Photo: Stuart Nicol
Lockerbie could have done with a lift on Friday. Slate grey skies and rain
greeted visitors to the small Scottish town which will be forever linked
with Pan Am Flight 103, but although events in Sochi did not go as planned,
there was a sense of pride even at the end of a hopelessly one-sided men’s
Olympic curling final.
David Murdoch’s silver medal added to the two bronzes won by Lockerbie’s Claire
Hamilton and Anna Sloan on Thursday. Not a bad return for a population of
just over 4000.
Curling is a traditionally Scottish sport, but paradoxically it is not one with
which too many Scots are familiar. According to the Royal Caledonian Curling
Club, there are some 22,500 registered curlers in the country, playing out
of 629 clubs. They play at just 22 indoor ice rinks, and the one at
Lockerbie opened in the same year as England won the football World Cup:
The rink, which served as a temporary morgue in the Pan Am aftermath, has survived
changing social attitudes – but, as with many sports clubs, is struggling to
stay viable. Because of the occasion there were well over 100 people packed
into its first-floor bar to watch Friday’s final on a large screen; one of
them, Norman Imrie, explained the challenges the rink was facing.
“People are not joining clubs because curling, like golf, is becoming
time-consuming and expensive,” the 64-year-old pointed out. “Twenty or
thirty years ago this place was absolutely heaving. They would have sessions
at 10pm, sometimes even midnight, because it was so popular.
“This is a big farming area and a lot of farmers would curl. They had men at
home to do the work and had the time and money to play. Nowadays it’s very
Coming from a farming family himself, Imrie knows David Murdoch’s parents, Matt
and Marion, well. They are in Sochi at the Games and there was a cheer of
recognition whenever the cameras panned on them during the final.
Otherwise there wasn’t much for the crowd at the ice rink to get wildly excited
about. Murdoch and his team saved the worst for last, and when they fell 5-1
behind after just three ends, everybody in the room knew Lockerbie would not
be boasting a golden post box.
If Imrie represented the older generation, 15-year-old schoolgirl Hannah Beattie
is more in line with Lockerbie’s future. She was wearing a white T-shirt
with Anna Sloan’s name emblazoned on the back. A relative, perhaps?
“No, a friend won it in a raffle,” she replied. “It was my birthday
at the time and luckily it fitted.”
She and her fellow pupils had been released early from Lockerbie Academy to
watch a moment of history, even if it was silver and not gold. “After asking
the rector very nicely, he has kindly allowed us to be here,” she said.
Beattie is a keen curler, spending about eight hours a week on the ice in winter.
Naturally, she hopes one day to emulate the three Lockerbie medallists.
One of the those responsible for keeping the ice rink in business is its chairman
Mike Stevenson. As David Murdoch conceded to the Canadians at the conclusion
of the eighth end, he said: “We’re really proud for them to have got to
the final and had a shot for the gold, but it’s not really gone for them.
They started off nervously and the Canadians were ruthless.
“There are obvious parallels between Dunblane and Lockerbie. Andy Murray gave
Dunblane a huge lift when he won Wimbledon and I’m certain these three
curling medals will give a lift to Lockerbie as well.”