Here it is… The one you’ve all been waiting for… An In Profile special with ECA Treasurer, 110-time England player and all-round curling-expert – John Brown!
John has not only had a long and successful career as a player, both in England and Scotland, but has also dedicated an admirable amount of time to the running and up-keep of English Curling. Read on for insight into John’s 50 years of curling experience and many years at the forefront of English Curling.
Name: John M L Brown
Position in team: I have played in all positions in a team – much of the time nowadays I am skip in the various teams I play in, but as a junior lead was my best and favourite position.
Years Curled: I first started curling in 1967 and so I am starting my 51st season though I had a 5 year break in the early 1980s. Have been involved in English Curling since 1982.
How did you first get into curling?
The school I attended in Glasgow was across the road from an ice rink and curling was one of the sports offered to pupils from Year 9 upwards. From the list of rugby, cross-country running, swimming, rowing, ten-pin bowling, curling and chess my choice came down to ten-pin bowling or curling – as the curling was cheaper and much closer to school I gave it a try and the rest, they say, is history!
One of the first people I played with was Ken Bruce – the Radio 2 disc jockey who was a pupil at my school
Where do you now play most of your curling?
I actually play most of my curling in Scotland at various competitions. I live about 120 miles from Fenton’s Rink in Kent and play there once every two weeks on average but over a season I probably play about 70% of my games in Scotland.
What is your best curling memory?
Winning the RCCC Rink Championship, the premier club championship in Scotland while still at school. The total age of our team was 62 which was the age of one of the players we beat in the final. This got us into the National Sunday papers in Scotland.
What has been your proudest moment whilst representing England?
On the ice there are two which I rate equally – qualifying for the World Championship in 1985 and finishing 4th in the World Senior Championships in 2005. We only lost in the semi-final to the USA by 4-2.
As a member of the ECA, it was hearing that our Junior Women had qualified for the World Championships by winning the European Junior Championships. These were girls I had helped develop from their first steps on the ice and now they were achieving a dream for a country with such a small curling membership and few facilities.
John Brown with the 2015 European Junior Championships winners
Who is your inspiration?
Sir Chris Bonington the mountaineer and explorer continues to climb and travel in his eighties and he has filled his life with so much adventure that I can only stand back in amazement to think that so much can be achieved. You are never too old to climb Everest and if I can continue to curl at a good level as long as he has climbed then I will be happy.
On a curling rink I have always been a great admirer of my skip at school, Graeme Adam, who has achieved every honour in Scottish Curling and represented Scotland at all levels from Junior to Senior.
Who do you think the best curler in the world is?
It would be easy here to say that it must be Brad Gushue as he is World Champion but taking a wider look at a lifetime’s achievements by someone who is still playing then it must be Glenn Howard of Canada.
I played against him in the 1987 World Championship and then there he was 25 years later winning the Championship again in 2012. That is an incredible length of time to be able to compete at the very top level and proves that it is not just the physical strength of youth that makes a great curler.
Describe your pre-match routine.
Arrive at rink, change shoes and trousers and go onto the ice. Afraid I have no physical warm up routine though at my age it is probably needed more than many years ago
Have you ever had a curling related disaster?
On the ice the most disappointing time was losing out on the chance to return to the World Championship in 1986 after we were eliminated in a play-off against France. While we managed to qualify again the following year I can still remember how devastated I felt that we had lost.
One year, when organising the English Championships, I arranged for a meal to be available at the Ice Rink (Perth) for all the players and supporters after one of the games. When it came to the time to eat nobody wanted to partake because they were playing another game just a couple of hours later! A lesson learnt so that now when organising championships I only deal with the games, the players can organise their own meal breaks!
Do you have any tips for juniors and less experienced curlers?
While we all like to look as though we are the World Champion when delivering a stone remember that it is not how you look but where your stone ends up – as in golf, every player has their own delivery (swing) and as long as it works for you then it is a good delivery.
The best shot you will ever play is the next one – don’t look back and say I could have done better, look forward and say I will do better.
What do you do when you aren’t curling?
During the curling off-season I spent a lot of time going to watch all forms of motor racing (except Formula 1 which is not really racing!) all around the country. I have an extensive library (a large part of which is about motor racing and exploration/climbing) which always provides me with something interesting to read and I have recently resurrected my interest in stamp collecting.
I have an interest in a diverse range of music and go to festivals/concerts regularly and I have a comprehensive collection of LPs and cassettes as well as CDs.
I also see myself as the unofficial archivist of the ECA and maintain a pretty complete record of most things to do with the sport in England!
I can also be persuaded to help look after our garden, do the odd domestic chore etc.. My wife still works and so I currently act as a bit of a househusband!
What are your strengths and weaknesses on the ice?
- Ability to play in any position in a team and to be happy playing in that position
- Knowledge of many game set-ups and situations from years of playing
- Able to recognise when it is my fault that my stone has not finished where I wanted it to be, and not the fault of the sweepers/skip
- Able to sweep on both sides of the stone – helps if the other sweeper is only able to sweep on one side
If I told you my weaknesses then I would have to kill you so as not to reveal them to others!
What do you love about curling?
I love the thrill of being able to deliver a large lump of rock with delicacy to a specific point on the surface of a sheet of ice. The thrill of drawing precisely to the button or of hitting and getting a perfect roll never leave me – even more so these days as they seem to happen less often!
The only people I am still in touch with from my school days are those I curled with – you have a long life in the sport if you want it – it is maybe a cliché but you CAN play curling from 8 to 80 and play it with the same people at either end of your playing days, even if some of those have gone off and become World Champions. It gives me a few more years to keep on playing and hoping to win!
John M L Brown bio
Currently Treasurer, World Curling Federation representative and Competitions Convenor for the English Curling Association (ECA). Previously President and Secretary of the ECA and also Chairman of the British Curling Association in the lead up to the 2006 Olympics.
Scottish Schools Champion 3 times, Scottish Rink Championships winner, English National Champion 4 times, English Senior Champion 3 times and English Mixed Doubles Champion once.
Represented England at 12 European Championships, 2 World Championships and 9 World Senior Championships and coached a variety of teams at Senior, Junior, Mixed Doubles and National level.