Hugh Black Founders Bonspiel: Celebrating 175 years of curling

It seems the Black family name is synonymous with curling, and as the recent Hugh Black Founders Bonspiel illustrated, that history continues even today.

As the Fergus Curling Club celebrates its 175th anniversary, the club hosted the first annual Founders Bonspiel in recognition of the club’s foun­der and first president, Hugh Black.

The club is almost as old as the town itself, founded in 1834.

The club may not be the oldest in Canada – but it comes pretty darn close.

Rob Black explained that Hugh Black was founder and first president of the club in 1834.

“This is the oldest continuous curling club in Ontario … and the third oldest club in Canada.”

He explained the event held on Feb. 8 was one part of the club’s 175th celebrations that are being held throughout the year.

The pipers are Sam Harrop and Laurie Black Rooney, who is a great-great-great granddaughter of Hugh Black.

“Sam’s been here forever,” Rob Black added.

The drummers are Claire Rooney, Adam Black, and Tayler Black, all great-great-great-great grandchildren of Hugh Black.

“My uncle Hugh Black [who] is helping to co-ordinate this event, is a great-great grandson.”

On a nearby table stood a display about Hugh Black (1778-1855) and his connections to both curling and the community of Fergus.

In an essay crafted in Sep­tember 2009, (the younger) Hugh Black wrote the following:

“175 years ago, my great great grandfather … and my namesake … left a comfortable lifestyle and friends in Scotland and, at the age of 57 with his family in tow, ventured across the Atlantic ocean to make a new home for himself.

“Hugh Black, his wife, Elizabeth Gilmore Black and 12 of their children, arrived in what was later to become known as Fergus in the spring of 1834.

“Intent on farming, he bought 100 acres in the south corner of the village, west of the present day tennis courts on Union Street.

“As the story goes, he came with a significant number of furnishings and, seeing the need for a tavern over farming, opened St. Andrews Inn, a two storey log tavern and the first hotel in Fergus.

“It was located on the northwest corner of St. Andrew and Tower Streets, on the present site of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.”

In that first year, he founded the Fergus Curling Club.

Taverns were more than a place to drink. As a social cen­tre in the community, Black’s tavern also served as a location for meetings, church services and, for a time, the post office as well.

“Since 1834, Fergus has been home to nine generations of the Hugh Black family. Today, numerous residents of the town can trace their ancestry back to Hugh and Elizabeth Black, one of the early pioneering families of this fine community.”

The event then began with an opening toast: “A toast to our pipers and drummers in the Fergus Curling Club.”

In the club’s Centennial Bonspiel, as reported in Canada Curls, Emery Nelson recounted, “The Fergus rink, skipped by E.C. Codlin with O.B. Brown, J.J. Rutherford and A.C. Deacon won the Centennial Competition. In the last end the B.E. Blitz rink from Durham was up by three shots. E.C. Codling threw a hard running shot, cleaning out all the Durham stones and staying in the house, thereby leaving Fergus lying five. First prize consisted of four gold medals and four electric floor polishers.”