Scots on the rocks

Amy MacKenzie
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PICTOU – Scottish curlers landed in Pictou Thursday ready for some competition and to see where people of their country settled in the 1700s.

Scottish curlers who are travelling through the east coast of Canada as part of the Strathcona Cup were competing against Pictou curlers in the New Caledonian Curling Club Thursday morning.

The Strathcona Cup is won through a tally of points earned throughout a month of curling matches across Canada between Scottish and Canadian teams. The host country switches each time it is held. It is the oldest international curling event in the world.

Curler Iain Hamilton was watching his fellow curlers compete against Pictonians Thursday morning. Hamilton, from Kirkintilloch, Scotland, said while he’s been enjoying the curling aspect of the trip to Canada, he’s been relishing his time off the ice as well.

“I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I haven’t been to Canada before,” he said. “It’s lovely, very like Scotland. We were surprised that it wasn’t colder and snowier.”

Hamilton said he’s glad the Strathcona Cup has taken him to Pictou, where Scots settled in 1773.

“That’s really what we’re trying to establish, that’s what we love to do is see where the Scottish settlers first came,” he said.

He added that his team was unable to bring its skipper, Robert Anderson, as he broke his leg before the trip. But he said the team is keeping him updated on their Canadian adventure and they have brought a teddy bear named Robert with a bandaged leg which sits in the curling rink as they play to honour their teammate.

Bill Wesley, director/courier of the East tour of the Strathcona Cup, said Pictou was chosen as one of the locations in the East tour because of its Scottish Roots and long history of curling.

“Pictou County is blessed with having number-one, great Scottish roots, lots of Scottish culture here and very strong history, particularly in the town of Pictou in respect to curling,” he said. “The guys took note of, ‘established in 1850.’ That’s not much in their country because they go back a long ways, but here in Canada, they more commonly (started curling clubs) in the 1900s so Pictou has a unique situation that curling has been part of this town for a long time.”

In fact, Wesley said that two of the first Canadians to go to Scotland for the Strathcona Cup in 1909 were Pictonians.

Currently, the Scots are leading the score in the East tour, but Wesley said it’s not just about competition in the Strathcona Cup, it’s also about having a good time.

“These guys are very competitive. The Scots were anxious to put a point on the board at every chance they can. But what they really relish is the opportunity following games to enjoy being with club members from various parts of Canada,” he said. “They appreciate who they are, what they do and what their communities are about.”

After the morning of curling matches, the Scots went on a tour of the Ship Hector replica and Hector Heritage Quay, just across from the curling club in downtown Pictou.

Scottish curler Keith Henderson said he enjoyed seeing the Quay’s exhibit.

“It's nice to be able to see some Scottish history while here because we haven't had the opportunity to do too much of this on the trip so far,” he said. “We had the opportunity to see Signal Hill and Cape Spear in Newfoundland, but this is a special place to visit as well.”

The Strathcona Cup continues with games between Scots and Canadians throughout the country until Jan. 31 when the final tally decides which country wins the 2013 title. 

Organizations: New Caledonian Curling Club, Scottish Roots

Geographic location: Pictou County, Strathcona, Canada Scotland Kirkintilloch Signal Hill Newfoundland

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