Sunday, March 2, 2014

Family History Writing Challenge Week #4 Recap: Curling

This is post wraps up the Family History Writing Challenge, a month-long challenge to stop researching our ancestors and start writing about them. I experienced frustration, learned some valuable lessons, wrote about the places in which my Scottish Muirs lived and people for which I had few facts. But what did people do with the little leisure time they had?  Last week I was looking at the 1858 British Ordnance Survey map for East Kilbride parish. I spotted something interesting -- a curling pond near Swinhill Farm, the home of my 3X great grandparents, Peter and Janet (Torrance) Semple. Perfect timing since one of my favorite Olympic sports is curling. I guess it's my Scottish roots showing!

Curling pond near Swinhill, Dalserf, Lanarkshire

John Quinn a notary in Paisley, Scotland, first described the sport in 1541 when he wrote about a challenge between a monk in Paisley Abbey and a representative of the abbot. The word curling was first used in 1620 in the a poem written by Henry Adamson. We also know the weavers of East Ayrshire relaxed by playing curling matches. They used the heavy stone weights from their warp beams outfit with a detachable handle. The brass handles were frequently kept on the mantle of the home's fireplace, and wives would keep them highly polished. Scottish immigrants brought the game with them to Canada where it is firmly established today and a winter Olympic sport.

Curling on a lake in Nova Scotia, Canada, in 1892; photo courtesy of Wikipedia
By 1830 curling was so popular, there was a demand for a national rule-making body to regulate the game as many variations were played. By 1838 almost every parish in Scotland had its own custom-made curling pond. If my Muir ancestors played, I imagine couldn't afford to join a club, but rather gathered with other at-leisure miners on the local pond for a game.

How did I do?


  1. My Scottish roots must be showing too. I read your post with interest. I also love curling and was surprised to see it combined with a family history post. I guess I need to spend more time looking at my Scottish ancestors to see if they were curler's too.

    1. Ann, got to love our Scottish roots! I have been working on my Muir line for several weeks and trying to wrestle all the facts into an interesting story my family will enjoy. I hope these little side stories are helpful; I simply couldn't resist the curling pond.