An email received today contained a mystery for me to track down. Blantyre Project reader, Alan Jackson asked “I know the Blantyre Golf Club was formed in 1913, and apart from a couple of items in 1914, have no other information until notice of its closure in 1919. Have you any other information concerning the club, particularly why it closed. I am surprised it, apparently, existed through the `Great `War and then closed immediately afterwards. I would have thought it more likely to have succumbed during the war. However, anything would be of great help to me.”
Always liking a challenge, and without knowing anything about Blantyre Golf Club, i was able to search through databases, newspaper archives and records to compile the following:
From the illustrated social history book…paid research by Paul Veverka
“Blantyre – Glasgow Road, The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2016 – 2018.
Blantyre Golf Course
Some things have been incorrectly written by others about Blantyre’s former Golf Club. Contrary to reports, it was not laid out on Merry & Cunningham’s mining land, and the course was certainly not abandoned for housing. That cleared up, let’s look at some detailed facts.
Blantyre Golf Club was a short lived golf club of the 1910’s, a casualty itself of World War One. It was laid out on the northern fields and grassparks at Springwell, on land equally belonging to three ladies I.e. Margaret Paterson, Janet McGregor and Annie McKenzie.
According to “Hughes Sporting Life Magazine” of the era, Mrs. Paterson and her 2 business partners, all widows were keen on “the Advancement of Women”. This may have been a reference to the suffragette movement so prevailing at the time, but is also likely associated with the inclusion of women into everyday life and perhaps sports. Why? Well Blantyre Golf Club was to cater for women too and even had preferential rates for them.
Let’s be clear though, the club was not owned by the 3 ladies, merely laid out on their land, presumably rented from them. As such, given their interest in including women, perhaps it may have been a stipulation of any rental agreement, that women should be permitted to take part.
A 9 hole golf course was laid out in a northwest to southeast direction in 1913 and enhanced in 1914, which surely would have been a talking point in the community. Given the timings of each annual AGM, it appears the course opened in April 1913. It was entered from Auchinraith Road, by going over the railway and down on to the field. The whole field sloped slightly from the railway towards the Parkburn and the course was considered part of Springwell.
Following enhancements to the course, the first meeting of the Blantyre Golf Club was held in the Masonic Hall, Stonefield, in April 1914, Rev C Scrimgeour Turnbull, President, in the chair. It is a fair suggestion to say that as President, Rev Turnbull likely had a hand in the creation of the club being President for that first year. There was an attendance of about 100, a good indicator that the club had been welcomed and thriving. Meeting business required to appoint a committee and the following officers were elected; Hon president, John Menzies; hon. vice-presidents, Miss J W Forrest, Woodhouse, Dr William Grant, J.P., Dr J C Wilson and Rev C S Scrimgeour Turnbull, M.A; president, Mr A W Hendry; vice-president, Thomas McCluskey; captain, D S Hardey; vice-captain, J M Thomson; secretary and treasurer, W McGruther; the following were appointed to the committee – Captain Brown, Charles McAra, William Brown, Charles W Easton, J Freeman and Miss G McCallum.
Subscriptions were set as follows; Gentlemen £1/1s, ladies with 50% discounts at 10 shillings 6d. Juniors( members (under 18) were 10 shillings/6d; Family tickets £1/11s/6d which would certainly represent good value if 2 or more people in the same family wished to participate. During the first meeting, the following inter-club matches were arranged for that coming season; Bellshill, Kirkhill, Larkhall and Motherwell. Although there was no initial clubhouse, members clubs could be obtained from the Masonic Lodge in Glasgow Road. Payments were accepted at the Commercial Bank, Blantyre or directly to the treasurer Mr. William McGruther.
Competition Matches & Prize-giving
A report that appeared in the Hamilton Advertiser on Saturday 2nd May 1914 covered the opening day for that second season, a week earlier stating, “The Blantyre Golf Club had their official (annual) opening on Saturday last, (25th April 1914) when an exhibition match was played by T Walker, professional to the Hamilton Club, and Mr. R B Stewart, Kirkhill, which brought about 150 members and friends to witness the game. The professional was in especially good form, and his drives were watched with the keenest interest, although at times he was exceedingly unlucky with some of his tee shots. It was readily seen that Mr. Stewart was an unequal opponent, and the professional ran out an easy winner by 5&4, the scores being Walker 69, and Stewart, 77. After the game the members were refreshed with a cup of tea and cakes, purveyed by Mr McLair and which was greatly enjoyed. Thereafter the members engaged in various competitions, results as follows; Mixed foursome – first, Miss Isa H Tulloch and Peter F A Grant; second, Miss Jessie Orr and Robert Paton; third, Miss Mary Devenney and Robert S F Harris. Stroke Competition (gentlemen) – first, T Haldane; second, Jas Rennie; third, Jas Heggison. Clock Golf – ladies, Miss Weir and Miss Jackson (tie); gentlemen, A M Muir.
At the end of the exhibition match Mr David Harley thanked guests Walker and Stewart for coming to Blantyre, and he said the game had given satisfaction to the large company that had witnessed it. The club is in a prosperous condition, and from appearance it is quite apparent that a successful season is in front of them.” Competition matches were seasonal taking place when weather was finer, each July.
Result of the July 1914 monthly medal; First class – John Barry (11), 73; John Sharp (7), 75; John Cunningham (11), 77; Second class – Clydesdale Medal – David Harper (24), 85; Forrest Spoon – Miss Grace D McCallum (24), 98; Miss E Thorburn (24), 106
The presentation for the seasons prizes was held in the Masonic Hall on Wednesday 28th October 1914. A whist Drive was also held with proceeds going to the War Relief Fund. Mr. John Menzies, president, presented the prizes to the following; Forrest Spoon (1914) – Miss Isa H Tuloch; President’s Prize – Miss Meg Dunlop; Kirkton Challenge Medal – 1st Class (1913), David L Harley; Clydesdale Medal – 2nd class (1913), Peter F A Grant; President’s Prize – first, Duncan Harper; second (tie), J B Taylor and Thomas Duncan; Captain’s Prize – first, Thomas P Black; second, John Cunningham; Special War Relief Medals, given by the captain and John Roberts, Priory Bar, respectively – first class, William Chambers; second class, Thomas P Black.
Impact of War
However, the timing couldn’t have been worse. World War One had started and many of the subscribed males were enlisted, although perhaps at that early time, nobody would have any idea of the scale of the horrors that were about to unfold in Europe.
On Tuesday 13th April 1915, the Annual General Meeting of Blantyre Golf Club was held in the Masonic hall, Stonefield. There was good attendance of members with Mr. A Hendry as president, offering chairperson. The minutes were read from the last meeting and finances presented which showed the club to be in good solid standing. It was reported that the club at that time was still in a very satisfactory condition, perhaps through the payment of fees, prior to men being enlisted.
The following officers were elected; president, Thomas McCluskey; vice-president, C McAra; captain, D L Harley; vice-captain, John Sharp; secretary and treasurer, William Mc Gruther; William Brown and James Heggison were appointed secretary and treasurer pro tem on account of Mr Mc Gruther being on active service.
Honorary membership for the year was conferred on all members serving with H.M forces. The “Roll of Honour” which had been drawn up and printed was showing that 29 members were on active service with more to follow. No formal opening of the course would take place this year, and the committee had decided no fixtures list would be issued for the season. The course, which had been greatly improved on the previous year, was now open for casual play.
On 6th January 1917, the Hamilton Advertiser recorded that the Golf Club had raised a total of £9 and 9s, which was to be set aside for its members serving in the Great World War I. The amount was to be reserved for them coming back, for “comforts”.
More telling was a concert held to raise club funds in September 1917 at the Co-operative Hall, tickets costing 1s.
Clearly the club had started to struggle in 1917, perhaps even earlier in 1916. By 1918, as war loomed into its 4th year and the atrocities of the frontlines became more known to all, running a golf club for recreation and sport may have seemed like a pastime best left for happier times. The impact of war on the UK economy may also have meant subscriptions were a luxury that seemed frivolous in such times. Some of the women members went on to raise funds for the war and especially may not have wanted to pay subscriptions for recreation, or indeed keep up with the expensive fashionable clothes industry that arose around the sport in those years.
The Hamilton Advertiser newspaper, records the proposal to close the club.
From their archives relating to 24th January 1918, “A special general meeting of Blantyre Golf Club was held in the Lesser Co-operative Hall on Thursday evening. The captain, Mr. John Sharp, presided. Owing to the present conditions (assumed war and/or lack of members) there was only a small attendance of the members. The Chairman, in the course of his remarks, pointed out that it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep the club going, and that in the opinion of the committee the club was in a better position for being wound up than it had ever been.
After the secretary had read the statement of affairs, it was moved and seconded that the club be wound up voluntarily. The attention of members is directed to the advertisement re members’ clubs, etc.” With no known clubhouse ever built, presumably members clubs were permitted to be taken home or still stored at the Masonic Lodge as had been the case in previous years.
Finally, on Saturday 18th May 1918 it was announced that the club had gone into liquidation. It had lasted just over 5 years in the most trying of times. All claims against the club were to be lodged within seven days from this date with the secretary, William Brown, 176 Glasgow Road, Blantyre.
It is said that the late historian Jimmy Cornfield once had the “No trespassing sign”, which must have been passed to him by others, a generation older. Incredibly, no other course was ever laid out in Blantyre until the small pitch n putt course at Greenhall in the 1960’s.
The former golfing field adjacent to Glasgow Road at Springwell would however, go on to have another immediate use which is explored next.
According to Blantyre Project reader Robert Dunsmuir, his mother Sal Park, she told him that a 9 hole golf course was in Springwell area .
If you have photos of the club, at any point in it’s 5 year lifespan, or you know more about the members and where they practiced, please get in touch and i’ll add the detail to this story. Pictured, is a golfing session of the same era, (not Blantyre).