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Curling on the Pollok Estate


Let Glasgow flourish, but do not let her forget the example of the curlers to whom she owes so much of her success, and who owed so much of their success to the curling by which they lightened the burdens of civic and commercial care. [1.]

The remaining pond


I was taking a walk through the woods on the south side of the White Cart in Pollok Park. I’d just got hold of a new camera and wanted an explore. Crossing over the Pollok Toon (aka Pollok Toun and Pooktoun) Bridge, I took the path up towards the golf course, and then jumping over a stile on the left, crossed a field down to the woods by the river.


Photo of the beech tree hedging with the swamp area of the former ice pond visible behind them
Through the beech trees to the swamp (2003)


Through the woods, there was some pretty treacherous and swampy undergrowth with a fair number of cowpats. In the distance, there was an obviously man-made area that was about the size of a bowling green. The sunlight was hitting the tall grass and with the water flooding the site, the scene looked quite strange, obviously man-made and yet almost ethereal as the sun lit up the wet grasses amidst the gloom of the surrounding trees.


Photo from 2023 showing that under the canopy of the overgrown border, level paths are still evident.
Under the canopy of the overgrown border, level paths are still evident in 2023


The site itself was bordered by another set of smaller dark brown, gangly beech trees across three of the sides of the square. They looked tortured as they reached out towards the light. With closer inspection you could see that their equal spacing and linear planting was once a formal hedge row.


Photo of Pollok Curling Pond, now officially a swamp, a path that surrounded the playing area is visible on the right
Pollok Curling Pond, now officially a swamp, a path that surrounded the playing area is visible on the right


Turning back towards the base of the hills and trees, there was a concrete base from a square building. Covered with undergrowth, slate tiles were also scattered around the site. Under the canopy, there was another feature – a deep circular stone structure, filled with rubble, that was about 2 meters in diameter.


Photo of slate fragments lying among the soil and leaves, from the remains of Pollok Pond clubhouse
Slate stone fragments dot the ground around the lost clubhouse (2023)


All this mystery was the site of a curling pond belonging to Pollok Curling Club, with its accompanying clubhouse. From an earlier age, an icehouse was built nearby to serve the 18C grand building of Pollok House.


Photo of the remains of the icehouse taken in 2023.
The remains of the icehouse in 2023.


This article explores the reasons for building a curling pond in such a hidden area, the way curling grew across the south of Glasgow, and the tensions just playing as simple a game as curling might have caused.


Before the Pollok Curling Club [2.]


The History of Curling [3.] has been written up before. In the often-meandering style of history books written in the Victorian era, Curling historians recorded that Pollokshaws Curling Club was one of the first clubs in what they termed the modern era of Curling, although the suggested date of their formation varies between 1801 and 1808 [4.].

Before any man-made pond came into existence, curling would take place on frozen ponds and rivers, and the White Cart was one such place. In front of what was then the newly built Pollok House are two weirs built in 1757, the largest was built to power the sawmill before being used to generate electricity for Pollok House.

The weir downstream, just beside what’s now the car park, artificially raised the level of the river in front of the House, adding to an improved and fashionable rural landscape from Pollok House for the 3rd Baronet. Whether by accident or by design, when the conditions were cold enough to freeze, the raised watercourse would allow level playing on the river.

The Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual for 1898-99 recalled that in 1836 such a match took place on the river between players from Govan and Eastwood Parishes. [5.]


Newspaper cutting itemising 9 lots of 'Grass Parks to let at Pollok' on the 15th March at Pollokshaws Town hall, including West Cowglen
Notice of 10 lots of ‘Grass Parks to let at Pollok’ 15th March 1844 in Pollokshaws Town Hall including enclosures for quoit playing and curling


By 1844, the club was playing in what would become the Cowglen Curling Pond. It had an accompanying clubhouse and was located close to what is now the 1st hole of Cowglen Golf Course. The present course itself was not built until 1906.


Ordnance Survey map of 1863, from National Library of Scotland, Maps department
Ordnance Survey map, 1863 © National Library of Scotland, Maps


Two years later in 1850 The Glasgow Gazette confirmed that the Pollokshaws Curling Club may well have existed for quite some time and had developed a well-earned reputation:


Newspaper cutting about a game at Pollokshaws Club curling pond, from the Glasgow Gazette, 9th February 1850
Glasgow Gazette 9th February 1850


The club would play at other locations where the ice was playable, in 1865 they played against a team from North Woodside at the Flag Quarry Loch or Hart’s Muir or Moor in Giffnock [6.]. Hart’s Muir wasn’t an actual place, but maps and the Scotland Places website show that Wellwalls, a farm in Giffnock, was occupied by James Hart at the time.


By 1869, Eastwood Pond formally opened in January, it was just 5 minutes from Giffnock Station with hourly buses from Pollokshaws.


The split


By 1879 an acrimonious disagreement took place between two teams of the Pollokshaws Club at a match played at the Giffnock Curling Pond. The dispute arose over which team would order and pay for a meal for the poor of Pollokshaws burgh. [8.] [9.]


The case ended up in Paisley Court with the judge ruling in favour of the match winners who were instructed to pay for the costs of the meal. The subsequent court expenses cost more than the meal.


The two teams fell out and eventually, two separate clubs were formed. Confusingly, the winners carried on as Pollokshaws and played their games at Giffnock and the losers, who were officially formed as Eastwood on November 25, 1879, carried on playing at Cowglen [10.]. This was the club that would eventually become Pollok Curling Club.


The new Eastwood club was keen to keep in with the Stirling-Maxwell family. After the death of Sir William Stirling-Maxwell in 1878, the young John Stirling-Maxwell, who had just finished his schooling at Eton, was invited to be the Pollok Club’s patron in 1883, unfortunately, he didn’t reply. Four years later, the committee repeated the invitation and this time he accepted. He served as President and Patron from 1896 to 1899.


The two clubs, Eastwood and Pollokshaws improved their relations and would often play across the same parish. In an attempt at unity, the Eastwood Club made an approach in December 1889 for members of the Pollokshaws Club to join as ordinary members and to curl on the Cowglen Pond, however despite this ‘very neighbourly action’, there was no reply.


By 1895, the club finally changed its name from Eastwood to Pollok Curling Club. The name change had a dual purpose: firstly, to reflect where most of their activities were taking place, and secondly, to make a new start from the ill-feeling still being felt from the split a generation before.


So Pollokshaws played in Giffnock and Eastwood played in Pollokshaws?


Amongst all the factories of Pollokshaws, another privately owned skating pond was constructed on Cogan Street and was available for matches as early as 1879 [11.]. The Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette in 1886 reported a match on the new curling rink and the next week another game took place despite severe snowstorms.

“An enthusiastic game was played on Thursday on the Cogan Street Skating Pond between several of the members of the Pollokshaws Curling Club. There was one rink, four men a-side, and notwithstanding the severe snowstorms the ice was in a fair condition.” [12.]

Curling was growing fast in the late 19C. newspapers such as the Glasgow Evening Post [13.] would carry regular condition reports for all the curling and skating ponds across Glasgow on their front page.


Map showing the skating pond at Cogan Street was present until at least 1910. The Homebase DIY store on Nether Auldhouse Road is now located in the same place. (John Bartholomew & Co. Ltd., 1900-1901) from National Library of Scotland, Maps department.
Map showing the skating pond at Cogan Street was present until at least 1910. The Homebase DIY store on Nether Auldhouse Rd is now located in the same place. (John Bartholomew & Co. Ltd, 1900-1901) © National Library of Scotland.


Old map of Pollokshaws Skating Pond compared with Google Earth view of the area in 2023.
Pollokshaws Skating Pond – now the site of a Homebase Store.


Despite the attentions of non-players taking advantage of the ice, curling was said to be open to all. Landowners were playing alongside the labourers who prepared the ice. The Herald in 1844 described ‘a republican simplicity’ where ‘the only distinction recognised is that of skill and ability’.


A newspaper cutting from the front page of the Glasgow Herald, 13th December 1844
Glasgow Herald 13th December 1844, front page item


By 1867, The Glasgow Herald [14.] reported that curling had reached the workers of Pollokshaws where a match took place on the private Pollokshaws Curling Pond between teams from the Auldfield and Auldhouse textile and dye factories.


Newspaper cutting of an item entitled 'Curliana' detailing a match on Pollokshaws Curling Club pond between two rink teams from the Auldfield Factory and two from the Auldhouse Factory, both in Pollokshaws town.
‘Curliana’ Glasgow Herald 4th January 1867


An advert in the Evening Citizen for the Giffnock Pond’s opening came in 1869 with a warning: ‘all persons found sliding upon the ice or trespassing the fields adjoining will be prosecuted‘. [15.]


Cowglen also had an issue with the pond sluice gates being tampered with by persons unknown. It caused the club so much concern that 2 guineas were offered in 1887 in reward for evidence leading to the conviction of the guilty parties.


Another problem the club faced was the presence of the locals taking advantage of the ice before the members could play their matches. This was so much of a problem that by 1896 the Pond Committee were: “authorised to take whatever steps they thought necessary to protect the ice from Skaters, Sliders, etc…”


The Pollok Club’s hunt for a new pond


Cowglen also had its own practical problems, it required manpower to create the ice, so whenever there was the prospect of ice, a team from the club would be delegated to dam up the site to create a suitable playing surface.


Whatever their final reasons, the membership felt that Cowglen wasn’t felt to be the ideal location for the club’s curling, and by 1901 the Pond Committee was tasked to find a new home.


The first choice was towards the far west of the estate at Hippingstone. While the site was located on a flat plain and the site was regularly flooded so it had the potential for a level site with plentiful water, it proved to be unsuitable due to subsidence in the area.


After more investigation, the woods on the south banks of the river on the western boundary of the Sheep Park [16.] were identified. The chosen area beside some old north-facing woods and the existing 18C icehouse would have already been known to be a cold place in winter.


Photo of Pollok Curling Pond and Beech hedging and surround path on a drier side of the site in 2023.
A drier side of the site (2023)


The Stirling-Maxwells agreed, and estate labourers started building in October 1906. The rink – the same one I stumbled on the remnants of last year – with accompanying paths and bordering hedges was completed in less than three months.


The early years


Membership of the Pollok Club had grown by 1904 with 54 playing members. The club was tied closely with local freemasons, local politicians and the Church of Scotland and they displayed the utmost of early 20c respectability and hospitality, they liked the big occasion and played a full part in the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.


They would attend bonspiels and host grand dinners toasting the great and the good from Royalty downwards; they also kept to ancient curling tradition by holding what were called Courts where they would welcome new members and invited local chaplains to be honorary post holders.


The connection between the House and the players local connections with politicians and society is hard to ignore. In 1907 a local newspaper marked the occasion:


“The new pond of the Pollok Curling Club was formally opened yesterday. It is conveniently situated within the policies [17.] of Pollok, a short distance from Pollok House. The first two stones were thrown by Lady Stirling Maxwell for whom Sir John Stirling-Maxwell acted as skip. Cake and wine having been served, Provost Macdougall proposed the health of Lady Stirling Maxwell, and this was heartily pledged.

Thereafter Mr J Campbell Murray, Haggs Castle, President, in the name of the Club, presented Lady Stirling Maxwell with a beautiful silver inkstand as a memento of the occasion. Play was then begun, a match taking place between sides representing Sir John and Mr Murray. Sir John won by a majority of 41 to 25.” [18.]


Portion of Ordnance Survey map of 1911 showing the curling pond across from Pollok House, from National Library of Scotland, Maps department
Ordnance Survey 1911 © National Library of Scotland


Playing both ends


Unfortunately, the pond wasn’t as playable as the club might have hoped. Mild winters meant playing was unpredictable and limited with dark nights, fog, thin or rough ice. Even on good days and with good ice, play would have only been playable during the short winter daylight or with lamps in the evening.

Not that far away more impressive rink started construction. Crossmyloof already had an open-air curling pond played by the Glasgow Lilybank Club [19.], but then in 1907 the indoor ice rink at Crossmyloof opened.

With two indoor curling rinks, as well as ice-skating and ice-hockey areas, it was described as pristine. What they also had was year-long, with all-day opening and lighting to allow play from morning until the evening. The club Pollok Curling Club took advantage of the new facilities as soon as 1908 and would play regular matches and tournaments in the new venue.

Even so, play would continue in the estate when the ice permitted. In 1911, a small clubhouse was donated by the Stirling-Maxwells and erected between the pond and the icehouse. As well as shelter, it provided a practical location to store stones and brooms as well as allowing players to change or clean muddy boots to play on the ice.


Photo of the concrete base of the Clubhouse in 2023 covered in vegetation and fallen tree branches.
The concrete base of the Clubhouse, 2023


The clubhouse opening ceremony was worthy enough to invite reporters and the occasion was marked in The Scotsman and Barrhead News, who reported the Provost giving Miss Anne Stirling-Maxwell, the daughter of Sir Stirling-Maxwell, a gold key to commemorate the occasion [20.]. Again, it was a highly respectable occasion, with Ladies and Gentlemen present.


Newspaper cutting reporting the opening of Pollok Clubhouse Pavilion, Barrhead News, 7th February 1907
Pollok Clubhouse Pavilion opening, Barrhead News 7th February 1907


In the 1920s permanent lamps were installed to allow evening play, something ponds in more urban locations already had through gas lights. Even so, the path back to Pollok House along the riverbank would still need portable lamps so players could make their way back safely in the dark.

Further tournaments took place in 1933, and in 1935 two hours play was achieved on smooth ice before the surface started to melt. Further tournaments were held in 1941 and 1951.

Despite numerous attempts to deal with weeds who loved the moist conditions and open light in the summer, the playing surface became more difficult, and together with recurring drainage problems the pond became unplayable.


Attempts at revival


As the years passed, club members kept dear memories of the rink. In 1982 the committee was tasked with creating a fundraising plan and costed plans were created to revive the pond. To make the scheme more viable membership would be available beyond the Pollok Club to the wider Glasgow curling membership.

Over £18,000 was raised through grants and personal donations, however just before work commenced the contractor went into liquidation and no new contractor could be found to undertake the work.

The club continued to play at Crossmyloof despite frequent disputes with the owners over the playing conditions. In 1986 Crossmyloof became unplayable with a dangerous roof and the loss of seven playing sheets. Play then transferred to a new rink at Finnieston.

The club continues and has meetings within the Pollok Golf Club’s clubhouse with the Pollok Curling Cup on display in the clubhouse’s trophy cabinet.


Revisiting the site


I returned to the site in mid-October, the mid-morning sun was barely coming over the hill of Pollok Golf Course just to the south.

The water from a spring in the hillside was still filling the pond, while a drain to channel excess water into the White Cart was either damaged or not working effectively. The drains are still present and can be seen at various points emptying from the banks of the river into the Cart.


Photo of regimented Beech tree hedging surrounding the now swampy former pond site in 2023.
Regimented Beech tree hedging surrounding the swamp (2023)


With a hill just to the south, it was clear that the site would certainly be cold in winter, and any ice, snow, or frost would be the last to thaw under any apricity or the warmth of the winter sun.


Looking around the site, I tried to imagine what it must have been like at the start of the Pond’s life. The location is quite private, there would have been little room for spectators watching from the paths at the side.


While other side of the river was still private land and on the edge of Pollok House’s private grounds – which had been opened up to public access in 1911 by Sir John Stirling-Maxwell – any passers-by on the footpath on the other side of the river would only have been able hear the roar of the stones on the ice and chatter amongst the players from some distance through what was then a young tree plantation.


Photograph looking North, from Cowglen Golf Course, the Curling Pond site is visible where the tree line is filled with much smaller trees.
Looking North from Cowglen Golf Course, the Curling Pond site is visible where the tree line is filled with much smaller trees.


Getting nearby to the pond for a closer look would have been quite impractical. It certainly wouldn’t have been as much in view or publicly accessible as the old site at Cowglen, the skating pond amongst the factories in Colgan Street, or the new ice rink at Crossmyloof.


At home and using the Google Maps measuring tool, the pond was 47m (150ft) by 43m (140ft) with the total area including paths and bushes measuring 49m (160ft) by 53m (175 ft) and so just slightly shorter than the length of a modern curling rink. To help you visualise, it’s almost identical to Springhill Gardens in Shawlands, which has also been identified as the former site of another curling rink.


Pollok Curling Pond measurements conduced through the Google Earth service, showing each side of the pond site is approximately 52.6 meters in length
Pollok Curling Pond measurements: Google Earth


Visiting the site


Pollok House occasionally hosts an interesting and very knowledgeable guided tour called ‘A Story of Water and Ice’ which includes the rink as well as some other hidden histories of the park including the lost village of Pollok Toon. If they continue after Glasgow Life takes over the management after the lease to the National Trust for Scotland ends and as Pollok House undergoes its refurbishment programme in 2024-2027, the tour is highly recommended.


Photo of Pollok Curling Pond site, 2023
Pollok Curling Pond site, 2023


As a side note, the site while falling into neglect, still attracts interest from specialists looking at the biodiversity in the park. In 2016 the Glasgow Local Biodiversity Action Plan designated the pond as a swamp. [21.]


For those who prefer exploring on their own or as a group, accessing the site can be quite challenging and may involve climbing over fences or navigating old stiles and gates, as well as tackling very uneven and muddy ground on the approach. There are slopes, trees with low-hanging branches, and fallen tree trunks everywhere. Even in the middle of a dry spell, most of the site is difficult. If you are walking your dog, you would really need to keep them on a leash. The local highland cattle may also take an interest in you.


by Stephen Fyfe

Published 13th March 2024




1. The History of Curling, John Kerr, 1890, Glasgow, p183

2. Three particular websites have been invaluable in researching this article. Pollok Curling Club (https://pollokcc.weebly.com/) includes a treasure trove of timelines as well as some historical accounts of the club in their online archives. Alongside newspaper archives, the second is the website Historical Curling Places (https://sites.google.com/view/historicalcurlingplaces/home?authuser=0) which has plotted the location together with contemporary evidence of the locations of thousands of curling ponds across the UK.

3. The third is History of Curling: Scotland’s Ain Game and Fifty Years of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, John Kerr, 1890, p174 (Internet Archive) https://archive.org/details/historyofcurling00kerruoft/mode/2up

4. Pollokshaws Curlers Society formed in 1808 and were said to play on a site in Afton Terrace (Pollokshaws Road) Pollokshaws A brief history. Jack Gibson, 1980; Essay on Curling, and Artificial Pond Making By J. Cairnie, 1883, p141; Fowler’s Commercial Directory Of The Principal Towns And Villages In The Upper Ward For Renfrewshire, 1836, p233)

5. Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual for 1898-99 (Google Docs link) https://docs.google.com/document/d/1omB9kBYPrqUZtE4uB5KbzExIczhEJcOPEerB4HQWar0/edit?usp=sharing

6. Hart’s Muir would become the first location of Eastwood Golf Course, a 9-hole then 18-hole course located to the west of Fenwick Road between Orchard Park Drive and Burnfield Road which opened in 1891 (Evening Times 28 September 1891)

7. The owner James McHaffie had farm steadings across the area including Robslee, Giffnock, and Orchard as well as one of the Giffnock quarries. Renfrewshire OS Name Books, 1856-1857, OS1/26/5/53

8. Pollokshaws was a Burgh of Renfrewshire, with its own councillors, Provost and their own Pollokshaws Fair holidays which included horse racing on the site of Cowglen Golf Course where one of the holes is known as the Race Course Hole.

9. Pollokshaws Burgh was incorporated into Glasgow in 1912 although they did resist suggesting that the burgh would be in a better position to take over the running of the city.

10. The Eastwood club was also reported as hosting a match against Cathcart in 1881 on one of the two ponds within the grounds of the Broom Mansion (now occupied by the Belmont School).

11. Glasgow Herald, 4 December 1879, p1

12. Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette, 6 February 1886

13. Glasgow Evening Post, 12 February 1889 and 6 January 1891

14. January 21, 1867

15. Glasgow Herald, 24 February 1865; Evening Citizen, 23 December 1869

16. Also known as Sheep-pecks or Shapaks on some old maps, the Sheep park extended from behind the current Pollokshaws Railway Station up to the woods almost in the centre of the estate, the current woods nearer the station were still to be planted. The cottages beside the bowling club are still known as the Sheep Farm.

17. Estate boundaries. The Pollok estate was private. Walls, fences and gates are still present alongside the river pathway.

18. Unknown publication, 29 December 1906

19. Before Crossmyloof, Lilybank Curling Club played at Mr Murphy’s Field on Pollokshaws Road (Glasgow Herald, 14 November 1870); the Historical Curling Places website suggests that the field is now known better as Springhill Gardens opposite Queen’s Park between Strathbungo and Crossmyloof.

20. After Sir John’s death, Anne donated Pollok House along with its art collections, gardens, and the estate to the City of Glasgow in 1966.

21. ‘Glasgow Local Biodiversity Action Plan, Pollok Country Park Management Plan 2016 – 2019’, p31 (Glasgow City Council, PDF document) https://www.glasgow.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=31514&p=0

All contemporary photographs of the site © Stephen Fyfe, 2023


1 reply added

  1. Andrew Downie March 21, 2024 Reply

    For what it’s worth, the club president Mr J Campbell Murray was Sir John Stirling-Maxwell’s factor, hence why he got to live at the restored Hagg’s Castle.

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