Day 19

It is that time again: 06.45am. We’re already rolling out of Mayfield towards Utica, upper New York State, a journey of around six hours. Some snow on the road but progress ok.
D-S- and B-A- had a snowball fight after lunch: you can take the boys out of Scotland but you can’t take Scotland out of the boys.
At Utica curling club there are six sheets managed and prepared by a team of trained member volunteers. The quality and condition of the ice was good with good finish for light weights.
The greeting Utica gave us was very friendly. Organising chair Jim Rishel later said he and his members had “anxiously awaited” our tour: be assured Jim and all Utica members that you made us relax with our new curling friends. The Declaration by the local Authority Executive with innumerable “Whereas-es” that 31 January would hereafter and in all time coming be known in Utica as Scottish Men’s Curling Tour day was impressive.
Utica teams were made up of men who had often competed against each other but had seldom or never curled together as a team. We had seen this earlier in the tour too, and while it sometimes gives rise to vocal exchanges between head and hack, it gives local players a different experience and we got to play against a lot of high grade opponents.
Tourists and hosts enjoyed the excellent dinner, time to swap stories and generally “talk curling”. Our choir was in fine voice, so good in fact we sang an extra song.
Utica members who this blogger knows have curled in Scotland are Bill Rotton (1992), Bob Hurd, Arthur Cobb Snr, Tom Garber, Carl Thomas, the every busy Jacqueline R Schmidt and a’body’s friend Peggy Rotton.

DAY 18

The start time of our journey was brought forward to 06.45am because the roads were likely to be affected by snow. En-route eastward the amount of lying snow increased: 3 hours later it was 8-10 deep at the road side but traffic still moved carefully. Three sheets Mayfield curling club is in a suburban area beside 2 golf courses. Just inside the clubhouse door is a set of 10″ square tiles each engraved with the names of each player in the Scots and US teams who played in the Herries Maxwell competition in 2007. Mayfield has presented Burns Suppers to Scots tourists three times-1997,2007 and now 2017.
Bob Bellamy, chairman for our visit had written that it was his club’s intention to make our stay ‘exceptional and full of pleasant memories’. Bob: that promise was kept and we most certainly will take home and hold lots of great memories.
We had 3 teams on for the first session then two for the following one at 2.30pm.
Mayfield produced a very smart 12-page brochure covering several aspects of the tour and its history. Burns evening started in a high ceilinged Baronial style hall with the 16 piece, 87th Cleveland Pipe Band. The repertoire, skills with their instruments, their appearance – the whole performance – had a big impact on us Scots in particular. The haggis was piped in and then addressed very confidently by Mayfield man Ryan MacRaild. John Hodge gave the ‘Selkirk grace’, Albert Middler explained with humour the life, activities and character of every haggis before it finally becomes our ‘meat’ Malcolm MacAskill sang several songs to much appreciation from the audience. John Good introduced and recited “Tae a Moose”. Ian Young spoke for all us tourists in assuring our most generous hosts that we were greatly privileged to have been invited to join Mayfield CC in celebrating Burns Night with them.
This is neither the time nor the place to consider all the circumstances which led some tourists to take diversions before arriving back at our hotel. Suffice to say that Judge McIntyre held that certain parties had failed properly to protect the cohesion of our tour and that these parties would be fined. It could have been worse.