The Black Bonspiel of Willie MacCrimmon


135 pages
ISBN 0-7710-6081-5
DDC C813'.54




Illustrations by Wesley W. Bates
Reviewed by Hugh Oliver

Hugh Oliver is editor-in-chief at the OISE Press.


Based on an unpublished short story that Mitchell wrote many years ago,
this novel is a Canadian version of the Faustian myth. Willie
MacCrimmon, a shoemaker from Shelby, Alberta, has been daydreaming for
more than 30 years about taking his curling rink to the Canadian Briar.
The devil, who needs a good third for his rink in hell, offers to grant
Willie his Briar wish in exchange for his soul. But Willie persuades the
devil—evidently a sporting gent—to make the outcome dependent on a
curling match between their two rinks. Fanciful as the story line may
be, it provides a comic, down-to-earth framework for introducing several
eccentric characters: Willie himself, the three members of his rink (all
surnamed Brown), the devil and his rink (Macbeth, Ischariot, and Guy
Fawkes), a Unitarian minister, and the shrewish wife of Willie’s lead.

This slender book is not much longer than the short story from which it
originated. The cranky Canadian humor is reminiscent of Leacock—no
more fulsome praise than that!—and there are some fine illustrations
by Wesley Bates.


Mitchell, W.O., “The Black Bonspiel of Willie MacCrimmon,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 15, 2024,