This Week in History

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Canada's Oldest Sports Organization

For the week of Monday January 21, 2008

 

The first president of the Club Thomas Blackwood
© Courtesy of the Royal Montreal Curling Club

The Montreal Curling Club was founded on January 22, 1807, in Montréal, Lower Canada (now Quebec). This event marked the emergence of the country’s first recognized curling club. This sports organization helped put curling on the map in Lower Canada and other British colonies across North America.

A group of 20 men of Scottish background or descent, who were part of Montréal’s high society, founded The Montreal Curling Club.  Many of them were merchants and were involved in the fur trade. The Club was therefore originally restricted to certain members of society and only 20 people could join. Not only that, but membership was restricted to men at its beginning. Thus, the curling club’s constitution was governed by a series of specific rules applicable to all members. For instance, members had to meet every Wednesday to play a game of curling. The prize for the winners was a bowl of Whisky Toddy, a drink made

Curling on the St. Lawrence
© Notman 1878 / Courtesy of the Royal Montreal Curling Club

of sweetened hot water and whisky, served by the losing team.

The Club’s founding members played their games during winter on the St. Lawrence River, near the original Molson Brewery. They played with household brooms and iron stones, as granite was not yet available. In 1837, members decided on an indoor location for their games to avoid weather restrictions. For the first time in 1894, the Club opened its doors to ladies who wanted to become members and play against each other. In 1924, it received a royal designation and became known as The Royal Montreal Curling Club.

The Royal Montreal Curling Club in present day.
© Courtesy of the Royal Montreal Curling Club
Although curling was around before this sports organization was founded, it helped spread the sport’s popularity throughout Canada. Curling was first introduced in Canada by the Scottish community and began growing during the 19th century owing in part to this club. It would sometimes provide equipment and advice to new clubs to help them get organized so they could compete with each other.

The Royal Montreal Curling Club is the oldest curling club in Canada and North America. It is also the longest standing sports organization still in operation. The founding of The Royal Montreal Curling Club was declared a National Historic Event of Canada in 1953.

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