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Folklife Festival 2003 > Scotland > Sports > Curling Stone
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When Winter muffles up his cloak,
And binds the mire like a rock;
When to the loughs the curlers flock
Wi' gleesome speed….
—Robert Burns, "Tam Samson's Elegy" (1787)
Their chief amusement in winter is curling, or playing stones on smooth ice. They eagerly vie with one another who shall come nearest the mark, and one part of the parish against another, one description of men against another, one trade or occupation against another…. The amusement itself is healthful; it is innocent; it does nobody harm; let them enjoy it.
—Sir John Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland" (1781-1799)

Today, curling is an international Olympic sport played by more than two million people in thirty nations, but its ancestral homeland is Scotland. Curling dates back to before the 16th century, when it was first mentioned in Scottish records. In 1838, Edinburgh's Royal Caledonian Curling Club (RCCC) was established and the rules for play standardized. During the 20th century, curling increasingly became an indoor sport as ice rinks were built throughout Scotland.

Curling is played on a sheet - a lane of ice 46 yards long and 14 yards wide. At each end of the sheet, a house of concentric circles is painted around a center button. The goal of the game is to slide the curling stone as close as possible to the button. A curling team consists of four players, who deliver (slide) two stones each in alternate turns with the opposing team. When all sixteen stones are delivered, it constitutes an end. Matches have 10 and sometimes 12 ends. Each stone that winds up within the house and closer to the button than the other team's stone scores a point. The team with the most points after 10 or 12 ends wins the match.

Teams are led by a captain or skip. Players are helped by teammates who use brushes to sweep the ice in front of a sliding stone to make it go further or change its direction. Sweeping can lengthen a delivery by as much as 10 feet.

Curling is played by thousands of Scots, who flock to indoor clubs throughout Scotland. In years when the weather permits, the Bonspiel - an outdoor match between Highland and Lowland Scotland -- is organized on the Lake of Menteith near Aberfoyle. In 1998, curling became an Olympic sport at the Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. And in 2002, Scotland rejoiced when skip Rhona Martin led the Scottish Women's Curling Team to an Olympic Gold Medal in Salt Lake City.

Coming to the Festival...
Kays of Scotland (Mauchline, Ayrshire)/ Jimmy Wyllie and Russell Wyllie

—The only remaining curling firm in Scotland, Kays is also the only one in the world to make curling stones from Ailsa Craig granite. Kays is a small, family-run firm that dates back to the 1850s. Obtaining and transporting granite from Ailsa Craig is a story in itself. At the Festival they will tell this story as well as demonstrate the care and skill that go into transforming a boulder into a finished curling stone. www.kaysofscotland.co.uk

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