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What’s Old is New

by Rick Lomore (2014)

If you have been by Pembroke’s curling facility on Herbert St. recently, you may have noticed some minor changes. Like an iceberg, however, there are a lot of new things going on that are important but not visible.

Since 1872 the Pembroke Curling Club, which is the third oldest in eastern Ontario and western Quebec, has been a fixture in the area, developing curlers through our junior program who have gone on to other areas, including several who have competed at elite levels; Phil Loevenmark and the late Scott Paterson come to mind. The Club has provided area curlers with an activity and social venue for all this time and has attracted many out of town curlers to the city to compete in our bonspiels and provincial competitions.

Times have changed and the Pembroke Curling Club is no more. In its place is the Pembroke Curling Centre. This change has been brought about partly through the necessity of ridding the club of the albatross of shares issued over the years that have prevented the Centre from applying for grants that would have helped maintain a first class facility. As well, we have finally recognized that we are in the 21st century with the rapid onset of the internet, cell phones and social media that have attracted the attention of a younger demographic.

Through the hard work of past president Brian Rook and a new Board of directors, in association with a local legal firm, we have shed the shares and are now a completely non-profit corporation and will comply with new legislation coming from Queen’s Park that will govern non profit and charitable organizations in the province. This will enable the Centre to hopefully access Trillium grants that will let us enhance the experience for local curlers.

Besides this administrative change the new Board, led by president Emile Robert, has taken a far sighted approach to operating the Centre in a way that will appeal to both present members as well as prospective curlers and the rest of the community. This has started with the name change to indicate that we are not exclusive- everyone is welcome here, from Little Rocks just starting, to seniors who want a vigorous activity coupled with socialization.

This “re-branding” has included the production of a new logo for the Pembroke Curling Centre by a professional graphic designer. We have done away with the crossed corn brooms of an earlier age and moved to a cleaner, more modern look. Looking carefully at the new logo, however, we can see that we have not forgotten the contribution of earlier times when we see a pointer boat sitting on the home end tee line.

To appeal to those who have embraced the new “connected at all cost” group we have a website that can be visited at www.pembroke.ovca.com, an informative FaceBook page and our own QR code; desperate info junkies can Google that.

Also going back to a not so distant past, some Pembroke Curling Centre games can be seen by those fortunate enough to have access to COGECO broadcasts, allowing local curlers some community exposure.

All this being said, everyone at the curling Centre is excited as we rise like the Phoenix, not from ashes but from a storied and honoured past, to look to the future. Our curling facility has been and will continue to be an asset for the community and will be happy to welcome everyone to give our sport a try.

Pembroke Curling Club

Established 1872

 Origin of the Pembroke Curling Club


Peter Copis

The earliest documentation of the origin of the Pembroke Curling Club dates back to 1872 with its affiliation to the Canadian Branch of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. A certificate and silver cup document the occasion and are displayed at the Pembroke Curling Club. The cup is worded as follows:

        " Presented by the Canadian Branch of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club

on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Pembroke Curling Club 1872-1972." 

The Story

It is most conceivable that curling existed as an organized sport in Pembroke, Ontario prior to the club's 1872 establishment date with the Canadian Branch of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. Although not factual, earlier beginnings are apparent when one follows the evolution and expansion of curling, from its roots in Scotland, to its coming to Canada.

The following is a History of Curling, which was extracted from the web site of the Diappool Curling Club, Scotland and has been modified with respect to the origin of the Pembroke Curling Club.


The Founding of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club

As curling gained popularity in Scotland in the early 1800's, a uniform set of rules became necessary for the many new participants. The Duddingston Club was the first, in 1804, to set out the "Rules in Curling", remarkable for their common sense and for their similarity to those followed today.

Subsequently, as more and more clubs were formed, it became evident that a governing body had to be set up to co-ordinate the growth of the curling community, at least in Scotland. In 1833, John Cairnie, the driving force for the creation of a "Mother Club of Curling" called on all Scottish clubs to submit lists of their officers, numbers of curlers, and matches played. The information was used to establish the Grand Caledonian Curling Club in Edinburgh in 1838, and to provide for its members The Annuals, a record of curling that has been compiled regularly since 1839.

In 1843, the Grand Caledonian was granted the patronage of Prince Albert, and was renamed as the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. Since then, patrons have always been members of the Royal Family, and beginning in 1900, have been either a king or a queen.

The founding of the Royal Club gave curling its first central association, and the occasion is generally considered as the most prominent and far-reaching event in the history of the sport.


Curling Comes to Canada

Scottish immigrants introduced curling to Canada. The sport evolved significantly from its humble beginnings when, in the winter of 1760, Scottish troops melted down cannon balls to fashion curling irons. Long, harsh Canadian winters were ideal for the game. By 1807 the first North American club was established. On January 22 of that year, twenty sporting Montreal merchants, who had been curling on the ice of the St. Lawrence River behind Molson's Brewery, founded the Montreal Curling Club. (In 1924, the club was honoured with the privilege of adding "Royal" to its name.) Early rules of the Montreal Club stated that the losing party pay for a bowl of whisky toddy, to be placed in the middle of the table for the rest of the curlers.

A second club was organized at Quebec City in 1821, also using irons. Curlers from each city met halfway on the St. Lawrence River at Trois Rivières in 1836. Quebec won, 31-23, with the losers paying for dinner.

The Montreal and Quebec curling clubs sought affiliation with the Royal Caledonian Curling Club as soon as news of the founding of the Royal Club reached them. They were accepted and named the Canadian Branch of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club in 1852, with headquarters in Montreal. The Canadian Branch existed as the governing body for curling in eastern Quebec and the Ottawa Valley in eastern Ontario.

Nearly 40,000 people, most of them Scots, settled Ontario between 1816 and 1823. Some of them were stone masons and made their curling stones from granite. Ontario's first curling club was in Kingston (1820). Within five years, the game's popularity had spread to Toronto. Curling clubs sprouted all over the province and the founding of the Toronto Curling Club in 1837 foreshadowed that city becoming the center of curling in Ontario. Competition between Quebec and Ontario curlers grew and in 1859, with the coming of the Grand Trunk Railway, curlers no longer had to travel days by horse and wagon to compete against each other. The only problem was that Quebec curlers insisted on competing with their irons (used widely in Montreal until 1954), while Ontario curlers wanted to use granite rocks. They compromised by playing separate matches using irons against irons and rocks against rocks. Quebec invariably won the games using irons and Ontario won the games played with rocks.

Curling spread fairly quickly throughout Ontario in the early part of the 19th century. But even though Ontario curling clubs had three times the membership of Quebec clubs, they remained without a policy-making voice until 1874, when they united and joined the Royal Club as the branch of the Province of Ontario. Today, the Ontario Curlers Association (formed in 1875) speaks for all Ontario Clubs.

In summary, the affiliation of the Pembroke Curling Club, in 1872, to the Canadian Branch of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, pre-dates the formation of the Ontario Curlers Association in 1875, which is itself a branch member of the RCCC. A plaque from the OCA recognizing the Pembroke Curling Club as being formed in 1876 is on display at the club. This date is noted in the first 'The Annuals' (records of curling) of the OCA, however, should correctly indicate formation in 1872. Also, it was in 1948 that the Pembroke Curling Club actually joined the OCA. (This information was provided by the OCA upon request).


The Pembroke Curling Club, one of the oldest in the Western Hemisphere, has had many historical advances since its inception in 1872.

Over 100 years ago a group of enthusiasts cleared the snow on the shores of the Ottawa, near Cockburn's Boat House, to form the first curling sheet in Pembroke.

About 10 years later a combined curling and skating rink was built on the ground just east of the old Centre Ward (now Victoria) school. Thus curling moved indoors. While the "Roarin' Game" went on one sheet in the centre, the skaters went anti-clockwise around them. The first Bonspiel was in this rink. The opponents were Arnprior. For this occasion the skating portion of the rink was also used making three sheets. The story was told that Pembroke was down and had last Iron on the last end of the last game. Arnprior was shot and well guarded. After considerable discussion, Mr. R. Kenning, a noted skip of his day, said: "There is no way of getting in there, I am just going to let go a whistler and see what happens." This he did and when the smoke cleared, Arnprior's shot was gone and Pembroke lay 2 to win.

At the turn of the century, a curling rink of two sheets was located behind the Pembroke Electric (now Hydro) company office. Major Walter Chambers, who was a young man at the time, was caretaker and manager. He remained a member of the curling club until his death in 1966. He was a top-notch curler to the end and two years before he died he skipped the winning team in an invitation Mixed Bonspiel.

The really big step was made in 1913 when they moved to what were then elegant quarters at the corner of Lake and Victoria streets. This building housed the game with minor improvements until 1947 when artificial ice was installed. By this advancement the curling season was extended from 10-11 weeks to over twice that number.

The original "Canadian" curling game, curling with the "Irons", at that time was being snowed under by the "Granites". Tradition dies hard in the Ottawa Valley. The Pembroke Club (the last but one) changed completely to granites by purchasing complete sets of matched rocks for all four sheets in 1953.

The finances during these years were always shaky and for several years the club could not get out of the red. The clubrooms were completely inadequate and the roof leaked. In 1954 a complete renovation of the clubrooms was undertaken and a new roof was installed. This proved to be a turning point. A debt of nearly $20,000 was paid off in the following 10 years and a healthy cash balance of $8,000 was shown at the end of the 67 season. The membership almost doubled and activities trebled.

In 1967 with the increased popularity of the game some forward-looking younger curlers started plans for a completely new structure and location. Through their untiring efforts, enthusiasm was engendered such that committees worked through the 1967-68 season. Plans were well underway when the fire occurred on March 28, 1968, which really lit another fire under the curling fraternity. In the following two months sufficient funds were guaranteed so that the directors were given the authority to start construction. The rink was ready by November 1, 1968.

The present Curling Club facility has greatly enhanced the sporting and social life of the community. Not only is the building being used to facilitate some great curling and bonspiel events, but the banquet hall and facilities are rented out to the general public to hold dances, weddings, meetings, etc. It is a facility that the City of Pembroke is proud to have.

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428 Herbert St.
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Pembroke, ON
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