A short history of South Lanarkshire Wheelchair Curling Club:
A Decade On….
East Kilbride ice rink was chosen by Lanarkshire Disability Sport in 2001 to host a “Come and Try Day” for the relatively new sport of wheelchair curling. The organisation is dedicated to developing sporting opportunities for the disabled, and they believed there was a great potential for wheelchair curlers.
Sporting activity is one of the best ways for those men and women with incapacities to get involved and feel fulfilled. Social, psychological, and of course physical benefits abound for those who would deny their ‘disabilities’, and who prefer to find new abilities.
Among those who turned up that 2001 day in East Kilbride was a keen disabled bowler Jim Sellar, now Club Captain. Jim has subsequently been capped many times for Scotland and Great Britain as a wheelchair curler. He has competed at both Paralympics and at World Championships. Also a founder member was another well-known international bowler Charlie Russell. He became Club Chairman, a post he held until his death in 2008. His pioneering spirit lives on.
Two of those early ice-charioteers, still active and curling successfully, are Angela Higson and Paul Webster. Their activities have helped put the club on it’s road to success, and the club moved to Lanarkshire Ice Rink in Hamilton as it was more accessible. Newly attracted were Bill Masterton and David Morgan (again from the world of wheelchair bowls), and retired Lanarkshire businessman Arthur Bell. Press coverage brought more interested in membership, and by season 2005/6 numbers had grown to around fifteen. Today thirty six are registered players with this dynamic club.
For several years Angela Higson organised a womens’ competition to celebrate ‘International Womens Day’. This has been played between wheelchair curlers and able-bodied female curlers, and it helped widen knowledge of SLWCC’s many and varied activities. The club has taken part each year in both Scottish and British Open tournaments, as well as in the national “Friendship Trophy”. Arthur Bell, who had succeeded Charlie Russell, spent two years (2008 – 2010) as Chairman of the Scottish Wheelchair Curling Association SWCA. Bill Masterton spent three years (2008 -2011) as the SWCA’s Treasurer
A visit in 2007 by eight members to an international competition in Biella, Northern Italy sparked ideas in the mind of David Morgan. His vision was of a wider world of curling coming to play competitions in Hamilton. The club’s two teams had played against the Italian Paralympic team, as well as AB’s (able-bodied curlers) from both Switzerland and Italy.
In 2009 Boyd Tunnock, head of the world-famous makers of Caramel Wafers, was invited to take an interest in the club. So the (by- invitation) ‘Tunnock’s Tournament'(qv) was started with eight teams. Two years later this had grown to twelve teams (three from the club), with more teams disappointed because of lack of room on the ice! Forty eight players in wheelchairs, plus their helpers was a rare sight that intrigued press, radio and television.
In the same year 2009, club coach Ian Archer persuaded the club to begin a league competition (qv) to develop skills, and foster greater team playing abilities. Meanwhile many games have been played each season between the club and conventional curling clubs. These are as part of the program of activities and competitions in the Lanarkshire ice Rink
John Bell CEO of Shotts based Bells Food Group (makers of pastry and pie products) persuaded his company board to sponsor the club. ‘The Silver Bell’ was presented to the best team playing in pairs for the first time in 2010.
In January 2011 David Morgan’s Biella ambition was fulfilled with the first Hamilton International Tournament, hosted by the club. Teams came from Scandinavia and Central Europe with the national teams of Germany, Sweden and the Czech Republic taking part. The winners had come from further away, some – 7,000 miles from Vancouver, with the Canadian Team, reigning World and Paralympic champions.
As the club nears its tenth birthday 3 members have represented Scotland and Great Britain; Jim Sellar, Tom Killin, and Rosemary Lenton. Also, newly promoted to the Scotland squad are Ian Donaldson and Gill Keith. It’s a remarkable story of folk who overcome their different disadvantages with humour, determination, and sporting skills.