THE START of the curling season marked a very special occasion for one local club.
Members of Falkirk Ladies Curling Club (FLCC) are celebrating 70 years on the ice and are using the event to issue a warm welcome to anyone interested in joining them.
Although not the oldest female curling group in Scotland – Glenfarg LCC was instituted in 1875 – the ladies are delighted with the milestone.
And celebrations during the coming season will include a special anniversary dinner at the club's next prizegiving ceremony in March.
President Margaret McKindlay told Heraldsport: "Curling is a great sport for people of all ages – we even have one member who is 80 and she's still taking part, no problem.
"We have always maintained a healthy membership too and ladies come from all over, including Comrie, Perthshire, Linlithgow and Hillfoots.
"It's up to around 40 now, which is not too dissimilar from what it was 70 years ago, but we're always looking for new people to join in."
The club formed in 1938 and was originally known as Randyford Ladies CC. The first president was Winifred Robertson and membership sat at a comfortable 45.
Just one year later it was renamed Falkirk Ladies Curling Club and, after a break during the war years, continued to be as popular as ever.
In fact, it was so big in the 1960s that it reformed into two separate clubs – Falkirk Ladies and Forth Valley Ladies.
Even when Falkirk Ice Rink closed in 1978 that didn't diminish local women's enthusiasm for the sport and keen curlers travelled as far as Haymarket, Kinross and Gogar until 1980 when Stirling Ice Rink opened. "And we're still there today!" said Margaret.
Curling, as a sport, is believed to have been invented in Scotland in the 16th Century, and Perth is home to the World Curling Federation.
The women's game hit international headlines in 2002 when the British curling team, led by Scottish skipper Rhona Martin, won the country's first Winter Olympics gold medal for 18 years.
"Britain's curlers usually do very well at the Winter Olympics, which is great because the sport is popular in so many countries," said Margaret.
There's more to FLCC than just competitions, however.
"Curling is excellent cardio-vascular exercise which comes from all the sweeping we do with the brooms," Margaret explained.
"We are also a very social, friendly club. We have dinners, lunches and golf outings.
"And for people who can't bend down very easily, we have sticks called cues to push the stones. A few of our members use them so people who thought they would have to give up curling because of back problems now don't have to."
FLCC meet every Tuesday morning between September and March at 10 a.m. at Stirling Ice Rink and new members will be made very welcome.
For more information contact secretary Morag Duncan on (01324) 625496.