#Curling Book Review: The Black Bonspiel of Willie MacCrimmon

I'm starting off 2012 with a fiction review!

The Black Bonspiel of Willie MacCrimmon
By W.O. Mitchell
1993 Illustrated
135 pages

"At last, a book about curling, the noble sport that every winter turns otherwise sane Canadian men and women into broom-waving fanatics." (Dust Jacket)

W.O. Mitchell (1914-1998) is a Canadian classic! My whole life I've meant to read Who Has Seen The Wind - as a kid who grew up on the prairies, I figured it was my duty to read it. I still haven't, but was super excited to discover and read his curling novel!

Set small town Alberta post WWII (I couldn't find an exact time period, but it's certainly 'historical'), Willie is the town's shoemaker, and lives to curl - he is Scottish afterall. One day the Devil shows up and asks Willie to fix his curling shoes (yes folks, they curl in Hell, on artificial ice of course). They make a deal, to be decided by a Sabbath-breaking Sunday curling game. If Willie wins, his team will win the Canadian Brier Championship. If the Devil's team wins, once Willie's time on earth is done he will have to go play third for the Devil down in Hell.

Ok, kind of a hokey plot. But guess who is on the Devil's team??

...Guy Fawkes, Judas Iscariot and MacBeth! No kidding.

It's a brilliant little story. It's chock full of historical Canadiana and Alberta references, plus of course all the curling lingo you've ever heard or wanted to hear in 135 pages, right down to the corn brooms and kilts!

The only weak part of the book: I felt the ending was a bit rushed. I was just getting into the game when it ended, but the epilogue does leave you with a satisfying sense of closure. And I was a bit disappointed the few female characters were stereotypical nagging grumps, but I suppose it's a product of the time period when it was written. As such, religion plays a big part, but that's to be expected when one aspires to play in the Celestial Brier.

This fantastic curling story was written as a radio play (1951), on TV in the 1960s, possibly first published in 1965 and has since been produced on stage numerous times over the years. I acquired a coffee-stained copy of the 1993 edition from Bookmooch a year or so ago and the illustrations in this edition (by Wesley W. Bates) are charming. I know they ran the play last January at a local theatre during the Continental Cup, but of course I was volunteering the whole time so never got a chance to see it, except the wee bit they performed during the opening ceremonies. It's on my list so I hope it comes around locally again soon!

I'd highly recommend Willie's curling story to all curling fans. There is a ton of curling vocabulary so newcomers to curling might need to keep a dictionary handy, but it's an interesting story so I think anyone would enjoy it!


  1. It is a great curling tale. And if you are interested in purchasing a new illustrated clothbound edition, check out the following W. O. Mitchell website: www.womitchell.ca

  2. Awesome! How have I missed hearing about this before? Yay for curling fiction! :)


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