Markinch Curling Club
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Its members were formerly composed largely by employees of John Haig, the whisky blend whose bottling plant and offices used to be situated in the eponymous small Fife town, workers for Tullis Russell, a paper-mill on the banks of the nearby River Leven - in fact, Mr. Tullis was one of the founding members in 1842 - and a mixture of farmers and local Health Service professionals. With the closure of John Haig, one source of members was stopped; however, the club survives.
The current membership displays an eclectic range of backgrounds; while many members have Markinch roots, others appear to have joined through happenstance.
Until 2009, though, all members shared a common gender. Ladies had never featured in the membership lists, although they had occasionally been drafted in to prevent a rink from being a "man" short in a game; none, however, had ever attended a Markinch Curling Club supper - other than as waitress or barmaid - until December 2008, when Morag Erskine was present as a representative of Pitlessie Curling Club. After this ground-breaking event, Morag's name, along with those of Marianne Sankey and Karen Turley, now features in the list of members.
Curling is known to have taken place in Markinch on “The Common”, an area in the centre of the town now used as the car park for Markinch Bowling Club, Markinch Town Hall, Markinch Primary School, and the local library, prior to the Club’s founding but there is little known about this. The Club possesses a complete set of hand written minutes from the inaugural meeting to the present day.
There have been three curling ponds in the Club’s history. The first, opened in the winter of 1842, was on the North edge of the town on “the low lying ground at the foot of Archibald’s Park”. It was only played on for five years. It had to be closed in 1847 when the North British Railway Company’s line to Cupar was built over the site. The Club received £15 in compensation. The second pond at Balfarg farm on Balbirnie estate was the most successful of the Club’s ponds, being played on during the great days of outdoor curling in the cold winters in the latter half of the 19th century. It was opened in 1850 with a match against Stratheden and curled on every winter for 64 years. This pond was the venue for club games, district medals and inter club challenge matches. A fine stone curling house was built with three rooms, the Laird’s room (the Laird being Mr. Balfour, of Balbirnie House), the west room and the curling stone room. However, in 1914, the club was again forced to move as the coming of electricity to Balfarg farm saw the mill lade drained and the source of water for the curling pond lost. A site for a new rink was found on “the common” in Markinch town itself, and it was opened on 6 January 1914, thus formalising the arrangements which had taken place before the Club's foundation. The days of outdoor curling were beginning to draw to an end, and the opening of Haymarket Ice Rink in 1912 confirmed that outdoor curling was becoming less popular. This rink eventually closed in 1938, bringing to an end 96 years of outdoor curling in Markinch.
Club games are now played at Kirkcaldy Ice Rink and at the ice rink of the Green Hotel, Kinross. The Kirkcaldy venue, also known as Fife Ice Arena, suffered a roof-fire in February 2007, so some of that season's games were either cancelled or re-scheduled to be played at Kinross. In the 2008-09 season, the rink at Kirkcaldy was opened for use by the Club.
The Club's main internal competition is the Balbirnie League, contested between the constituent rinks, which are named after historic Markinch place-names, Balgonie, Stob Cross, Dalginch, and Sweetbank. The Club's annual fixture with Glenrothes Curling Club is for the Davie Napier Trophy An annual game for the Mounie Trophy against Meldrum & Daviot Curling Club means that the Club may also play at Forfar Ice Arena, Curl Aberdeen, or Perth Ice Rink.
The Club has been involved in three Swiss tours, the first in 1963, the second in 2003, and the latest from 19th. to 26th. January 2013. These "tours" have all been based in Zermatt, where the local ice rink holds an annual Scottish Curling Week.
- Markinch, 1861 Parochial Directory of Fife and Kinross
- website on Royal Caledonian Curling Club