Amherst Curling Club History by Janice Amos

“The Long Road

to the

Amherst Curling Club”

Opened on New Years Day 1948

Curling in the Town of Amherst traces back 136 years to January 23rd, 1873 when four rinks of curlers from Pictou meet four rinks from the old St. Andrews Curling Club of St. John, Pictou having won with a score of 84-77. The games were played on Christie’s Pond (behind the Amherst Firehall) The tournament took several days to complete, due to weather and other things. The visiting curlers stayed at the MacFarlane and Hamilton Hotels. In 1887 Henry Ketchum had begun work on the Chignecto Ship Railway, the Court House (the present one) was erected in 1888 and the Town of Amherst was incorporated on December 17, 1889.

It was 22 years before Curling really took hold in Amherst. The Chignecto Curling Club, the forerunner of the Amherst Curling Club, was organized on November 15th, 1895.  R.C. Fuller was the first president, J.B. Gass was vice-president, and John Mowatt was secretary. The first executives were D.T. Chapman, T.N. Campbell, F.G. Hall, J.H. Crocker, H.J. Logan and H.W. Rogers. A motion was made that the secretary orders 16 pairs of curling stones at $8.40 a pair, and proceed to collect dues, which were $6.00 a year. Arrangements were made for curling ice in the Aberdeen Rink then operated by H. W. Rogers. Side ices adjoining the skating and hockey surfaces were utilized for curling. There is a story that one of the hockey players of the time shot wild during a hockey game and the puck struck a prominent curler on the nose, causing a severe fracture.  No names are mentioned  J  It was decided that blue would be the Club color but in 1900 the colors were changed to red, white and blue which we still have today.

W.H. Tennant, a charter member of the Chignecto Curling Club, told the Amherst Daily News of curling in the Aberdeen Rink, explaining that the lighting system was oil lamps and told of flooding the curling ices which formed the wings to the Aberdeen Rink. It was located next to the Armories on the lot where the Amherst Curling Club is now located.  It burned down; however some of the old foundation can still be seen on the lot. A new hockey rink, Bailey Arena, was built on land now owned by Casey Concrete off of Park Street (not sure of the date). It was destroyed by fire in 1958.

 “The first curling match with an outside team was arranged against Sackville on Amherst ice for the last week in January 1896” A ten cent admission was charged with the Amherst Band in attendance but apparently warm weather intervened and no record on the match shows until March at which point it was still unfinished with Amherst in the lead. In the mean time Amherst played Truro on Colchester ice with Truro winning by 57 points. In February of that year Halifax played in Amherst and Amherst won by 9 points.  During 1897 to 1899 the Club was low on wins to brag about.  References were made in the Amherst Daly News that they didn’t know whether the Chignecto Curling Club “could beat a carpet”.

In 1900 plans were made to build a new Curling Club for the exclusive use of the Curlers. W. H. Tennant bought the land on Eddy St. personally for $300.00 and the rink was built. Also in 1900, (December 14th) a meeting was held to organize a District League. Initially the Sackville, Moncton and Amherst Clubs were involved in this league and later Oxford, River Hebert, Maccan and Springhill Clubs also became involved.  At this time in 1900 Amherst had neither a sewage system nor a paved road. In 1901 the 1st Maritime Winter Fair was held at the Eddy Street Curling Club. The first Maritime Bonspiel was held in 1907 at the present site where the Winter Fair Buildings were.

The first record of a meeting held in the new Curling rink on Eddy St. is given as October 13, 1902. The highlight for local curlers in 1902 was having two rinks of Amherst Curlers play in Halifax against two touring teams from Scotland. The weather turned mild and after hanging around for a week some of the players returned to Amherst. But James Mofatt, R. Robertson, T.S. Rogers and skip J.W. Taylor remained to best the Scots 16-6 on wet ice. In 1906 when the Chignecto Club won 30 games and lost 7, they took on the ambitious idea of holding a Maritime Bonspiel in Amherst.

102 years ago in 1907 the first major gathering of curlers in the Maritime Provinces occurred in Amherst. It was to be the biggest curling event ever held in the Maritimes. 19 Clubs were represented at this event, some clubs sending as many as 10 teams. These Clubs were: Moncton, New Glasgow,  Stellarton,  Antigonish,  Westville, Springhill, Cape Breton, Halifax (Mayflower),  Halifax, Hampton, N.B., Truro, Chatham, Amherst (Chignecto), Sackville, Pictou, St. John (Carleton), St. John (Thistle), Pugwash, and Campbellton. The 11 ice surfaces prepared by Sandy Bonnyman were located in the Maritime Winter Fair building, three surfaces were located in the Chignecto Curling Club on Eddy Street and two other surfaces were prepared at the Aberdeen Rink in the event of emergencies. Walter H. Tennant looked after these ice surfaces during the competition. Due to the great number of curlers invading the town, local hotels were not able to accommodate the invasion and several were put up and fed by the residents of the town. Several Trophies were up for the winning during this Bonspiel and the MacLellan Cup and the Johnson Cup are still being played for today. 

Also, in 1907 electric lights were installed in the Eddy Street Rink and again plans were made to hold yet another Maritime bonspiel in the town. This second bonspiel brought out great competition and Amherst held it’s own.

The Chignecto Curling Club changed its name to the Amherst Curling Club in 1908. The first meeting of the Amherst Curling Club was held at the Y.M.C.A above the present Bank of Nova Scotia (which was established in 1904). During the war years a number of members were in active service and the loss of Norman Christie and Forest Mitchell were noted in the Minutes.

1914 war broke out and the Armory had been previously built on land donated by the town, which, I presume was some of the land on which the Aberdeen Rink had stood before burning.

In 1919 a committee was appointed to look into the advisability of procuring a new site and building a new rink. A site recommended was in the rear of the First Baptist Church but the Depression had hit Amherst and the idea of a new rink was shelved. The Club held itself together and pulled from the red by holding moccasin dances, bumper banquets, mixed bridge, etc.  

In 1925 steps were taken to purchase the site on which the Eddy Street Rink had been built from W. H. Tennant, who had purchased the land that initially made the construction of the rink possible. There were several complaints about the Eddy St. building. The roof was under repair almost every year, the neighbors were not happy with the drainage and Ice #1 had problems that no one could seem to fix. During the 1925 year, it was suggested by H.F. Tennant that a Ladies Club be formed. They would be allowed the full use of the ice in the morning and one sheet in the afternoon except on Saturday when matches with visiting teams would be played. The Fee would be $5.00 a season.

In July 1927 it was decided to build a dining hall onto the Eddy Street Club and the first meeting was held in a spacious upstairs room  the following September.  The idea of a new rink being built at the original site picked out in 1919 behind the Baptist Church, again came to the forefront. The estimated cost was to be about $13000 and pledges were gathered for $9800.00. The idea again fell thorough. In 1927, as well, the Amherst Curling Club advanced another step when they allowed the High School Boys to use the ice under supervision on Saturday mornings.  In 1935 thoughts of another Maritime Bonspiel were considered, however, money was tight and the idea was soon shelved.

During the years of World War II the Amherst Curling Club opened the doors of its Eddy Street building to the servicemen. Soldiers, airmen and sailors were from other parts of Canada and of the world, where curling was a better known sport. Employees from Canada Car & Foundry Company and other war industries also took advantage of the opportunity to learn the sport between 1940 and 1945 which allowed the Amherst Curling Club to build up the reserve that caused the realization of a new Clubhouse on Prince Arthur Street in 1948.

N.S. Sanford, who was the President of the Amherst Curling Club from 1946-1947, and wrote the article “How New Curling Rink became an Accomplishment” in a 1948 addition of the   Amherst Daily News. He wrote his article based on the minutes from the Club during the years from June 4th, 1945 to January 15th, 1948 as “a record for future reference”.

In 1938 a committee under A.D. Smith determined that $12000 would be necessary to build a new clubhouse and there were pledges of $9000 but the task seemed hopeless and was abandoned.

Amherst Curlers, however, were going out of town to bonspiels and were encountering artificial ice and weather conditions were making it impossible to have continuous play at the Eddy St. ice. The project of having artificial ice came to a head on June 4th, 1945. A committee was formed to look into assessing repairs to the old rink, building a new rink, operating costs of a new rink and raising funds. On September 11th, 1945 the committee came before the meeting and recommended that a new building be built.

On February 13th, 1946 the head of the Committee reported that $17625 had been pledged by 108 members of the Club and not all had been canvassed as yet. Again a committee was appointed to assess the sites available in the town and April 10th, 1946 two sites were polled by the Members. 62 preferred Dale St. and 20 preferred Agnew St. On April 29th 1946 the Club was given another possibility and that was the Armories site.

On Sept. 10th, 1946 the committee reported that the Armories site had been bought. On March 12th, 1947 in a comprehensive report it was announced that the cost of building a new club would be $60,000. At a meeting on September 30th, 1947 the estimated cost was $67,000 and the Club would have to borrow $30,000. The dues were thus raised to $30 a year and the dues for Ladies be raised to $10.00 per capita. In the October 27th, 1947 permission was given to sell the Eddy St. property.  It was sold to Murdock Motors Ltd.  for $1200 on December 29th, 1947. 

The official opening took place on New Years Day 1948 with Charter Members of the Chignecto Curling Club W.H. Tennant, C.C. Black and C.S. Sutherland, throwing the first stones.

 “These are the unadorned facts as recorded in the Minute Book of the Club. They cannot do justice to the enthusiasm of the members, their hopes always and their fears occasionally, and the vast amount of detail involved in planning for the best in the hope that this enterprise might not only be a source of pleasure to curlers but a community asset as well. The great interest taken in this rink by the curling fraternity in the Maritimes indicates how closely linked we are with the exponents of this great traditional game”

According to the 1948 article “1907 Bonspiel 1st Major Gathering” in the Amherst Daily News penned by Ronald M. Ross, “The new curling rink, with its four lanes of artificial ice has been built upon the site of the Maritime winter Fair Building as it existed forty years in the past.”   According to the 1948 Amherst Daily News article written by D. V. Smith it was one of the most modern structures of its kind in the Maritime Provinces.  

There were a few interesting advertisements of congratulations in the 1948 Amherst Daily News to the Amherst Curling Club on the opening of their new rink: Blakeny Concrete Products Ltd.  of Moncton  congratulates the Amherst Curling  Club on the opening of “ their new modern fireproof curling rink” , D.E. Moss  of Amherst in their advert states “ We had the pleasure of installing the public address system in the new Amherst Curling Rink”, Rayworth Electric of Amherst states “We were pleased to have aided in this project by doing the wiring”, MacEachern & Strachan Plumbing of Amherst in their advert stated “It was our pleasure to install the plumbing fixtures as well as the heating apparatus in connection with this contract.” , Linde Canadian Refrigeration Company Ltd. of Montreal congratulates the Amherst Curling Club on joining “The latest members of the fast growing family of Linde Plant users” to be added to Montrael (5 clubs), Kimberley, B.C., Yarmouth, Nelson, B.C., Orellia, Ontario, St. John, Westmount, Quebec,Wolfville, N.S., and Moncton, N.B..  The final advertisement was from M. V. Spencer & Son building contractors from Moncton “Best wishes for the success and enjoyment of your new curling rink.”

In 1948 the Amherst Curling Club was to host to yet another Maritime Bonspiel. It was to be held on January 27th, 28th, 29th and 30th which would be Tuesday to Friday of the week. There were 13 Clubs represented (60 teams): St. John (St. Andrews), Dartmouth, Pictou, Halifax Curling Club, Truro, Moncton, Sackville, Bathurst, River Hebert, Oxford, Charlottetown and Amherst.  Many players had been here in 1907 and had the opportunity to play on the same sheets on ice that they had seen in 1907.

I have summarized the 1928 Amherst Daily News, with their blessing. The Daily had printed a four page article for the opening of the new building on Prince Arthur Street and the influx of Curlers that came to the 1948 Maritime Bonspiel. The original pages of this article are very delicate, as they were found among curling papers of Doug“Skipper” Trenholm, Brian Trenholm’s father. As the articles in the paper were written to congratulate the Amherst Curling Club and to welcome curlers to Amherst for the Bonspiel there are no results printed on these pages.

Janice Amos (2011)