This exhibition, on display at Rozelle House from 25th March to 23rd May, provides a glimpse into sport in Ayrshire, now and in the past. How did these sports start? Who played and where?
Why were these sports chosen? The exhibition team chose these five based on prior contacts and knowledge. Each to us seems to be particularly Scottish and they are strong locally. They appear on the international scene and in the consciousness of Scotland. We could have chosen others.
The five sports are curling, football, golf, ice hockey and rugby. The exhibition team have worked with individuals, organisations and sport clubs to be able to show this unique and diverse group of artefacts and images. Our grateful thanks to everyone who helped and loaned artefacts.
Curling’s origins are not well understood. Stones, channel stanes and ‘loofies’ exist from the early 16th Century and it is recorded throughout the 17th Century. From the 18th Century onwards it is a popular and flourishing sport. In Ayrshire, Robert Burns creates an image in verse of curling which is readily recognisable today.
Ayr & Alloway Curlers at Rozelle Curling Pond
The game has changed a great deal, though. In the past, the vanquished often provided the dinner and drinks after the match.
In curling players meet as equals on the ice in a spirit of boisterous yet sociable competition, often lubricated by a generous tot of whisky. In an agrarian society it was played during the fallow season when Scotland’s farmers and shepherds were free to pursue it at will.
From the mid-19th Century, the birth of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club and a growth in dedicated curling ponds, such as at Rozelle, began the process of regularising curling and transforming it into the sport we know today.
The two senior Ayrshire football clubs are Ayr United FC and Kilmarnock FC. Many interesting and intriguing artefacts and photographs are on show here. The Kilmarnock Charity Cup is here reunited with its plinth for the first time in 100 years!
Spot the ball!
Ayr United or ‘The Honest Men’ play at Somerset Park. Probably Ayr’s most famous manager is Ally MacLeod who took charge in 1966. He guided Ayr back to the top division and took them to a Scottish and a league cup semi-final. He moved to Aberdeen FC in 1975 and appointed manager of the national team in 1977.
Kilmarnock Football Club, the oldest professional club in Scotland, were Scottish League Division 1 champions in 1964/65, Scottish Cup winners 1919/1920 and 1997 and League Cup winners in 2012. Commonly known as ‘Killie’, they play home games at Rugby Park.
Along with the two professional clubs in Ayrshire there are 24 Junior football clubs who compete in their own leagues and play for the Scottish Junior Cup every year.
Golf is known to have been played in Scotland since at least 1457, when golf and football were banned as distractions from archery practice.
The earliest known equipment was long-nosed woods, crude irons and featherie balls. Play was often on common land, especially seaside links. These have evolved, and the rules with them, to the high tech equipment used today. Examples of historical equipment, some associated with key players, are on show.
Girvan Golf Club
Within South Ayrshire are three Open Championship courses. Prestwick Golf Club founded the Open Championship and ran it until 1870. Prestwick no longer hosts the Open, but remains a major golfing venue. Troon hosted its first Open Championship in 1923 and Turnberry in 1977.
The rise of the railways in Britain was key to the growth of golf. In 1910 the route from Glasgow to Ayr was dubbed ‘The Golfers’ Line’ by Rail and Travel Monthly – it served 14 links courses.
An exclusive pastime of the wealthy in the 19th Century, British ice hockey became an extremely popular spectator sport through the 1930s and 1950s. In Britain, the sport has had several periods of boom and bust. Glory days were triggered by the national team’s Olympic triumph in 1936. Bust came in the early 1960s, when the sport almost died. There was a period of struggle, before regaining popular appeal over the last 40 years in an era of new arenas and European competition.
The story of ice hockey in Ayr is equally varied. Ice Hockey’s sense of community is important. Still a minority sport in the UK, it is very much a major sport in localised areas, like Ayr.
The first Ayrshire team was Doonside, with their first match at Crossmyloof in 1929. Ayr’s first ice rink opened in 1939. It closed in 1972, but the sport continued at the Limekiln Road Rink. In 1996 ‘The Centrum’ rink opened to a capacity crowd, but this was not to last. The Ayr Scottish Eagles relocated to Glasgow’s Braehead Arena in 2002, leaving Ayr without a hockey team. Sadly ‘The Centrum’ closed in 2004 and now the sport is kept alive in Ayr by the commitment of the junior and recreational players back at the Limekiln Road Rink.
Ayr Rugby F.C. began on the evening of Wednesday 22nd September 1897, at a meeting in the Kings Arms Hotel, High Street, Ayr. A Secretary, Treasurer and Captain were appointed, along with a Selection Committee. Northfield Park was settled on as the playing fields.
The inaugural match took place on Monday 27th September 1897 versus Glasgow Second XV of Clydesdale. The final score of 0-8 to the visitors was deemed ‘a satisfactory start’.
The sport became quickly established and just 4 weeks later a Second XV was formed.
From that site, and from that time of only 162 members, the Club has grown in both strength and accolades. They were League Winners 2008 – 2009, 2012 – 2013, Cup Winners 2010, 2011 & 2013 and Bill McLaren Shield Winners 2013.
Since 2011 they have offered a Rugby Academy, which works to support and develop the talent within the youth teams. Ayr Ladies was formed in 2012 and now competes in the BT Women’s National League Division 1.