Author: Ann Guthrie and David Hull
Publication Date: 2013
"Men's Curling Match, 1884'1 In the early days, curling u'as held outside on local ponds, a particular favourite location was near Allan's dam. Other locations included Goldie's ciam and at Sleeman's, or wherever suitable ice was available. Photo courtesy of Guelph Museums, 1981X.282.1,
The Guelph Curling Club celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2013. One of the oldest organized sports in Guelph, curling has its roots in the traditions of the Scottish immigrants that |ohn Galt brought to the area. In Eaily Life of Upper Canada, E.C. Guillet describes the particular character of curling in those clays:
Owing partly to the customs of the times, and partly to the country in which the garne originatecl, whiskey-drinking during matches was ear'þ prominent and long persistecl... the game is being contested with much spirit, some of which was obtained from time to time from a basket of bottles which are in plain view at one end of the rink.1
The popularity of the sport is evident in the number of curling clubs that were organized in tire area. In 1834, Aciam Ferguson formecl the first curling club in Fergus.2 Then the Union Curling Club was established in Guelph in 1838 and another club was organized in Galt that same year. Later in 1888, George Sleeman founded the Royal City Curling Club.
Curling was well suited to the Canaclian climate ancl geography. Early settlers built mills near natural waterways that would generate power. As a result of these mills,, millponds were created that were perfect for curling and skating. Guelph with its many mills along the Speecl River ofièrecl great recreational opportur-rities, Some of the favourite locations for curling were near Allan's dam, Goldie's dam, and Sleemant, in fact, games were informally played wherever suitable ice was available.3
"Curlers on the Speed River" by Evan Macdonald. Image courtesy of Guelph Museums.
It wasnt until 1868 that the frrst covered rink was built. The rink was located on the northwest corner of Huskisson (now Lower Wyndham Street) and Wellington streets, near Presant's Mill.4 Later, a company was formed to build the Victoria Curling Rink, which was on Baker Street behind Knox Presbyterian Church.5 This rink was usecl for both skating and curling in the winter and rollerskating in the summer.6 The original Victoria lìink burned down in 1914 but was rebuilt and the Curling Club existed in this location until it moved, in 1968, to its present location on Woolwich Street north of Woodlawn Road. The Victoria Rink was demolished and its former footprint is part of the Baker Street parking lot.
Although curling has movecl indoors ancl whiskey bottles are no longer found at the end of the rink, curling remains a popular sport with an enthusiastic following and games are still played "with much spirit" Curling will continue to be part of Guelph's history for many years to come.
Curlers in front of Old Víctoria Rink, circa 1909. Inmge courtesy of Guelph Museums (2009.32.2067)
Guelph Curling and SkatingRrink Company Stock Cetificate, 1914. Image courtesy of Guelph Museums (2010.6.1)
Guelph Curling Club at the Victoria Rinh Baker Street, circa !967. A company was formed to build the Victoria Rink, which was on Baker Street behind Knox Presbyterian Church. The rink was used for both skating and curling. The original rink burned down in 1915 but was rebuilt. Image cor.trtesy of Guelph Museums (1988.24.25).
- Stelvart Brown, Guelph Curling Club: 150 Years 1838-1988, (Guelph, Ont.: Guelph Curling Club,1988), p. 1.
- Leo Johnson, History of Guelph 1827-1927. (Guelph, Ont.: Guelph Historical Society, 1977), p. 323
- Guelph Evening Mercury, 19 April 1902. Reprinted "Early Curling Information" Guelph Historical Society Publications Vol. 2, Issue 2, 1962.
- The Victoria Rink was built on the site of the original town cemetery that was used between 1827 and 1854. When the cemetery was closed, all of the remains were supposedly moved to Woodlawn Cemetery on the northern limits of Guelph. However, adclitional graves sites were discovered in 2005.
- David Allan, About Guelph: Its Early Days and Later, (Guelph, Ont.: Guelph Historical Society 2012), p.93.
- Over the years, the Guelph Curling Club has hosted team competitions for its members, as well as intramural curling for local hígh school clubs. The Club has also hosted many Ontario Cuding Association Provincial Championships, inclucling two Ontario Men's Championships. The clubroom provicles a venue for local banquets and other celebrations off the ice.