AILSA CRAIG AND THE LEISURE INDUSTRY ON THE FIRTH OF CLYDE, C. 1800-2010
Speaker: Dr Matthew McDowell (University of Glasgow)
Ailsa Craig is a small island in the Irish Sea at the mouth of the Firth of Clyde, approximately ten miles off of the west coast of Scotland. Aside from an ancient abbey on its high point, and the presence of a recently-automated lighthouse, there is very little to indicate permanent human settlement on the island. One of its most enduring legacies is its visual one, as the island has become a well-known postcard fixture of holiday resorts in the Firth of Clyde.
It is, in fact, Ailsa Craig’s natural qualities that ensure the locale’s links to commercialised leisure. The island is famous for being home to volcanic rock used in the making of curling stones, and at one point a quarrying industry existed on the island and mainland Scotland for the procurement of this material. By the nineteenth century, along with the heavy industries of coal, iron, textiles and shipbuilding, there was nevertheless a smaller industry in Ayrshire that catered to recreational curling. Ailsa Craig is also home to a colony of rare birds, and this too has ensured that touring visitors have kept returning to the island. A 1946 documentary called Paddy’s Milestone, directed by J. Black Dalrymple, and sponsored by curling stone manufacturers Andrew Kay and Company, has helped immortalise the island’s natural bounty.
This presentation will examine the intersection of leisure and industry as it pertains to Ailsa Craig. The organisation of curling-stone manufacturing, as well as an examination of the expense and labour needed for the enterprise, will be considered. Most importantly, it will place Ailsa Craig’s history in the context of a variety of local and national phenomena, examining how this small, almost-uninhabited island was nevertheless emblematic of several local and national forces in the Scottish and British commercialisation of sport, leisure and tourism.
Matthew McDowell is a postdoctoral researcher in Scottish history at the University of Glasgow. His forthcoming book, Kick-Aff! The Origins of Scottish Football, 1865-1902, will examine the early cultural history of Scottish football.
Time and Date: 5:15 PM, Monday, 14th May.
Location: Athlone Room (Room 102), Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU.
All are welcome. For more information, please contact Dion Georgiou, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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