History of the Galt Curling Club
175 years and going strong
2013 is a historic year for the members of the Galt Curling Club. It was 175 years ago this season that the first documented curling occurred and that the original club was formed. This makes the Galt Curling Club the fourth oldest curling club that is still in existence in Ontario today.
Curling, but curling unlike any we know today, begin in Scotland some 450 years ago. The first recorded Scottish Curling organization dates to 1538. Curling in those days was accomplished with huge, natural granite stones, which were up to three times the mass of today’s polished stones. Those which were naturally shaped to give a running surface and a rudimentary handle were favoured. Some of these early stones were even given names and clubs of those times really looked after and protected a true running stone. Played out of doors on the ice of the loch, curling was not a game for the faint of heart. Indeed, in early times a competition between two districts could end up with feelings running so high that actual battle broke out. These early devotees of the sport must be given the credit for keeping “The Roarin’ Game” alive through the years.
The many people of Scottish background who originally settled in the Galt area undoubtedly brought the game to their new land with them. The frozen water of the Grand River and the many small lakes surrounding the pioneer community were the scenes of many unorganized matches during the early 1830’s. However, the first game of which there is a definite record took place at Altrive Lake, on the farm of James S. Cowan, in February of 1837. The curling stones used were blocks of maple wood, heavily banded in iron, and having iron handles. The deep snow had to be shovelled off the playing surface first, and had to be kept off by vigourous activity with brooms.
The following year, 1838, the Galt Curling Club was formed with an informal organization of many of the curlers who took part in the historic game above. The game flourished and by 1841 it became necessary to establish the club in a more formal manner. It was then an executive was elected and formal club rules were set. Mr. William Dickson, the founder of Galt, became the first President of the club.
On the Ponds
History has it that, depending on the conditions of the weather, some great ice battles were staged on the ponds and lakes in and around Galt with the invading curlers coming from Guelph, Fergus, Ayr, Paris, Elora, West Flamborough, Dundas, Hamilton, Milton and from as far away as Toronto. Unlike today’s bonspiels where curlers may come from many different towns and cities to compete in a bonspiel in those early days competition would be head to head, between two communities. Home and home series would be arranged. The winners would go on to the next community until finally a District winner was established. Depending on the distance to be travelled a one-day competition could take three days with a day allowed for travel to and from the opposing town or village by horse-drawn sleigh.
In the years that followed the game and the club grew. In 1866 the Galt Curling Club joined the Canadian Branch of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. Then in 1875 when the Ontario Branch was formed Galt was one of the original founding clubs. The Ontario Branch of the R.C.C.C. later became the Ontario Curling Association and Galt curlers have served as Presidents of the O.C.A. on four different occasions.
First, Second and Third Rinks
The first rink in Galt was a wooden building with two sheets of ice located at the south end of Dickson Park. Unfortunately this structure burned to the ground. From there the curlers moved to a temporary site on Water St. where the Tiger Brand factory recently stood. The longest serving building on North Square was built during 1877 and 1878 and was one of the finest rinks in the country of that day. It originally had two sheets of curling ice on the outside, enclosing an ice-hockey rink in the centre area. Artificial ice was added in 1930.
Another Club Formed
In 1881 dissatisfaction arose in the club and a second club, the Galt Granite Club was formed. The two clubs shared the facilities of the one curling rink but were friendly rivals for many years. Indeed the weekly competition between them was a highlight of many winters. In 1930 the Galt Curling Club amalgamated with the Galt Granite Club and adopted the Galt Curling Club name and continued to grow.
Curlers representing Galt Curling Club and Galt Granite Club won many honours over the years with Ontario Tankard winners in 1889, 1904, 1906, and 1924. In 1948 a Galt rink won the British Consols and went on to represent Ontario in the Brier. More recently Galt rinks have won provioncial titles in Business Ladies, Senior Men's and Senior Mixed.
Ladies in Curling!!
Curling for women was introduced in 1951 and that year saw the first ladies games as well as the first mixed games. These popular sections of our club continue today after the curling boom of the 1960’s and early 1970’s. An active Business Ladies Section was added in 1967-68.
Another Club formed
With the explosion of interest in the game of curling in the 1960’s a new building was constructed at the Galt Country Club and now two clubs flourish in the city both with active memberships and with keen rivalry between them.
Early the 1980’s the club faced a serious problem when the wood frame construction of the century-old building was found to be structurally unsafe. Extensive renovation and the addition of steel supporting beams was the answer and curling continued for a few more years in the upgraded facility.
Our new location
To make way for an addition to the Galt public library at Queen's Square a relocation committee was formed by the Galt Curling Club to have a new facility built in 1990. Serving on that committee were Dave Bartleman, Richard Bullock, Ken Cox, John Jacobs, Bill Meyer, Louise O’Brien, Kathy Wilkins and Jim Broomfield.
Our Curling Stone Fireplace
The current four sheet club was built on Dunbar Road in Cambridge. The unique fireplace from the former curling rink built in 1877 was rescued from the old building and was incorporated into the lower floor lounge. Made of old curling stones it stands as a monument to the early pioneer curlers of former Galt and district.
Improved Ice Surface
In 2009 with the substantial support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation a major upgrade program was undertaken. Included in this effort was the addition of enhanced insulation beneath the ice playing surface ensuring a superb base for our playing surface. This was accomplished through the extraordinary efforts of many club volunteers. Consequently the club has a superior curling surface throughout the entire curling season.