Obituary: Charles (Chuck) Hay, farmer who became first Scot to win curling world championship

Charles "Chuck) Hay has died at the age of 87
Charles "Chuck) Hay has died at the age of 87
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Charles (Chuck) Hay, farmer and curler. Born: 23 April, 1930 in Perth. Died: 4 August, 2017, in Perth, aged 87

In recent times, almost every major world curling tournament has seen a Scottish team on the victory podium emphasising the country is a major force in the sport which it created.

Much of this present day prominence can be attributed to Chuck Hay who, along with his Perthbased rink were the first Scots to win the world championship 50 years ago.

After that victory in 1967, Chuck helped nurture and promote the sport both at home and on the international scene to the point where curling is now a recognised Olympic sport and Scottish teams feature in all the top tournaments in the curling world.

He won his first curling tournament – the Farmers’ Trophy – in 1956. Following that victory, Chuck assembled his team of John Bryden, Alan Glen and David Howie who would gain multiple honours including the world title. His colleagues all came from within a ten-mile radius of Perth and, in a move away from curling tradition, they were all fit young sportsmen. But possibly most importantly, they were all good friends and that friendship extended well beyond the curling as they golfed together for years.

Chuck had witnessed the top curlers from Canada play a more modern game than the traditional Scottish one. It was a game where the old crampit from which the stone had been thrown from a stationary position was replaced with a hack to deliver the stone with a long controlled slide along the ice before release. He and his team adopted this new style and it is now universal in the sport.

Before their victory on the world stage, the rink picked up the Scottish championship in 1963; a feat they repeated another four times in the 1960s as they dominated the domestic scene.

Apart from his victory in 1967 in the Scotch or Scotch Whisky Cup as the World Championship was then called, Chuck and his team were runners-up three times. During this time, the main opposition came from Canada and especially from a rink skipped by Ernie Richardson. It was typical of Chuck that after fiercely competing with Richardson on the ice, he then became a lifelong friend with Ernie off the ice.

In another example of his approach to curling, after winning the Dolly Cup in Zurich three times in succession and thus gaining the right to keep the trophy, he handed it back for continuous competition.

After his own playing career came to an end, he threw himself into coaching the next generation of curlers. As National Coach, he proved his ability with success in the World Junior championships awarded first to Andrew McQuiston and then to Peter Wilson.

This was followed in the 1980s with European Championship gold medals going to a rink including Mike and David Hay – two of Chuck’s sons. David later went on in 1991 to stand on top of the podium after his team won the World Championship. He was the first Scot to do so since his father.

Further proof of Chuck’s high international reputation for fairness and integrity then came when he was appointed chief umpire at many world and European championships at both senior and junior levels.

Such was his standing in the sport he also became the Royal Caledonian Curling Club representative on the World Curling Federation.

As his work promoting curling was recognised, he was awarded honours reflecting his efforts. At home, an MBE came his way in 1977. This was followed by the top world honour – the Elmer Freytag Award for services to curling in 2011 with induction into the World Curling Hall of Fame the following year. Perth and curling were always in his heart and he chaired the board of directors at Perth Ice Rink for over 20 years.

All this was yet to come as the small Chuck – he may have been christened Charles but was always known as Chuck – cycled the three miles from the family farm to his primary school at Rhynd. The cycling journey doubled as he moved to secondary schooling at Perth Academy.

Along with work on the farm, this exercise made him a very fit young man and when he went along to Perthshire Rugby club he was soon making a mark not just with his teammates but on the opposition. His prowess in the scrum saw him selected to play for the North Midlands team where one of his colleagues was Dave Rollo who went on to play for Scotland. Dave played for Howe of Fife and was, in club games, one of the traditional opponents for Perthshire. Chuck also played in the ’Shire team that was good enough to topple Boroughmuir, the then top team in Scottish rugby. He himself progressed on the rugby field becoming a Co-optimist for the invitational side.

Typically after retiring from the field of play, he went on to put more back into the game and was duly made an honorary president of the club.

In yet another example of his competitive spirit and sporting prowess linked with a love of the social life accompanying a sport he was a golfer.

A member at both Blairgowrie and Royal Perth, where he played with his curling colleagues, he also joined the Royal and Ancient in the 1980s. Proving himself almost as adept with a golf club in his hand, this single figure handicap player won the R&A Autumn medal for the lowest net handicap score in 1991.

Latterly, he and his wife, Norah toured Australia, South Africa and Chile as members of the UK Seniors Golfers’ Society. Often these events would be linked to contacts originally made in the curling world.

Meanwhile, their four sons were making their way in the world. While Sandy and Grahame moved into business, both Mike and David had success on the ice rink before turning towards their life’s work; Mike as Chef de Mission for the British Olympic team and David as the fourth generation of the Hay family at Easter Rhynd farm, which has grown in size since the family originally moved in 1892.

As a family man, he encouraged them all and took pleasure in seeing them, and their families making their way in life.

Part of the growth of the farm in recent times, is attributed to Chuck who advocated “Bigger, wider, faster with more horsepower;” the mechanical horsepower he encouraged was opposed to the horses he loved to watch racing.

At 11.30am on Saturday, 26 August, there will be a Celebration of his Life in Dewars Rinks; a facility where at various times in his life, he played and managed.

ANDREW ARBUCKLE