Obituary: Robert ‘Bob’ Grierson, curler and farmer

Bob Grierson
Bob Grierson
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Born: 28 April, 1920, in Manchester. Died 8 February, 2013, near Stranraer, aged 92

Robert “Bob” Todd ­Grierson was known and admired around the world as one of curling’s greatest ambassadors.

The winning skip of the “world” title in 1958, Grierson served as both president of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club and president of the European Curling Federation.

In these roles he travelled to every curling country in Europe as well as to Canada and the USA on numerous occasions where his statesman-like demeanour, integrity, generosity and humour brought him respect, admiration and a host of lifelong friends.

Grierson was born in Manchester, to Scottish parents. Soon after he was born, his father moved the family back to south-west Scotland after buying Clendrie Farm outside Kirkcolm. He grew up there with his three older sisters and attended the village school, walking to class every school day, come rain, hail or shine.

He then went on to the High School in Stranraer. But although he was an intelligent pupil, he was keen to get on with life and left school early to start working on the farm dairy. In due course he took over the running of the farm, increasing the dairy herd and, taking advantage of the mild Galloway climate, he cultivated the land to grow acres of early potatoes.

This side of the business proved to be so successful that Grierson had a share in a Glasgow potato merchant’s company for many years.

But as Grierson said himself, the “best deal” of his life was marrying Betty Gordon in 1952. Bob and Betty’s personalities complemented each other perfectly and their family of four much adored daughters – Elizabeth, Maureen, Kate and Rona – meant that Bob was always in his element when “surrounded by women”.

He also purchased Betty’s ­father’s farm when he retired and moved into the beef and sheep side of agriculture.

Grierson’s love of sport in all its forms brought colour and purpose to much of his long life.

He loved football, supporting both Rangers Football Club and his home team of Stranraer, where he had his own seat in the Stair Park stands. He enjoyed a day at the races and had part shares in a few racehorses. He played badminton and golf and in the summer was often found on Kirkcolm Bowling Green, where he was a member for more than 60 years.

But it was the world of curling where Grierson well and truly left his mark. He had his first game as a 12-year-old boy on outside ice on Loch Connel, just over the hill from Clendrie Farm. Having been given the job of taking the sandwiches there to feed his father’s friends, on his arrival he discovered one rink was a man short. And so his love affair with the game began.

He curled regularly at Crossmyloof and Ayr ice rinks, and was president of the latter.

At Haymarket Ice Rink, in Edinburgh in 1958, he arrived with a team of Galloway farmers – his brother-in-law John Agnew, and brothers Sam and John McColm, his lifelong friends, to play in the “Edinburgh World Championships”, up against 77 other rinks from Canada, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, and of course, Scotland.

The foursome had originally gone to the capital to the fatstock show and only entered the curling competition as an afterthought. But they kept winning. After a couple of days of success had turned into a week, frantic phone calls were made home for money and clean clothes to be dispatched.

These duly arrived with the wives just in time to see Grierson play the shot of a lifetime to go from being two shots down in the last end of the final to score a three to win the game and the world title. That win gave Grierson an esteemed status in the world of curling and he quickly grew into the role of Scotland’s main ambassador for the game at home and abroad.

His curling travels led him to meet royalty, such as King Gustav of Sweden, as well as A-list celebrities. He once arrived at Stockholm Airport to be met by the daughter of the president of the Swedish Curling Association. She was none other than a teenage Britt Ekland.

In 1970, he was instrumental in encouraging hotelier Hammy McMillan to extend the hotel by building an ice rink at the North West Castle in Stranraer. Once it was built Grierson was the natural choice to become the first president of Stranraer ice rink.

It was a great success and, within a few years, many talented young curlers travelled far and wide to win World and European titles, always accompanied by their mentor and friend Bob Grierson.

For Bob it wasn’t just about the sport but the socialising too. He was one of most affable and hospitable of men who loved the camaraderie and banter that is part and parcel of any sport. He was instrumental in setting up many competitions, especially the Can-Am where teams from Canada and Stranraer would visit each other on alternate years, leading to many life-long friendships

He also took part in no fewer than five official Royal Club tours “across the pond” to Canada and the US.

He also took great pleasure in many kind but unsung gestures to others. The gift of a win “on the horses” to help out a young curling team; a bag of potatoes on the doorstep on a pensioner in the village. As a keen Rotary member in Stranraer, he always had a collection for the Kirkcolm Senior Citizens at his famous “new tattie night”.

Grierson was never happier than when he was with his close and loving family and it was fitting and poignant that he met his newly born great granddaughter a few days before he died.

There was a large turnout of family and friends at his funeral in Kirkcolm Parish Church including a mass of blue blazers from members of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club who had come to pay their respects and say farewell to one of their own.

Bob Grierson is survived by his wife Betty, four daughters, nine grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

As he travelled down many of life’s paths during almost 93-year among us, Bob Grierson was both respected and loved as a true gentleman by all who met him.