Robin Welsh, MBE

Champion of curling

Born: 3 June, 1919, in Edinburgh.

Died: 20 January, 2006, in Edinburgh, aged 86.

CURLERS worldwide will mourn the passing of one of the "greats" of the game. Robin Welsh died last week in his 87th year. He came of curling stock; his father, also Robin, the president of the Scottish Rugby Union in 1925, a leading light of the Edinburgh Corporation Curling Club and a bailie in the city, was one of the Great Britain team who won the gold medal at the first Winter Olympics, in Chamonix in 1924.

His mother, Mary, too, was a competitive tennis player and curler, who played along with her husband in, and won, the World's Curling Championship in Edinburgh in 1925.

Welsh was educated at George Watson's College, and he threw his first stone before he'd reached age ten. He distinguished himself in many fields of sport, playing rugby as a winger for Watsonians; and playing tennis for Scotland twelve times, particularly mixed doubles with his twin sister, Mollie. He won the Scottish Boys under-18 singles in 1935 and 1936 (Mollie won in 1934-36), the Scottish mens doubles in 1947, the mixed doubles in 1947, 48 and 54 (twice with Mollie). He was also the president of the Scottish Lawn Tennis Association in the 1960s.

At the age of 15, and again at 16, he won the Scottish Junior Golf Championship. He himself said that his golf had declined from that point, but he continued to enjoy the game and played regularly at his club at Luffness until not long before his death.

On the ice, Welsh was a formidable curler whose personal skill was shown by his consistently high scores at points. He was secretary of Watsonian Curling Club from a very early age, and president of both Edinburgh Ice Rink Curling Club and the Midlothian Province of the RCCC.

After school, Welsh became a journalist specialising in sport. He wrote for the The Scotsman, the Evening News, and the Daily Mail.

His war years were spent in the navy in which he distinguished himself, and survived no fewer than two sinkings.

In 1958, he was serving as an elected member of the Council of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club when the office of secretary became vacant. He was selected for that office and fulfilled the post with conspicuous success.

The RCCC at that period was the mother club of curling throughout the world and Welsh's charming and friendly manner, and his tact and courtesy, allowed him to play a most important part in the game when it was expanding beyond its traditional base in Scotland and Canada. For example, in 1959, it was Welsh who put into print the idea of a form of world curling championship between the champion rinks of Canada and Scotland. The suggestion was at once taken up by the Scotch Whisky Association and the competition rapidly expanded into the World Championship we have today in which rinks from every continent (except Antarctica) are eligible to try to qualify to enter.

From this beginning eventually came, in 1967, the International Curling Federation of which he was also the secretary until 1983. It is now known as the World Curling Federation and has an existence separate from the Royal Club and comprises 46 member countries. It was the institution of the federation which allowed curling to achieve Olympic status.

Not content with his burden of work, Welsh edited from 1954 the monthly magazine, the Scottish Curler, and wrote two books on the game, Beginner's Guide to Curling, in 1969, and International Guide to Curling, in 1985.

In each of these he displayed his deep knowledge of, and affection for, the game and its history, and his enthusiasm for the traditional spirit of fair play and egalitarianism, courtesy and fellowship which have always characterised curling.

Throughout his life, Welsh was in demand as a speaker of eloquence, wit and knowledge at curling dinners and suppers throughout the land. He was generous also in imparting his knowledge to others and in giving his time to beginners, as, for example, in helping to start curling among the boys of his former school, George Watson's College.

All of Welsh's great contributions to curling were acknowledged by the Queen in his appointment in 1984 as MBE.

After his retiral, Welsh continued to be the source of information and advice to curlers. He lived a happy life with his wife, Sheila, who predeceased him by three years after a marriage of 52 years. They are survived by their two sons and six grandchildren.