The Four Nations competition is an enjoyable and social weekend tournament between the governing bodies of each of the home nations (England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales). It has evolved over a number of years with the first recorded games taking place in the early 1900’s. The tournament is hosted in turn by each of the four nations annually towards the end of January.
Photos by Andrew Mitchell and Wiktoria Chorostkowska
Well done to our Trophy Winners
Irish curlers celebrate retaining their Triple Crown
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The 4 Nations Weekend
The Four Nations Weekend, which was first held in its current format in 1999, involves representative teams from Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland but the event has its origins in the first Scotland-England International which was held on January 29, 1895, on Talkin Tarn at Brampton, near Carlisle. There were sixty-nine teams on each side!
Since 1908, the competition has been played inside. Initially it was only contested by male teams representing Scotland and England, and starting in 1933 this was for the Tom Ballantyne Trophy. In 1980 Connie Miller of England presented a trophy for a match between the English and Scottish women which was added to the “International”.
In 1988, matches involving Wales were added to the weekend – for the Kay Trophy (v England) and the Big Bertha curling stone (v Scotland) and then in 1999 Ireland joined in playing for the Turnbull Trophy (v England), the Meikle Trophy (v Wales) and the Marshall Millennium Trophy (v Scotland).
Following a break for World War 2 the International Match restarted in 1951 and has been played annually ever since. In the early post-war years the venue for the match alternated between Scotland (generally Haymarket in Edinburgh) and Manchester until, beginning in 1962, Richmond in London was used to stage the England ‘home’ matches. Since Richmond shut in 1981 there have been just a handful of Internationals staged in England – at Streatham (1982), Peterborough (1985 and 1987), Alexandra Palace (1992) and Fenton’s Rink in Kent (2011 and 2015).
Games between Scotland and Wales actually started in 1984 but it was not until 1988 that they were played alongside the England v Scotland ones, the first 3 Nations Weekend being held at Gogar Park in October 1988. At this time the tradition of each nation hosting the event in turn was begun and England hosted the second 3N weekend at Kelso followed by Wales hosting it at Forest Hills in 1990. The lack of usable curling rinks outside of Scotland means that, apart from the England venues mentioned above, the only other foray outside Scotland has been to Deesside in Wales in 1999, which was the first 4 Nations event.
Ireland had also been playing matches against the other countries before they were fully integrated into the 4 Nations weekend in 1999.
The format of the various matches between the countries is the same with one notable exemption, that being the two matches between England and Scotland. As a result of the history of the International, and the presence of two trophies, the match between England and Scotland still consists of men’s and women’s games. The number of individual games in those matches has varied over the years, depending principally upon the size of the venue. For the other trophies the format is one men’s game, one women’s game and 2 mixed games.
In the early years of the International and later the first years of the 3N and 4N weekends the Scottish teams dominated the results but things have swung dramatically as Wales and Ireland in particular have become regular winners in recent years. For example in the first 26 years Wales only beat Scotland 3 times but they have now won 7 times in a row since 2011 and also 7 of the last 10 against England. After losing the first 5 games v Scotland, Ireland have now won 11 of the last 14. England have also become dominant against the Scottish men and in 2017 won the Tom Ballantyne Trophy 3 years in a row for the first time and have also won 6 of the last 9.
The Grand Slam of beating all the other countries also reflects this change of superiority – it was achieved by Scotland in 1999 and 2002, by Wales in 2008, 2013 and 2015 and by Ireland in 2007, 2011, 2016 and 2017. England have yet to achieve that feat.
The only individual awards presented at the 4N weekend are gold medals to the highest up teams on either side in the men’s match between England and Scotland. These were originally presented by the RCCC, beginning in 1951, but when they decided to stop the practice the English Curling Association took over the tradition.
While members of the countries’ International representative teams do participate in the weekend (especially on the non-Scottish teams), it is not necessary for participants to meet any specific eligibility rules apart from being members of the respective associations, and even that has been stretched sometimes, just to ensure that full teams are fielded!!
On a number of occasions the continuation of the 4N weekend has been questioned and a crisis was reached in 2011 when Scotland, who depended upon their Council Members to get teams together, informed the English organisers that they would not be able to provide a team to participate at the weekend in Kent. When an alternative Scottish team was put together, and then a threat to withhold the trophies was overturned, the weekend went ahead as normal. Since that time Scotland has opened participation up to all of its members.
Venues for the 3N / 4N weekend have been various since 1988 – the most popular have been Hamilton with 7 and Greenacres with 5. The defunct Summit Centre in Glasgow held 2 as have Murrayfield, Perth and Fentons in Kent while Gogar Park, Kelso, Forest Hills, Kinross, Alexandra Palace, Dumfries, Deesside, Lockerbie and Ayr have held one each. In 2018 the event will break new ground with Stranraer being chosen by the Irish Curling Association to host it.
John M L Brown
English Curling Association
31 January 2017