The Grand Match is an outdoor curling game arranged between the North and South of Scotland. An imaginary line is drawn between the River Forth and River Clyde to decide the two sides. This is then decided by the number of entries on both sides. The last three Grand Matches have had in the region of three hundred rinks on each side, making 2400 curlers on the ice at one time. A gun is fired to start the game which lasts 3 hours and again to signal the last end. For this number of rinks we need about 20 acres of ice 7 inches thick. It takes 60 men nearly two days to mark the rinks. The Traffic Management and Health and Safety are well in hand for the two venues we have at present. This is Piper Dam near Dundee and Loch Leven in Kinross. We would also consider flooding an area to 2 feet.
The first Grand Match was held on Penicuik Loch on the 15th January 1847 with three hundred curlers taking part. That year there was three months of frost. The next Grand Match was held on Linlithgow Loch in 1848 with 680 curlers turning up to play. Unfortunately this Loch is very deep and the main concern that year was when 5000 spectators turned up. When a large number congregated at one point the ice became biased. This caused great concern for The Royal Caledonian Curling Club Committee so they looked for a suitable stretch of water not so deep. Carsbreck, north east of Stirling was found and after the weeds and gorse were cleaned out this gave a huge stretch of ground near the Allan Water which could be flooded and as the Railway passed close by, a temporary station was set up. Between 1853 and 1935 there were twenty five Grand Matches held there. By 1935 the ground had become so uneven that 2ft of water at one end became 8ft deep at the other end and this was deemed unsafe. Since then we have had three Grand Matches, 1959 on Loch Leven and 1963 and 1979 on Lake of Menteith.
We take our responsibilities seriously and have a number of safety plans and procedures in place to mitigate the risks involved in such a large event taking place outdoors in winter. Through developing good working relationships with the councils, police, ambulance, fire and rescue services we are now better prepared than ever before, so when the temperature drops and ice thickens we will be ready to make the most of the conditions.
Jim Paterson (December 2012)