Larbert curlers spend 175 years on ice

Larbert Curling Club pictured here in 1980, the last time they played outdoors
Larbert Curling Club pictured here in 1980, the last time they played outdoors

Larbert Curling Club marked its 175th anniversary this season – members just aren’t sure exactly when.

The winter sports club was formed sometime in 1838, meeting at the pond at Larbert House, near to where Forth Valley Royal Hospital now stands. Today, the group plays at The Peak in Stirling and hasn’t enjoyed an outdoor game since 1981.

Club chairman and secretary Bill Robertson said: “Obviously when the club was formed, all games were played outside and so there would be seasons or even years when they didn’t get to play. Once indoor ice rinks were introduced to Scotland, the club played its first indoor game at Crossmyloof in Glasgow in 1908 and, when Falkirk Ice Rink opened 1938, the club moved to practice there.”

Bill joined the club in the 1989 and was made secretary soon after. In his time with the group, it has met at Falkirk Ice Rink, Williamfield in Stirling and now at The Peak – never playing in Larbert despite its name.

“Looking back at old records, it appears we weren’t allowed to go to the pond at Larbert House following a change in ownership and then started to play at Torwood. I’ve not managed to find exactly when the club was formed, but we know it was in 1838.

“In my 25 years with Larbert Curling Club there have been no outdoor games. Today there are lots of health and safety rules to be ticked off before a game can go ahead, and it’s different stones and rules for outdoor play. But we do still have the original outdoor stones, dating back probably from when the club was formed. They are in members sheds and gardens waiting for a very cold winter and they can perhaps get used again.”

The club was suspended in 1914 following the outbreak of World War One and there are no reports again until 1920. Indoor games were played at Haymarket in Edinburgh from 1927 and women have been mentioned in reports since 1970.

Curling has seen a boost in popularity this year following the British team’s success at the Winter Olympic Games in Sotchi and Bill is hoping they see a rise in membership this winter as a result.

He said: “The season runs from September to March so by the time the Olympics were on, the season was in full swing. Hopefully by the start of the 2014 season, people will still be keen to join up.

“In the 1970s Larbert Curling Club had 90 members and a waiting list but today we are down to around 20. Perhaps because there is no ice rink in the Falkirk area, people don’t realise there are curling clubs.

“I’d love to see another ice rink in Falkirk, there is a real historical connection there and The Peak does very well, I think there is still a demand locally.”

For more information on the club call chairman

Bill Robertson (01324) 553391.