History of the Game
Curling, a sport originated in Scotland in the 16th century, was introduced at NCC just 12 years after the opening of the Club in 1916.
The roots of curling were as deeply planted in Scotland as golf, where frozen lochs and granite lined shores provided ample ice and the material to create stones, the tools of the game. The only other basic tool was the broom.
Curling first came to North America in 1759 when General Wolf’s soldiers curled on the frozen St. Lawrence River after the capture of Quebec. Today curling is still Canada’s largest and most popular sport.
The story of curling in the US begins at the turn of the 18th century. From the late 1790s to the 1830s there was a great influx of Scottish artisans into this country, many of them stonecutters and stone masons.
Where ever there are Lowland Scots and ice, curling soon broke out. The first club to be documented was at Orchard Lake, Michigan in 1832 where a group of Scottish immigrant farmers and sheep men used hickory instead of stones to play the game.
The curling club in Boston was formed sometime prior to 1839. Soon small groups of curlers were meeting informally for games from Philadelphia to Boston.
Following the civil war there was a movement to organize the various clubs into a national organization to encourage the game, establish rules and improve the opportunity for competition between curlers. This movement culminated in 1867 with the founding of the Grand National Curling Club.
NCC joined the Grand National in 1940 and has been a member since that time. Today’s Grand National consists of 48 clubs stretching from Belfast, Maine in the North to Coral Springs Florida in the South and from Cape Cod in the East to Pittsburgh, PA in the West.
Nashua is also a member of the US Curling Association which consists of most of the clubs in the Grand National as well as many clubs in the upper Midwest and Northwest where curling enjoys a great popularity.
The game of curling is played around the world. It is now a winter Olympic sport with curlers coming from dozens of countries to compete for the medals.
History of Curling at NCC
The history of curling at NCC begins in the winter of 1928 when a group of hardy souls gathered on the pond of today’s ninth hole to cast the first stones. Curling at NCC has never looked back. Curling was conducted on the pond for two years, moved to the thirteenth fairway for one, and then to the old tennis courts, where the present Ballroom stands. The courts were flooded for ten years.
In 1941, tired of the problems that snow and rain created, the curlers decided to move indoors. A Board of Governors Secretaries report in September reads:”Mr. Ramsay advised that a group interested in curling had prepared plans to utilize the sheds adjacent to the chapel and by adding to those sheds another similar structure to have sufficient room for curling cover. All this would be done without any expense to the Club and would be financed only by those interested in curling. The Board authorized Mr. Ramsay to proceed with as outlined.”
Two months later the report read: “Mr. Ramsay advised that it was the intentions of those interested in curling proceed with the construction of the indoor curling rink. The construction of this rink should prove to be an added attraction at the Club during the winter.
“Voted that the Board create a committee to be known as the Curling Committee and that Mr. Ramsay be made chairman, with authority to select his own committee,” the report stated.
Thus, Donald Ramsay became the first chairman of Curling at the NCC. Under his leadership the curlers moved indoors under more controlled natural ice conditions but still were subjected to Mother Nature’s temperature swings. They put up with it for six years. In March of 1947 a report reads “Special meeting of the Club members held with unanimous approval to proceed with making necessary alterations and additions to the chapel and adjoining buildings and providing two standard sheets of artificial ice at an estimated cost of $15,300.”
It wound up costing about $20,000, but no curler cared. This proved to be the single most important event in NCC curling history and has positively impacted Club winter operations since. In a letter to fellow curler in Wisconsin in 1962 Dr. Deering Smith writes: “Curling with artificial ice has made the difference between going in the red or being black for the winter months at NCC.” “Even the diehards admit it was the best investment the Club has ever made.” On natural ice there were 20 men curlers and no women. The first year of artificial ice the number had grown to 75 men and 8 women.
The new ice also had a beneficial effect on the level of play because in 1952 NCC curler Karl R. Hines, Jr. led a team to victory at the prestigious Gordon Emmet Championship. This is the Grand National’s annual men’s championship.
In 1956 the club acquired its third set of stones. They were purchased from the Andrew Kay Company in Scotland for $60 a pair. The trade in allowance of $10 was given on the old stones.
The stones are made of Scottish Granite, quarried near the edge of the sea. This granite is famous for its tough composition. Curling stones must be made of strong granite since they violently crash together thousand of times during their lifetimes. Rarely do they break, but if they do, curling has a rule to cover it. The largest piece is considered the “counter.”
By 1962 the numbers of curlers at NCC were 104 men, 54 women and 30 teenagers. Curling continued to grow during the 1960s. By 1969 the NCC curling directory listed 112 men and 68 women. During this period Nashua sent several teams to the US Curling Championships. None would return with a win.
By 1976 curling had grown to the point that having two sheets of ice was becoming a problem. The growing popularity of inter-club matches or bonspiels was also a problem since NCC had to limit the entries it accepted into its bonspiels. That year NCC curlers requested and the Board granted authority to build a third sheet.
During the late 1970s and early 80s interest in curling declined. At one point the men’s league had barely enough players for 12 teams, teenage curling disappeared, and women’s curling shrunk. The reasons were an aging membership as well as women in the workforce.
The core group of curlers pressed on though. In the fall of 1985 a formal new curler program was instituted with a get acquainted golf tournament and reception, now called the “Scottish Fling.”. Curler instructions sessions were held and beginner’s tournaments were conducted. This new curler program was first started by Alan and Pat Cobb has recharged the curling club. By 1991 the roster grew back to 135, about equally split between men and women.
In 1988 the club purchased a set of half size plastic stones and a “Little Rocks” program was started. This program, for children six to ten was run by Nancy Dinsdale and has brought youth curling back to NCC. Nashua's youth curling program now includes both "Little Rockers" and Juniors who can be up to twenty-one years old.
Over the years, additional physical improvements were added to our curling facilities. The ice rink was completely insulated and a heating system was installed making for much more comfortable curling and consistent ice. New plastic piping replaced the old cast iron on the original sheets one and two, thus allowing for pumping a more efficient cooling fluid. Bring new plastic handles replaced the old steel stones. In 1990 the club added a motorized ice scraper. This miniature “Zamboni” has made for much better ice conditions as well as a reduction in the labor to prepare it.
In 2001 and 2002, the club removed 9 miles of refrigeration line and 60 tons of sand from all 3 sheets and installed all new piping and infrastructure and a poured beautiful concrete base.
In 2002, the club replaced all 3 sheets of stones for over $8000! A far higher price then the $60 a pair paid in the 50s.
In 2004, a state of the art dehumidification system was installed greatly improving the ice conditions.
In 2005, David Deane, our ice man, installed a 60 ton chiller and 3 fan condensers, increasing energy efficiency and further improving the temperature control. Also in 2005, the warm room was remodeled and state of the art closed caption TV was added so the spectators could view the action at the far end of the rink.
In 2006, the glass was replaced between the warm room and ice shed to improve both viewing of the action and temperature control on both sides of the glass.
During the summer of 2010 a new changing area was built on the second floor by a few curling members working with our staff. Further plans are in the works to upgrade the warm room and bathroom facilities for the curlers.
In 2011 we have a very active curling program. The ice is busy almost every day of the week and we host a number of bonspiels with curlers from other clubs coming to NCC to join us for competition and friendship.