1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Curling

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CURLING, a game in which the players throw large rounded stones upon a rink or channel of ice, towards a mark called the tee. Where the game originated is not precisely known; but it has been popular in Scotland for three centuries at least. Some writers, looking to the name and technical terms of the game, trace its invention to the Netherlands; thus “curl” may have been derived from the Ger. kurzweil, a game; “tee” from the Teutonic tighen, to point out; “bonspiel,” a district curling competition, from the Belgic bonne, a district, and spel, play; the further supposition that “rink” is merely a modification of the Saxon hrink, a strong man, seems scarcely tenable. Curling is called “kuting” in some parts of Lanarkshire and Ayrshire, and very much resembles quoiting on the ice, so that the name may have some connexion with the Dutch coete, a quoit; while Cornelis Kiliaan (1528-1607) in his Teutonic Dictionary gives the term khuyten as meaning a pastime in which large globes of stone like the quoit or discus are thrown upon ice. Possibly some of the Flemish merchants who settled in Scotland towards the close of the 16th century may have brought the game to the country. Unfortunately, however, for the theory that assigns to it a far-away origin, we find no early mention of it in the literature of the continent; while Camden, when describing the Orkney Islands in 1607, tells us that one of them supplies “plenty of excellent stones for the game called curling”; and incidental references to it as a game played in Scotland are made by several authors during the first half of the same century.

If the game be not indigenous to Scotland it certainly owes its development to that country, and in the course of time it has come to be the national sport. It was played at first with very rude engines—random whin boulders fashioned by nature alone, or misshapen granite blocks, bored through to let in the thumb of the player, having been the primitive channel stones. In course of years the rough block was superseded by a symmetrical object usually made of whinstone or granite, beautifully rounded, brilliantly polished, and supplied with a convenient handle.

Although curling boasts a literature of its own and songs innumerable, yet it has received but the scantiest notice from such important Scottish writers as Scott and Burns, or from contemporary literature in general. In 1834 an “Amateur Curling Club of Scotland” was formed, but this “mutual admiration amateur society came to nothing, as might be expected.” Far more businesslike were the methods of the men who set afoot the “Grand Caledonian Curling Club,” which began its existence on the 15th of November 1838, and which, under its present title of “The Royal Caledonian Curling Club,” is regarded in all parts of the world as the mother-club and legislative body, even in Canada, where, however, curling conditions differ widely from those of Scotland; devotion to the mother-club does not by any means imply submission. Starting with 28 allied clubs the Royal Club grew so rapidly that there were 500 such in 1880 and 720 in 1903. It was under the auspices of the Royal Caledonian that a body of Scottish curlers visited Canada and the United States in the winter of 1902-1903, and, while a slight margin of victory remained with the home players under their own climatic conditions, the visit did much to bring together the lovers of the game on both sides of the Atlantic. The assumption of the title “Royal” in place of “Grand” was due to the visit of Queen Victoria and the prince consort to Scotland in 1842, on which occasion they were initiated into the mysteries of the game on the polished floor of the drawing-room in the Palace of Scone; and the prince consort, who was presented with a pair of curling-stones, consented to become patron of the club. On his death he was succeeded by the prince of Wales, who, as Edward VII., still continued his patronage. The Club’s main duties are to further the interests of the game, to revise the laws and to arrange the important matches, especially the grand match, played annually between the Scottish clubs north of the Forth & Clyde Canal and those south of it. In the first of these matches (1847) only twelve “rinks” were played; in 1903 there were no fewer than 286. During this time the southern clubs were usually victorious. Curlers claim to be a united brotherhood within which peer and peasant are equal “on the ice.” To the same end the laws of the club are framed with a due regard to economy, not forgetting conviviality in the matter of “beef and greens,” the curler’s traditional dish, washed down with whisky. A formal freemasonry exists among curlers, who must be initiated into the mysteries and instructed in the grip, password and ceremony, being liable at any moment to be examined in these essentials and fined for lapses of memory. Betting, excepting for the smallest stakes, is discountenanced.

Glossary.—As curling has a language which contains many curious terms, puzzling to the uninitiated, the English equivalents of some of them are here given. Baugh ice, rough or soft ice. Bias, a slope on the ice. Boardhead (also house or parish), the large circle round the tee. Bonspiel, a match between two clubs. Break an egg on a stone, touch it very slightly. Broughs, the small circles round the tee. Chipping, striking a stone of which a small part can be seen. Core, old name for rink. Cowe or kowe, a besom made of broom-twigs. Draw, to play gently. Drive, to play hard. Drug ice, soft bad ice. Fill the port, to block the interval between two stones. Gogsee, tee. Guard, a stone that covers and protects another. Hack, a hollow cut in the ice for the player’s foot, used in place of a crampit. Hands up! stop sweeping. Hog, a stone that stops short of the hog-score, a line drawn one-sixth of the length of the rink from the tee. Head, an innings, both sides delivering all their stones once. Howe, the middle of the rink, gradually hollowed by stones. In-ringing, gaining a good position by rebounding off another stone. In-wick, the same. Lie shot, the stone resting nearest the tee. Mar, to interfere with a stone while running. Out-Turn, to make the stone twist to the left. In-Turn, to make one turn to the right. Out-wick, to strike a stone on the edge so as to drive it towards the tee. Pat-lid, a stone that lies on the tee. Pittycock, the oldest form of curling-stone. Raise, to drive a “friendly” stone nearer the tee. Rebut, to deliver the stone with great force, so as to scatter the stones on the boardhead. Red the ice, clear away the opponents’ stones. Rink, the space in which the game is played; also the members of a side. Sole, the under part of the stone; also to deliver the stone. Soop, to sweep. Souter, to win without allowing the opponents to score at all; a term derived from a famous team of cobblers (souters) of Lochmaben, whose opponents seldom or never scored a point. Spiel, a match between members of the same club. Spend the stone, to waste a shot by playing wide intentionally. Stug, a fluke. Tee, the mark in the centre of the boardhead, against which it is the curler’s object to lay the stone. The tee may be any kind of a mark; a small iron plate with a spike in it is often used. Tozee, tee. Tramp, crampit, trigger or tricker, an iron plate fitted with spikes which the player stands upon to deliver the stone. Wittyr, tee.

The Rink and Implements.—The rink is marked out in the ice, which should be very hard and smooth, in curling language “keen and clear.” To keep it swept every curler carries a broom, sometimes a mere bundle of broom-twigs, more often an ordinary housemaid’s broom. Good “sooping,” or sweeping, is part of the curler’s art, and is performed subject to strict rules and under the direction of the skip, or captain; its importance lying in the fact that the progress of a stone is retarded by the ice-dust caused by the play, the sweeping of which in front of a running stone consequently prolongs its course. Apart from the broom and the crampit, the “roarin’ game,” as curlers love to call it, requires no further implement than the stone, a flattened, polished disk, fitted with a handle. In weight it must not exceed 44 ℔, 35 to 40 ℔ being usual. It must not exceed 36 in. in circumference or be less in height than one-eighth of the circumference. The two flat sides, or soles, are so shaped that one is serviceable for keen ice and the other for ice that is soft, rough or “baugh.” The handle can be fitted to either side, as the case demands. The cost of a pair of stones is not less than £2, generally more. In the intense cold of Canada and the United States iron is found more serviceable than stone, and the irons weigh from 60 to 70 ℔. Even these are light compared with the earlier rough boulder-stones, some of which weighed over 115 ℔, although the very early ones were much lighter. The modern stone took shape at the beginning of the 19th century. The ancient stones had no handles, but notches were hewn in them for finger and thumb, and, as their weight varied from 5 to 25 ℔, it is probable that they were thrown after the manner of quoits. Channel-stones, stones rounded by the action of water in a river-bed, were the favourites, while the shape was a matter of individual taste, oblong and triangular stones having been common. The soles were artificially flattened. During the next period we find the heavy boulder-stones, unhewn blocks fitted with handles and probably used at shorter distances, 70 or 80 ℔ being no uncommon weight. The rounded stone, made on scientific principles, did not appear until about 1800. Even then it was of all shapes and sizes, with and without handles, and not uncommonly made of wood. The stones of to-day are named after the places in which they are quarried, Ailsa Craigs, Burnocks, Carsphairn Reds and Crawfordjohns being some of the best-known varieties. The stones are quarried and never blasted, as the shock of the explosion is apt to strain or split the rock.

The Game.—Curling is practically bowls played on the ice, the place of the “jack” being taken by a fixed mark, as at quoits, called the tee, to which the curler aims his stone; every stone that finally lies nearer than any of the opposing stones counting a point or “shot.” As each side has four players, each playing two stones, it is possible for one side to score eight points at a “head” or innings; but in practice it is found wiser, when a good shot has been made, to play some or all following stones to such positions as will prevent opposing stones from disturbing the stone lying near the tee. Stones thus placed are called “guards.” Strategic matters like this are decided by the skip, or captain, of the rink, who plays last, and who is an autocrat whose will is law. The “lead,” or first player, is expected to play quietly up the rink, leaving his stone as close to the tee as possible, but on no account beyond it. He is followed by the “lead” of the other side, who, instructed by his skip, will either try to drive away the first stone, if well placed, or put his own stone in a better position. When the skip’s turn comes he is “skipped,” or directed, by another player, appointed by himself, usually the third player. When all sixteen stones have been delivered the players cross over, the scores are counted, and the game proceeds from the other end of the rink. If a stone fails to cross the “hog-score” it is a “hog” and is removed from the rink, unless it has struck another stone in position. Stones that pass the back-score or touch the swept snow on either side are also removed. By a cleverly imparted twist a stone may be made to curve round a guard and either drive away an opposing winner or find a favourable lie for itself. This, the equivalent of “bias” in the game of bowls, is the height of scientific play. If the situation seems desperate a very hard throw, a “thunderin’ cast,” may succeed in clearing away the opponents’ stones from the neighbourhood of the tee. Different methods are adopted in delivering the stone, but in all of them a firm stand should be taken on the crampit, and the stone swung, either quietly, or, if the skip calls for a “thunderin’ cast,” vigorously; but care must be taken to avoid striking the ice with the stone so as to crack or “star” the ice. All matches are for a certain number of “heads” or of points, or for all that can be made within a certain time limit, as may be agreed.

Abridged Rules.—Tees shall be 38 yds. apart, and with the tee as centre a circle having a radius of 7 ft. shall be drawn. In alignment with the tees, lines, to be called Central Lines, are drawn from the tees to points 4 yds. behind each tee, and at these points Foot Scores 18 in. long shall be drawn at right angles, on which, at 6 in. from Central Line, the heel of the Crampit shall be placed. All matches shall be of a certain number of heads, or shots, or by time, as agreed. Every rink of players shall be composed of four a side. No shoes likely to break the ice may be worn.

The skips opposing each other shall settle by lot, or in any other way they may agree upon, which party shall lead at the first head, after which the winning party shall do so.

All curling stones shall be of a circular shape. No stone shall be of a greater weight than 44 ℔ imperial, or of greater circumference than 36 in., or of less height than one-eighth part of its greatest circumference.

No stone, or side of a stone, shall be changed after a match has been begun, or during its continuance, unless by consent.

Should a stone happen to be broken, the largest fragment shall be considered in the game for that end—the player being entitled afterwards to use another stone or another pair.

If a played stone rolls over, or stops, on its side or top, it shall be put off the ice. Should the handle quit the stone in delivery, the player must keep hold of it, otherwise he shall not be entitled to replay the shot.

Players, during the course of each end, to be arranged along the sides of the rink, anywhere skips may direct; and no party, except when sweeping according to rule, shall go upon the middle of the rink, or cross it, under any pretence whatever. Skips alone to stand at or about the tee—that of the playing party having the choice of place, and not to be obstructed by the other.

If a player should play out of turn, the stone so played may be stopped in its progress, and returned to the player. Should the mistake not be discovered till the stone be at rest, or has struck another stone, the opposite skip shall have the option of adding one to his score, allowing the game to proceed, or declaring the end null and void. But if a stone be played before the mistake has been discovered, the head must be finished as if it had been properly played from the beginning.

The sweeping shall be under the direction and control of the skips. The player’s party may sweep the ice anywhere from the centre line to the tee, and behind it,—the adverse party having liberty to sweep behind the tee, and in front of any of their own stones when moved by another, and till at rest. Skips to have full liberty to clean and sweep the ice behind the tee at any time, except when a player is being directed by his skip.

If in sweeping or otherwise, a running stone be marred by any of the party to which it belongs, it may, at the option of the opposite skip, be put off the ice; if by any of the adverse party, it may be placed where the skip of the party to which it belongs shall direct. If otherwise marred, it shall be replayed.

Every player to be ready to play when his turn comes, and not to take more than a reasonable time to play. Should he play a wrong stone, any of the players may stop it while running; but if not stopped till at rest, the one which ought to have been played shall be placed instead, to the satisfaction of the opposing skip.

No measuring of shots allowable previous to the termination of the end. Disputed shots to be determined by the skips, or, if they disagree, by the umpire, or, when there is no umpire, by some neutral person chosen by the skips. All measurements to be taken from the centre of the tee, to that part of the stone which is nearest it. No stone shall be considered without a circle, or over a line, unless it clear it;—and in every case, this is to be determined by placing a square on the ice, at the circle or line.

Skips shall have the exclusive regulation and direction of the game for their respective parties, and may play last stone, or in what part of it they please; and, when their turn to play comes, they may name one of their party to take charge for them.

If any player shall speak to, taunt or interrupt another, not being of his own party, while in the act of delivering his stone, one shot shall be added to the score of the party so interrupted.

If from any change of weather after a match has been begun, or from any other reasonable cause, one party shall desire to shorten the rink, or to change to another one, and, if the two skips cannot agree, the umpire shall, after seeing one end played, determine whether the rink shall be shortened, and how much or whether it shall be changed, and his decision shall be final.

See Annual of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, Edinburgh.