100th anniversary of Meiklejohn Bonspiel celebrates towns history

The origin of curling began on frozen ponds in Scotland as early as the 1500s, but it wasn’t until 1716 that the first curling club in the world was formed. 

The Harriston club got its start in 1875 when the Palace Rink was constructed. It sported two curling lanes, one on either side of the skating and hockey surface.

The Meiklejohn family is credited with bringing curling to this area from their homeland Scotland. In 1912 they organized the Meiklejohn Bonspiel which is now one of the worlds’ longest standing, prestigious curling competitions.

Winner of the first trophy, a three foot sterling silver edifice, was a team from Fergus.

Teams came from all across Ontario by train.  In those days, participants carried their own sets of stones. The event ran 24 hours as each game was 12 ends. The bonspiel lasted for a six day period so room and meals had to be sought from the local hotels, which charged $1 a day.

Five years after the initiation of the Meiklejohn trophy, a huge silver tray, called the Chambers Challenge Shield, was awarded to second place. Ironically, it was also a Fergus team that won it the first time.

In 1921, John Meiklejohn, donor of the trophy, skipped the Canadian Curling team which travelled to Scotland.  It played two matches and beat the Scots with “handsome victories.”

In conjunction with the Curling Club, the Harriston Historical Society has set up an exhibit in the window of Davie’s Antiques. That commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Meiklejohn Bonspiel, and showcases pictures, trading pins, individual trophies, and other memorabilia, plus the old corn brooms. One of the highlights of the exhibit is the set of stones that were used during the 1949 win by Gordon MacKenzie’s Harriston team.

Those who have been fortunate enough to win the coveted silver urn say it is to curling as the Stanley Cup is to hockey.

The anniversary weekend commences Feb. 25 when the first stone will be thrown as part of the opening ceremonies. Events will continue all weekend. 

The Historical Society’s exhibit will be transferred to the Harriston arena during the bonspiel. Many of the articles will then remain in the curling club’s showcases.