A group of 20 Scottish curlers vying for the coveted Strathcona Cup made their stop in Vernon on Tuesday, Jan. 17.
The Strathcona Cup is the oldest international sporting competition in the world, first held in 1903.
The competition is held every five years between Scotland and Canada, with the two countries taking turns travelling across the Atlantic to compete.
In all, 60 Scots have made their way to Canada, split into three groups: one in the Maritimes, one touring Western Canada and one playing in Ontario and Montreal.
On Tuesday, the Vernon Curling Club hosted the Scots before making their way to Kelowna to play Wednesday ahead of stops in Banff, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and finally to Ottawa for a final banquet with all 60 Scots in attendance.
“We’re honoured that they picked Vernon to come here and participate,” said Vernon Curling Club manager Dave Merklinger, adding there’s still three weeks of competition to go.
One of the Scots, Willie Johnson, started curling 50-odd years ago.
“It’s been a long journey,” Johnson said. “It took 10 hours to get here from London, and this is the eighth game we’ve played since Wednesday.”
Johnson is from a small town in Scotland with a name familiar to people in the Vernon area; the town is called Coldstream.
“It’s a lot of fun and good ice, but I think we’re losing a wee bit,” Johnson laughed. As of Tuesday afternoon, the Canadians were up by 114 points. In the West, the margin is 12 points for the Canadians.
Eddie Binks is from a small Scottish town called Beith. He says they haven’t toured much of Vernon beyond the curling club, but he was impressed by what little he has seen.
“It’s been excellent so far, the hospitality has been fantastic. The weather’s been kind to us,” he said.
Binks got invited to a bonspiel 43 years ago, and never looked back.
His team played Tuesday morning and won with three points in the last end to win the match.
Bruce Weitzel is one of the Vernon players competing against the Scots.
“It’s just an opportunity to play with visitors from Scotland, the home of the game, and of course Canada excels in the game now as well, so it’s always nice to share some camaraderie and have a little fun together,” Weitzel said.
Weitzel said it’s been great getting to know the visiting Scotts during games and over a lunch the two sides shared together.
“It’s a great group of guys,” he said.
Eighty-eight different curling clubs across Canada are involved in this year’s Strathcona Cup, and by the time cup is hoisted by the winning team, 350 games will have been played.