Curling club to host 101st Meiklejohn Bonspiel

In curling rinks around the world, clubs have their own special competitions. For Harriston it’s “the Meiklejohn,” which was established in 1912.

Many people might think curling is a modern game, when in fact the sport of throwing rocks down an ice sheet goes back many centuries.  

The first games were played outdoors on frozen ponds, and rocks were hunks of ice or frozen earth chipped to a rough round – until the weather got mild, the ponds got slushy and the rocks shrunk.

Other concepts involved wooden blocks of maple or birch with iron handles.  Some also had iron striking bands, others were filled with lead for additional weight.

There is even speculation the pioneer “thunder mug” was pulled from beneath the bed and filled with mortar to get the required size, shape and weight.

In Quebec and northeastern Ontario they used “irons” (iron stones shaped like tea kettles).

At the Harriston Historical Archive rooms there is a set of old wooden stones donated by Meg and Bob Burrows.  Maple stones were introduced around 1850 but they were never used in Harriston bonspiels.

Scotland appears to be the birthplace of curling, and immigrants from there, the Meiklejohn’s, brought curling to the Harriston area.

Their namesake, the Meiklejohn Bonspiel, is now in its 101st year – one of the longest running and most coveted ’spiels in Ontario if not all of Canada.

Starting in the old Palace Arena, which burned down in 1958, the prestigious Meiklejohn event has attracted teams from all over the province. The winning team has an engraved plate affixed to the elaborate three-foot-tall sterling silver trophy. Second place winners are deemed champions of the Chambers Shield.

For the 100th anniversary last year, in addition to the Chambers Shield, the McCready Cup was introduced to the competition for a combined championship play-down, thus giving three teams a chance to stand on the podium at competition’s end.

The Scottish bonspiels in the 1800s were concluded with a parade to the feasting house, with the winning team leading the marchers.

The Meiklejohn holds several of the old traditions, from the opening ceremony led by the bagpiper, to “good curling” wishes and “good game” handshakes afterwards, followed by socializing, which usually includes a meal.

The 101st Meiklejohn Bonspiel is set for Feb. 24 to 26 at the Harriston Curling Club and will feature 24 teams vying for the renowned trophies.

For more information about the event or the club, visit