It is impossible to establish the precise date when the game of curling was introduced into the parish of Penicuik, but records show that Baron Sir John Clerk, the 4th Baronet, and one of the commissioners of the union between Scotland and England, played the game of curling during the seventeenth century. The Clerk family has been embedded in the history of Penicuik Curling Club ever since and under the care of the lairds of Penicuik the roaring game became a favourite sport in the town.
Although the game was an old one, no regular club was formed until 1815. According to the first minutes, “...this step was taken with a view to produce that improvement in curling which was so much needed by them”. Previously, the Penicuik curlers had been so deficient that nobody would play with them, but the formation of the club marked an era in their history which soon earned them the proud title of “champions of the icy world”.
The Club was constituted on 20th January 1815, and Penicuik curlers played important roles in the early development of the sport. The Royal Caledonian Curling Club, and the first nationally accepted Rules of Curling, were very much the outcome of suggestions from prominent members of the Penicuik Club. At the inaugural meeting of the Grand Caledonian Curling Club in 1838, Charles Cowan, Dr. John Renton, and William Gilbert, all of Penicuik, were made members of the important committee of nine which drafted the constitution and rules of the Grand Caledonian. The Grand Caledonian was the forerunner of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, and those rules are essentially the same as those now followed by thousands of curlers across the globe.
When conditions allow, the Club still plays on the Low Pond, only a stone’s throw from the location of the historic first Grand Match. Penicuik Curling Club (penicuikcurlingclub.co.uk) celebrates its Bicentenary in 2015. To mark that historic milestone, the current laird, and descendent of Sir George Clerk, Sir Robert Clerk Bt. of Penicuik, has granted permission to reproduce this beautiful Jemima Wedderburn watercolour. Proceeds will contribute to the Club’s Bicentennial and also be held in trust to promote curling in Penicuik for future generations.
Penicuik Curling Club
The High Pond today, with the boathouse in the background as portrayed by Jemima Wedderburn