Keen curlers in Inverness can discover this week how they could become part of the sport’s oldest competition in the world – and take on Canadians on their own ice.
The Strathcona Cup was presented in 1909 by Sir Donald Smith, Lord Strathcona, to recognise the winner of a curling tour between Canada and Scotland.
And the trophy is still a sought-after prize for curlers from both nations.
The competition happens every five years, with the Canadians holding a 14-12 advantage after retaining the coveted silverware in January as the latest hosts.
At Inverness Ice Centre this Friday, there will be a fact-finding day and 2023 Strathcona Cup Tour reunion, from 11am until 4pm.
Many of those who have been part of these tours will be on hand to give an account of what to expect.
Curling competition every five years
Tom Pendreigh, a long-time coach of three-time world and ex-Olympian curler Ewan MacDonald from Inverness, is the driving force behind the day.
Pendreigh said: “The idea of the reunion being held in Inverness was to raise awareness in the Highlands of these tours.
“There are several tours, but this is the biggest one. It happens every 10 years. You apply, go through a selection process and then hopefully get picked to go.
“It all happens two years in advance as there is such a lot of organisation involved. A total of 60 people get chosen to go and there are three tours – one to the west of Canada, one in central Canada and one in the east of Canada. We then all meet up at the end.
“We basically visit as many clubs as we can to play against the Canadians, who generally field strong teams, all competing for the Strathcona Cup.
“The origins go back to Lord Strathcona, who came from Forres. I believe it is the oldest curling competition in the world.
“We go over there every 10 years, and the Canadians visit Scotland five years later to play against us.
“There is a five-year cycle between each event. The next one will be in four years when the Canadians come over here.”
Entertainment is name of the game
Pendreigh, who captained the Scots on this year’s tour to western Canada, hopes offering people a glimpse of what a tour is all about could lead to more competitors from the north of Scotland taking part.
He said: “There have not been many people from this neck of the woods going over to compete in Canada.
“The day will also inform people more about the sport itself and a lot of the history behind curling.
“We want as many locals to come along and we’ll have short curling games to allow people the chance to try it. We’ll get people on the ice to play with and against one another, rather than it being a full-scale curling match.
“There will be fun and banter after the curling and a dinner at the Kingsmills Hotel.
“Often on these tours, we create entertainment, so there will be plenty going on, such as poetry or singing songs. This will give the locals a flavour of what actually goes on when you go on one of these tours.”
Other tour chances for competitors
And Pendreigh explained the rare chance – if selected for the Strathcona Cup – will not exclude anyone from joining tours elsewhere
He added: “If you are selected, you are only allowed to go on that particular tour once to allow as many people as possible to get the opportunity.
“There are Swiss, American and Swedish tours people can also go on, but once you have been on one, you can’t go again.”
For more information or to register for Friday’s event, email firstname.lastname@example.org