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Strathcona Cup 2023 - 3

As the Strathcona Cup Central tour wended its way around Ontario and Quebec, we were treated to some very memorable visits, sights and honours. We visited Niagara Falls and in the evening the regular light show on the Horseshoe waterfall was lit up in blue and white for a period before they reverted to the usual red and white Canadian flag colours. In Toronto we had the CN Tower lit up in saltire colours too. 



Horseshoe (Canadian) Falls close-up lit in blue and white, and American Falls in their usual evening colours seen from the Skylon Tower

At small Fenelon Falls the local brewery produced and canned a batch of beer in honour of the Strathcona Cup, and all the tourists were gifted several of these. We had a private visit to a winery at St Catharines, and in Ottawa we had a special tour laid on at the Royal Canadian Mint, and also at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stables and their “Caroussel Ride” exhibition horse show training centre. We were escorted in from Prescott city limits to the curling club by local Police (who are more likely to run people out of town), and there the rest team (not my turn unfortunately) were driven around the town in a fire truck and taken for some outside curling. It demonstrates the amount of planning and influence the Canadian planning committee had invested in to make our visit such an experience.


Fenelon Falls Scottish Ale

We celebrated Burns Night (or Robert Burns’ Day as it is called in Canada) at Donalda Golf & Country Club in Toronto where we were treated to a superb meal and traditional Scottish Burns Supper, haggis with all the trimmings and speeches, songs etc. A couple of notable clubs we visited in Montreal were the Royal Montreal Curling Club – the oldest in Canada, and more modestly Pointe-Claire where we had a wonderful evening of entertainment. The club laid on a semi-professional act singing for us – Bowser and Blue – a couple of gentlemen who reminded me strongly of our own Scotland the What?, but with guitars rather than a piano. They even had a song about curling – look them up! I learned that in Scotland there is a Pointe-Claire tournament held every year, and the entry criterion is that players must have visited that club in Montreal.

But nice as all this was, my favourite part (as well as the 27 games of curling I played) was meeting people. Curlers are a special breed, invariably welcoming, friendly, honest and will try their hardest on the ice and socialise fiercely off it too. We played against people who ranged from full Canadian internationalists including a world champion, to someone who had only been curling for 6 months. One club asked if they could bring on a substitute for the last end, their 84 year-old founder member to honour him. He played 2 stones with a stick and they were well played too. Highlights though were catching up with 3 relatives – cousin Sheila at Dixie club in Toronto, and Aunt Kathy and cousin Robyn at Prescott near the former’s home in Brockville. As the tour had such a full schedule there was almost no free time to get away from it to see them, so instead they came to watch our matches and I sat with them at the after-game meals.

It was interesting to arrive at a club and find that the players we were facing were the same that adorned the club honours boards displayed in the ice hall or the social space. This happened multiple times, but there was one exception – at Trenton the local celebrity who was honoured with pictures and biography on the wall was actually the late icemaker, “Shorty” Jenkins. He was famous as being the person who developed curling ice-making techniques to bring championship quality ice to the competitive curling world.


Pre-match at Trenton: curlers assembling, piper prepared, flags being unfurled, and in the background the club's honours boards and tribute to their former ice-maker.

But three people who deserve a special mention were our couriers. They took turns in accompanying us on the tour, travelling with us and smoothing out any niggles that arose. All had been participants on the 2018 Strathcona Cup tour to Scotland. Firstly we had Ken Armstrong who was a right character with a story for every place we went to or passed by. He introduced us to the music of Canadian folk singer Stompin’ Tom Connors, and we even took a slight detour to pass by the tobacco fields of Tillsonburg, a feature of one of his oft-played songs. Ken was succeeded by Jeremy MacDonald who was a bit more laid back but equally helpful. Unfortunately Jeremy took unwell in Montreal and had to go home and he was replaced by Doug Kreviazuk who is a notable coach and father of three daughters who have done extremely well at international level. Three further names for services rendered and gratefully received: John Shea and John Rudd for taking our clothes and arranging laundry, and Mark Inglis for taking my No.1s from Toronto to London ON. Thank you so much, gents!

We had taken gifts with us for our opposite players, a presentation box containing 4 pins (badges): two Strathcona Cup 2023 pins, my club (Coulter CC) and my Province (Biggar & Upper Clydesdale). At this point I must thank my 3 daughters who helped me with a production line assembling the boxes and pins onto their tartan cloth. As a tour, we also had gifts for the all clubs we visited, these were varied and consisted of combinations of quaichs, tour pennants, ties, scarves, Scottish tea-towels and shortbread (one of our tour members was a senior sales executive of Walkers so we seemed to have an infinite supply). In return we were showered with personal gifts, pins back from the opposition and the mayor etc, local produce or momentoes. This included many bottles of maple syrup (I took some home and donated much to Western tour members who hadn’t received any), photos, a framed certificate, a book (limited edition, signed and presented by the author Bruce McCowan, entitled “Hog-Score in the Great Rink of Time”), beer, wine, Canadian and provincial flags, a holdall bag into which all the gifts went, and much more.

So, how did it all end up? On the Central tour we played a total of 31 matches at 33 venues (two matches were split between neighbouring clubs) and our team Edradour played 27 games and had 4 byes. Overall the whole competition Canada won 2454-2317, the Central tour Canada won 964-834, but our Edradour team won (just) by 183-180. I also subbed for another team at Glenmore, but that result is excluded. We all agreed that the cup result was not what we had hoped for, but apart from that the whole experience was everything and so much more than we had dared expect. History was made, tradition was upheld and we were left in no doubt that we we were now privileged members of the Strathcona Cup family, and it is our responsibility to offer the expected Canadian tourists of 2028 as great hospitality as they provided for us.


Customised results 

Finally, I want to thank Elaine for allowing me to go away for nearly 4 weeks and take part in the sporting adventure of a lifetime.

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