Bill Leaman presents Doreen Burnham with the Boxing Day Wee Trophy. Burnham was the first female curler to win the event in 1990.

In search of ‘wee stones’; a piece of Trail’s curling history

A Trail curler searches for remaining set of ‘wee’ stones to honour Trail curling icon Bill Leaman.

A Trail curler is hoping to restore a wee bit of Boxing Day history to the Trail Curling Club this holiday season.

Longtime ladies curler Doreen Burnham would like to donate a miniature one-pound curling rock to the Trail club and is hoping others will respond in kind so that a full set of four stones goes into the club’s museum.

“Bill Leaman started it with a set of tiny little rocks that he was given in Scotland,” said Burnham. “There was a set of four rocks, and I was given one and another gentleman was given one, and we’re trying to find the other two so they could maybe go into the curling museum.”

In a 1990 BC Curling story, Trail Times columnist Guy Morey describes a friendly and fun Best Boxing Day Wee Curler competition at the Trail Curling Club; how it started and carried on for two decades.

“It was fun,” said Burnham. “He (Leaman) invited friends down to it, and it wasn’t an open bonspiel, it was just a fun thing.”

Morey explains how the wee rocks made their way from Aviemore, Scotland to a small industrial town in southern B.C. and how Leaman, former president of the Canadian Curling Association (CCA), began the event.

During the World Curling Cup in Perth, Scotland in 1975, Leaman captained the Canadian contingent that competed in a pre-bonspiel in the Scottish town of Aviemore. As a second-place prize, the Leaman team was awarded a set of eight ‘wee stones’ made from a local quarry, and Leaman put the unique stones to use creating the “Wee Match of the Year” on Boxing Day at the Trail Curling Club.

“I don’t think anyone will ever see another set of rocks like this,” said Burnham. “They are genuine, this granite that it’s made of, it’s the size of a saucer, it’s very small.”

From 1976 to the mid-90s, on Dec. 26 a festive group of curlers vied for the Best Boxing Day Wee Curler trophy at the Trail club, by seeing who could throw the wee rock closest to the button. The curlers each had a practice turn, followed by the real delivery where they’d launch the wee rock down the sheet of ice, willing the correct weight and curl to hit the centre of the house.

“It’s really weird,” said Burnham, who was the first female curler to win the event in 1990. “You can’t deliver like you usually do (a regular curling rock). You just get down in that hack and just let go – it’s the luck of the draw, really.”

Many Trail curlers participated in the event over the years, and while most have passed, Burnham is hoping that if their families are in possession of one of the granite curling stones, they would see fit to donate it in recognition of a wee bit of history and a Trail Boxing Day tradition.

“It’s their families that will have this rock, and they may not even know what it is or where it came from,” said Burnham.

“It’s one of a kind. If we’re able to get them, we’d like to put them in the museum or to the Trail Historical Society … in Bill Leaman’s name. He did a lot for curling in this town, he did a lot for curling in the province, so just in remembrance of him, and what he won in Scotland and what he brought back to Trail.”

Leaman was inducted into the Curling Canada Hall of Fame in 1977, and was CCA president from 1975-76. Bill was also director of the BC Curling Association, a founding president of the Trail Curling Association, past president, secretary-treasurer, and executive member of the Trail Men’s Curling Club, and a Club member for over 40 years. Leaman was elected and appointed a member of the prestigious Governor-General’s Curling Club in 1990.

For more information contact Doreen Burnham at 368-5088.

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