The Curling Companion
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
Robert Barney was Professor of Physical Education at the University of Western Ontario in London.
There is good reason to argue the point that the sport of curling, not ice hockey, is the true national pastime of Canadian people. Over 900,000 people curl in Canada — young and old, male and female, rich and poor. Can the same be said for hockey, or any other single sport, for that matter? Not likely! Like other Canadian sporting pastimes, curling was imported from the British Isles, namely Scotland. The early history of organized sport in nineteenth century Canada is distinct by the amount of curling activity throughout Upper and Lower Canada and in the Maritimes. Its popularity has remained intact to the present time, expanding to the Canadian West and featuring championship and competitive play at all levels — the epitome of which is, of course, the men’s and the women’s Briar (in effect, the national championships).
For curlers, then, W.H. Murray’s book The Curling Companion is a “must” bit of reading. It was originally published in Scotland in 1981, then here in Canada in 1982; additions and modifications were made to the original text, so that a portion of it now covers the sport’s history and present status in Canada.
Murray is no neophyte in the literary world. He has an established reputation in the area of mountaineering literature, both in his native Scotland and abroad. In 1951 he was deputy leader of the first successful climb of Mount Everest. His first effort to write a book was undertaken in a German prisoner-of-war camp in Czechoslovakia. The text of that first effort was found and destroyed by the Gestapo. Murray’s writing style, exemplified in The Curling Companion is light, colorful, imaginative, and appealing to almost any level of readership. His extensive use of interesting photographs and original art works complements the prose most effectively.
Despite Murray’s treatment of recent events in world curling, his narrative and commentary on the subject of curling’s dissemination abroad, and his presentation of the intricacies of the playing rules of the sport, there can be no mistake as to what has captured Murray’s attention the most: the historical antecedents of curling, its first instances of organized play in Scotland, the growth and development of technology applicable to the curling stones themselves, and the rinks, including the evolution of artificial ice. His investigation into the formation of the earliest clubs — and hence, the Royal Caledonian competitions and Grand Matches — is no less brilliant.
For the student of curling, then, Murray’s work presents an authoritative history, the story of the sport’s expansion beyond the borders of Bonny Scotland, and an analysis of the “state of the game” in contemporary times. For Canadian curlers, whose country has triumphed in 14 of the 24 world championships (the Silver Broom) since their inception in 1959, such a volume should be of increased interest and great pleasure. For the sport history buff, The Curling Companion is also a creditable research source, since Murray’s investigation of historical record has been thorough and painstaking.