Curling runs in Macnair family blood

Cowan Macnair on the ice with his grandsons Rory (10) and Fraser (12) ' his grandfather David, below left, is pictured standing, eighth from the left
Cowan Macnair on the ice with his grandsons Rory (10) and Fraser (12) ' his grandfather David, below left, is pictured standing, eighth from the left

It is safe to say the sport of curling and Falkirk Curling Club hold a special place in the heart of the Macnair family.

When Cowan Macnair (77) was elected president of the club for its bicentenary he was following in the footsteps of his grandfather David Macnair, who was president when the club marked its centenary in 1916.

And the Macnair’s family’s unbreakable link to the club does not end there – Cowan’s grandchildren Rory (10) and Fraser (12) are showing they have a real knack for sliding the stones on the ice as well.

“Rory has taken to it like a duck to water,” said Cowan, who admits he would much rather see his grandsons playing for Falkirk Curling Club rather than their hometown club of Doune.

Now retired and living in Menstrie, Falkirk man Cowan was honoured to be named club president for such a historic year and he will be one of the guests at the top table, along with Provost Pat Reid and the Lord Lieutenant of Stirlingshire, when the organisation celebrates its 200th anniversary at the Leapark Hotel next week.

Cowan said: “I’m very proud to be president at this time. I held the presidency before in 2001, but when the significance of all this became clear it was special.

“I would be president for the 200th year and that links back to my grandfather, who I never actually knew. Thanks to vice president David Westall, who wrote the Falkirk Curling Club bicentenary book, I feel I have got to know more about him.

“I knew he was a curler and I knew he was one of the Falkirk club members who toured Ontario, Canada in the 1920s. He came from the Torphichen area, but how he first got involved in curling I don’t know.”

Not all the Macnair men have taken to the ice and the curling gene seems to skip a generation – Cowan’s father, who had a problem with his vision, never felt the call of curling like his son and Cowan’s son Ewan never took to the ice in earnest either.

Cowan said: “I probably curled for fun when I was a member of Falkirk Round Table in the 1960s and began curling seriously around 1979. I’ve never had a lesson in my life – and it probably shows.

“Right from the start, even just playing for fun with the round table, I enjoyed the experience and gradually built up to club competition. In 2000 myself and 21 other guys toured Canada – another thing I have in common with my grandfather.”

Falkirk Curling Club was in existence for a century before Cowan’s grandfather came along.

The town was actually an ideal location for the sport of curling, blessed as it was with three curling ponds – one at Foot of the Moor, one at Cobblebrae Farm and one at Callendar Loch.

On February 23, 1816 15 men met in Falkirk’s Red Lion Inn and formed what would become Falkirk Curling Society. In those early days, when all matches were held outdoors, curlers were at the mercy of the weather and no matches were held in 1825 due to the “mildness of the season”.

Falkirk Curling Club officially came into being in 1838 and shortly afterwards the Royal Caledonian Curling Club (RCCC), which had Queen Victoria as its patron, was established.

Having moved around for a few years, the club found a home at Bell’s Meadow in the 1870s and just after the turn of the century curlers even had their own club house built at the location.

Another first came in 1908 when the club played an indoor match at Crossmyloof in Glasgow.

Connor’s grandfather was elected president in 1913, but there was little curling during this period, which coincided with the First World War. In its centenary year of 1916 the club did not even meet once.

In 1923 Falkirk Council stumped up £25 to pay the club to vacate Bell’s Meadow and the search for a permanent new base began once more.

Paying £125 from its own funds towards the construction of a new Falkirk Ice Rink, the club began playing at the Grangemouth Road facility when it opened in 1938.

The club stayed at Falkirk Ice Rink until it closed in 1978 and in 1980 it took up residence in the Williamfield Ice Rink in Stirling, where it stayed for over 20 years before moving to its current home at The Peak, also in Stirling, in 2009.

Cowan said: “The Peak has phenomenal facilities for curling and it’s extremely busy. We are always looking for new members and there are ‘come and try’ days available for people to see if they want to take it up.”

There are currently around 30 members of the Falkirk Curling Club, with the youngest being Jane Stirling (22) and the oldest Jim Smith (100).

Jim, who no longer plays, curled from 1932 to 2009 and took part in all the grand outdoor matches in his time. He and fellow member Ronnie Mayes earned medals from the Royal Caledonian Curling Club for their 50 years continuous membership.

Cowan said: “It’s basically a sport you can play your whole life.”

Visit www.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org for more information on curling in Scotland.