Within a short time the Club received royal patronage. During an 1843 royal visit to his home, the Earl of Mansfield, President of the Club, planned a demonstration of the grand game to her Royal Highness, Queen Victoria. Mild weather made an outdoor game impossible, but the resourceful Mansfield turned the waxed and highly-polished ballroom floor into a reasonable substitute for ice, and the Queen "was amused." The Prince Consort was enthusiastic about the game and became the patron of the now Royal Caledonian Curling Club.
Three former Governors-General of Canada have served as President of that Royal Caledonian Curling Club, the Mother Club: The Earl of Minto, The Marquis of Lorne and The Earl of Aberdeen. A Canadian Branch of the Royal Caledonian was formed in 1852.
Dufferin also established the Governor-General's Trophy for a prestigious double-rink curling competition. The final match was always played at Rideau Hall until 1939, when the curling rink was removed in preparation for a Royal Visit. The Trophy is still in play today, with a team from the Governor-General's Curling Club entered in the competition. Until relatively recently in its history the Awards Dinner was held at Rideau Hall, with the Trophy winners and members of the Governor-General's Curling Club, resplendent in their red blazers, in attendance.
"The Rideau Hall team consisted of Lord Lansdowne himself, General Sir Henry Streatfield...and one of the footmen, who seemed to have a natural gift as a curler. At a curling match against Montreal in 1887, a long-distance telephone was used for the first time in Canada. Ottawa is 120 miles distant from Montreal, and a telephone was specially installed, and each "end" telephoned from Rideau Hall to Montreal, where the result was shown on a board, excitement over the match running high. Montreal proved the victors.
On great occasions like this, the ice of the curling-rink was elaborately decorated with colours. It was very easily done. Ready-prepared stencils, such as are used for wall decoration, were laid in the ice, and various coloured inks mixed with water were poured through the stencil holes, and froze almost immediately on to the ice below. In this fashion complicated designs of roses, thistles and maple-leaves, all in their proper colours, could be made in a very short time, and most effective they were until destroyed by the first six ends." (178)
In a farewell speech to curlers Lansdowne spoke of his regret in leaving Canada and "the roaring game", for it was unlikely he would be curling during his next posting - in India! He had become a keen curler. The tradition of Vice-Regal support of curling had been well established.
Lord Aberdeen sponsored a golf cup - the Aberdeen Cup was awarded to the Amateur Golf Champion of Canada and was first played at the Ottawa Golf Club in 1895 - but he was also a Scot and an avid curler. As patron and playing member of the Vice-Regal Curling Club he demonstrated "a first rate knowledge of the fine points of the game." He was actively involved in the administration of the Ontario Curling Association, helping to establish its policies and rules. He instituted a Governor-General's Trophy in 1894 "to be awarded to the winner of competitions held within the jurisdiction".
In 1938 the Lady Tweedsmuir Trophy was donated by the Governor-General's wife. This double-rink championship of the Ladies Curling Association of the Canadian Branch of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club is the women's counterpart of the Governor-General's Trophy competition for men. The reception and medal presentation also were traditionally held at Government House. The final match and awards dinner are now held at the same time as the finals of the Governor-General's Trophy in a curling club in the Ottawa area. For a brief time during Governor General Edward Schreyer's tenure an outdoor curling sheet was returned to Rideau Hall. Schreyer was a Manitoban and a curler. Writer E. Shirley Woods recalls curling with the Governor-General several times. (xii)
Since that time the main focus of the Club has been to recognize those who have made a significant contribution to curling, whether it be locally, provincially or nationally, not only as competitive curlers, but also as builders and administrators. Some of its members are legends of the game. One of its objectives is to promote the growth of curling in Canada and preserve its history. A recent initiative, in cooperation with the Canadian Curling Association, will see members sharing their knowledge of the history of curling at an exhibit at the 2010 Brier in London, Ontario.
The men and women of today's Club come from all walks of life and are proud to belong to this honourary Curling Club. The Club has no premises of its own and is supported only by Club events and donations, but members do from time to time compete in various competitions and bonspiels. The Club's crested red blazers are a familiar sight at curling events everywhere, including national and international championships.
A Century of Curling: an Historical Sketch of the Montreal Caledonia Curling Club with a Record of a Century of Sportsmanship. Montreal Caledonia Curling Club; Montreal, 1950.
Dufferin, Harriot Georgina Blackwood. My Canadian Journal; Extracts from My Letters Home,Written While Lord Dufferin was Governor-General 1872-78. D. Appleton; London, 1891.
Hamilton, Frederick Spenser. The Days Before Yesterday . Forgotten Books [http: forgottenbooks.com]
Kerr, John . Curling in Canada and the United States: A Record of the Tour of the Scottish Team, 1902-3, and of the Game in the Dominion and in the Republic . Geo. A. Morton; Edinburgh, 1904.
Mangan, J.A., ed. The Cultural Bond: Sport, Empire, Society. Frank Cass; London, 1992. Redmond, Gerald. Sporting Scots of Nineteenth Century Canada . Associated University Presses; London, 1982.
Woods, E. Shirley. Her Excellency Jeanne Sauve . Formac, Halifax, 1987.