MEMBERS of one of the oldest curling clubs in the world are celebrating its bicentenary by sweeping back the years.
Players from Denmark and Sweden will join Scots at Murrayfield Curling Rink today to mark the 200th anniversary of Penicuik Curling Club – with a contest dressed in period costume.
Sir Robert Clerk, honorary club patron and owner of the Penicuik Estate, where the first Grand Match was played 150 years ago, will play the first stone before the 130 curlers do battle.
Curlers at the Bicentenary Bonspiel will be kitted out in outfits inspired by a painting of the event at the High Pond on the estate on January 15, 1847. The club itself was founded on January 20, 1815.
Club president Jim Ramsay said it had helped shape the history of curling across the world and was as popular now as it has ever been.
He said: “There was curling in Penicuik from the middle of the 1700s, but it wasn’t until 1815 that the people decided to get a curling society together and called it Penicuik Curling Club.
“It was really the gentry who played it first, but then the club was formed by a local innkeeper and tradesmen, so it was open to people who worked on the land as well. From then on it went from strength to strength.
“They were the major people behind the formation of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, which influenced curling throughout the world.
“We’ve got a lot of history behind us, but we are still a very strong and sociable club today.”
The club now has about 60 members, ranging from being in their 20s to 70s, and meet regularly at Murrayfield.
Curling is one of the oldest continually played games in the world, and has its roots in the farming communities of lowland Scotland, played outdoors, on lochs and ponds.
When conditions allow, the club still plays on the Low Pond, a short distance from the location of the historic match.
There are now 52 countries registered in the World Curling Federation with approximately 1.5 million players from nations as diverse as Brazil, China, Kazakhstan and Russia.
“It’s a big thing throughout the world, probably bigger than it is in Scotland,” he said.
“That’s why we’ve got people from Denmark and Sweden here joining in the celebrations. It’s a very sociable sport, gentlemanly as there’s not a lot of cheating that goes on, you congratulate each other when you have a good stone and commiserate when you’ve not.
“There’s usually a drink at the end of it too.”
Yesterday they enjoyed a tour of Penicuik House and the pond where it all began.
Emma Peterson, 65, from Sweden, said: “Curling is a very nice sport to get new friends that last forever. We started to travel here in 2007 from Helsingborg and I’ve been privately since 1977 so it feels like I’m coming home.”