenacres Ice Rink proved to be of great benefit to St. Mirren curlers and, with more curling available, application for ice at the Scottish Ice Rink was discontinued in 1984. When additional rinks became available at Greenacres, the club ceased to curl at the Magnum Centre in Irvine and all fixtures were played throughout the season at Greenacres Ice Rink.
At present, two League Competitions are played during each season. The Main League consisting of six rinks with skips who are elected annually, competes for the Archibald Campbell Trophy and individual club prizes, while the Bird League, also with six rinks, competes for the appropriately named Bird Trophy presented to St. Mirren originally by the two members, Hugh CRAW and ROBIN Young. In this Bird League the skips elected for the Main League are required to play only in the position of lead.
Each year there are two club bonspiels. The first competes for the Alastair Pottie Memorial Shield and the Vice Presidents Prizes; the second bonspiel competes for the Presidents Prizes. Ladies now join the members in playing these bonspiels which are followed by a dinner when the members and ladies enjoy, without fail, the most convivial ending to the days curling.
During the season St. Mirren maintains friendly relations with neighbouring clubs by taking part in the County Cup, Matt Kyle Trophy and Peter Kerr Trophy competitions as well as in Friendly Games with other clubs in the area.
Rinks play in the Twelfth Province Bonspiel and other Province Matches, R.C.C.C matches for District Medals and other inter-club competitions presented at Greenacres Ice Rink. Traditionally, an entry is made for the R.C.C.C. Grand Match which has not been played since the 1978/79 season. Success in these various contests has varied throughout the years, but many notable wins have been scored.
Curling weekends are enjoyed from time to time at Forrest Hills, Pitlochry and other curling centres. The St. Mirren C.C. has photograph albums which record for posterity vivid images captured at these curling weekends and other gatherings of members and friends on the ice and at social functions. Most of the pictures bear appropriate captions!
For many years now there has been a St. Mirren Golf Outing at Ranfurly Castle Golf Club at Bridge of Weir each summer when club members take the opportunity to display their prowess, or lack of it, at that other Scottish game. This is always a notable event and is made unique by the service of refreshments to sustain the golfers at various points on the golf course.
The history of the club records that, during the years, members took part in Curlers Courts and Dinners in traditional manner. The highlight of the 1994-95 curling season was almost certainly the Curlers Court and Dinner held at Greenacres Ice Rink on 10th February 1995. Forty four members and guests enjoyed an excellent meal and witnessed the Court which followed. It was fitting that event took place as the club members were about to celebrate the clubs 150th Anniversary.
Given the enthusiasm, the competitive curling spirit and the friendliness throughout the membership, there is little doubt that St. Mirren Curling Club will continue in strength well into the next century and beyond.
Compiled and written by
the late Albert Ferguson
at the time Honorary Vice President, later Honorary President
Paisley St. Mirren Curling Club