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Sochi stars fire up curling museum campaign

CAMPAIGNERS have launched a fresh attempt to establish a national curling museum in Scotland in the wake of Team GB's success at the Winter Olympics.

Enthusiast David Smith wants to donate his curling collection to launch a new museum based around the ancient sport.
Enthusiast David Smith wants to donate his curling collection to launch a new museum based around the ancient sport.

The British curling team, all from Scotland, took bronze in the women's event and silver in the men's event at the Sochi Games last week.

Now there are renewed calls to create a permanent exhibition to the sport.

The idea for such a museum has long been backed by the Royal Caledonian Curling Club — the governing body for the sport in Scotland — but its ambition has been hampered by financial constraints.

Now, private collector David Smith from Troon, Ayrshire, is spearheading the campaign and hopes the medal haul in Sochi will foster greater interest in the project.

He said: "It really is unusual that a small sport has attracted such a lot of attention.

"Hopefully, the success of the Team GB in Sochi will bring greater interest to the idea of a museum — something I have been involved in for a number of years.

"But the project is beyond my own means alone. That is why I have been working in conjunction with the RCCC.

"We have since formed a trust and have launched a new campaign to take the project forward."

Mr Smith, 77, has been an avid follower of the sport for 50 years.

In that time he has assembled a large selection of medals, books and paintings along with a collection of more than 300 curling stones.

In the hopes of realising his dream of establishing a Scottish curling museum, he has pledged to donate the many valuable items in his possession.

In addition, the RCCC will offer a handful of exhibits including two gold medals won by the Scottish members of Team GB at the first Olympic curling event in 1924.

The RCCC also hopes to display Charles Lees's memorial painting of the Grand Match at Linlithgow Loch in 1848, in which Scottish curlers from the north competed against their compatriots from southern rinks.

The renewed interest all comes amid ­increasing international attention on the sport. Kays of Mauchline, one of only two workshops in the world that make curling stones, has received inquiries from as far afield as Iran.

With exclusive rights to harvest granite from Ailsa Craig, Kays is also the official supplier to the World Curling Federation.

Factory manager Bill Hunter said: "We won't really know the impact of the Olympics for a week to 10 days. By that time there may be orders coming in.

"But we know there are more and more countries wanting to join the Olympic Association's curling side.

"Countries like Iran now want to get into the sport. We have had to send a quote to them, but they will have to get into the World Curling Federation first."

The Ayrshire plant can produce around 25 stones a week. In 1910 an Ailsa Craig curling stone cost less than £3 but the ones the Olympians have been using normally cost around £400 each. A normal handle would cost up to £50, but those on the stones in Sochi are electronic and cost more.

Mr Hunter said it was "ludicrous" there was no curling museum in Scotland, particularly as the sport is one of the few at which Scots are among the world's best.

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