A History of Curling in Alexandria and Glengarry
The seeds of curling in Glengarry were first planted when British soldiers, serving during 1812-14 War and stationed near Lancaster, melted down cannon balls to make curling “irons”. Vague references to curling were made from time to time throughout the 19th century.
However, it wasn’t until 1896 that The Glengarrian reports an effort to start a curling rink in Alexandria. A new rink was finally built in 1898. The club was situated along the Garry river on St. Paul Street East. Officers of the Alexandria Curling Club were appointed in the fall of 1898 with the first President A.G.F. Macdonald. In January, 1899 secretary James Martin applies to join the Canadian Branch of Royal Caledonian Curling Club of Scotland. The records of the Canadian Branch of R.C.C confirm membership in the same month of that year.
Within months of its founding, the club was in receipt of a pair of curling stones donated by Robert Gardiner & Sons (Engineers & Machinists) of Montreal for a competition amongst the club’s twenty – four members. Dr. K. MacLennan won the stones in a singles competition that extended through mid-February. Late January, 1899 saw Colonel Stevenson of Montreal, present a silver medal on behalf of the Canadian Branch of the R.C.C. of Scotland. It was played for in 1900 and first won by Mr. J.A. McRae.
The members of this early club enjoyed many games in Alexandria against clubs from Cornwall, Kemptville, Lachine and the St. Lawrence Club of Montreal. The members also travelled to many neighbouring clubs – Cornwall, Valleyfield, Ottawa and the Montreal clubs of Heather, St. Lawrence, Thistle, Caledonia, and Montreal. All this travelling was, of course, done by train and all games were played on ‘natural ice’ with curling irons. Each member travelled with and supplied his own set of irons. The records also show that the Alexandria club was represented at the Great Bonspiel, held in Montreal in 1903. This bonspiel, with 44 rinks participating, occurred when the Scottish Curlers toured Canada.
Then due to a series of warm winters, the curling club was disbanded for a few years.
New life to curling in Glengarry occurred in 1923, when it achieved a permanent basis when the “Alexandria Improvement and Athletic Association, Limited” received its charter and moved one of the former area fair barns to our present location on Main Street North in Alexandria.
1935 proved to be a very successful season for our club. Three skips – D.A. Macdonald, R.H. Cowan and Dr. H.L. Cheney led teams of Bruce MacDonald, J.T. Smith, G.N. Edwards, D.N. McRae, Dr. D.J. Dolan J.A. Laurin, Dr. R.J.McCallum, Ubald Rouleau, and Clarence Ostrom into Montreal to play in the annual Edinburgh Trophy Competition. “They rolled up a score of plus 33 placing them far in front of their competitors.“ Two weeks later 12 curlers from Montreal led by T. Howard Stewart, “Thane of Curlers” visited our club and formerly presented our members with 8 pairs of “beautiful granite stones”
In 1952, the club purchased seven pairs of granites at $15 a pair from the Heather Curling Club, Westmount, Que. The Alexandria Club then loaned ten sets of irons to the new Maxville Curling Club with the provision that the irons would not be privately owned.
Artificial ice was installed in Alexandria in 1958. That year also marks the beginning of the Ladies Division of the Alexandria Curling Club with 27 ladies proudly joining the club.
In March 1959, the Alexandria Curling Club provided ice time to members of the Maxville Curling Club in order for them to complete their week-long bonspiel after the cave-in of their rink’s roof under the weight of heavy snow.
In the early 1960’s a number of Alexandria Curling Club members living in the Lancaster area decided to build a new curling club in Lancaster.
During the 1964-65 season the Alexandria club started up the Annual Men’s Moose Bonspiel with 8 teams participating. This bonspiel which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014 and is still running. In fact held its 56th spiel in March 2020 making it the oldest actively running bonspiel in Glengarry.
In 1970- 1971, the members took the bold step of replacing the club house with a new and more appropriate building with comfortable facilities including a 40 x 56’ Clubroom with a full basement. The Club soon repaid the $32,000 owed at the end of this construction and found it advisable to purchase the adjoining lot to meet the new parking requirements.
In 1980, the Directors decided, after discussion with the General Membership, to tear down the remaining portion of the former Fair Barn, expand the Club house, and replace the existing two sheets of ice with a new building housing three sheets of climate controlled ice. “A Wintario grant in the amount of $121,136.60 has been approved for construction of a new ice shed extension to the clubroom at the Alexandria Curling Club. The new building will cost more that $200,000 so a great deal of money still has to be raised. “Glengarry News June 4, 1980” The new iceshed and expanded clubrooms of the Alexandria Curling Club will be officially opened on Saturday evening. Ontario Minister of Culture and Recreation Reubin Baetz and officials from Wintario will unveil a Wintario plaque and officiate at the Ribbon cutting. “Glengarry News Nov. 4, 1981”
In 1985, Lancaster Curling Club members Joan & Coleman MacDonald initiated the Glengarry Cup Competition. This competitive friendly competition is looked forward to every season by all members of the Alexandria, Lancaster and Maxville curlers.
In the summer of 1988, the bar and kitchen facilities of the clubhouse were renovated and extended and a new air conditioning system was installed. Members helped fund the renovations by participating in ‘grannie’ loans and as well, the club was able to borrow funds at a very low interest rate from the OVCA.
In 1997, the clubroom received a new lease on life when with volunteer help from the members who completely renovated and redecorated the clubhouse.
During February, 1999 the club celebrated 100 years of curling in Alexandria with a celebration dinner and dance with members and curling friends from neighbouring clubs.
The club welcomed visitors from Scotland when Scottish curlers from Renfrewshire Province arrived at the Alexandria Curling Club in November 2002. The club hosted 24 curlers and treated them to a curling game, lunch and beverages.
Bad news for the curling season in 2004 when the club suffered ice plant equipment failure in November 2004. Corrosion of the chiller was discovered which resulted with curling start up delay of over a month. Replacement chiller cost the club around $25,000 and curling resumed in November 30. The Lancaster Curling Club helped out by generously donating ice time to the Alexandria curlers during the month of November.
During the summer July 2005 saw the Alexandria Curling Club participate with Lancaster Curling Club and Maxville Curling Club in setting up a curling room at the Glengarry Sports Hall of Fame building in Maxville. Various trophies and memorabilia from the three clubs filled the room.
In August 2005, it was announced that Alexandria Improvement and Athletic Association & Curling Club received a $30,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The club used these funds to purchase heaters for the iceshed, replaced the roof, insulated the building and purchased new ‘little rocks’ for the younger players.
At the beginning of the season, in November 2005, the club welcomed Canadian Curling ambassador and star Guy Hemings. He participated in a curling game, and was the key note speaker at the evening’s banquet. He was awarded an honourary membership to the Alexandria Curling club in recognition for all he has done for curling.
In November 2010 the club welcomed another group of Scottish curlers when curlers from Renfrewshire Province arrived at the Alexandria Curling Club. The visitors enjoyed a curling game, lunch and beverages.
During the fall of 2017, the club embarked on a new venture by offering a Learn to Curl Program. This program features a 10 – week course for newcomers to the game of curling. The club welcomed 24 participants with 20 joining the club as full active members who love curling. This is a very successful program which continues in the club each season teaching new curlers.
Big news in October 2018 when the 35 year old ice plant was replaced. The Ontario Trillium Foundation gave the Alexandria Curling Club a sizable grant of $113,700 towards the cost of $156,000 to replace the plant. The new high-tech ice plant included 2 computer controlled compressors, a chiller and a condenser. Mr. Jacques Heroux, representing the Trillium Foundation presented the club with a ceremonial plaque.
In the summer of 2020 the Ice Shed was painted and wooden ACC logo sign was refurbished with the help of a $1,750.85 grant from the North Glengarry Community Improvement Plan (CIP) project.
The 2019-2020 curling season started and ran as normal until March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions forced the early closure of the curling season upon the completion of the invitational men’s Moose Bonspiel.
Due to the ongoing pandemic the club had to close down from December 2020 to February 2021due to provincial regulations and reopened to finish the 2020-21 curling season in mid-March. The Alexandria Curling club was only one of two clubs in the area that had seen some curling during the 2020-21 pandemic season. The following curling season 2021-2022 the pandemic was into its second year with all area rinks opening up with a full month shutdown in January 2022.