MELROSE GOLF CLUB has a history spanning over 130 years. Available records at the Golf Club Museum of St Andrews lists Melrose Golf Club in the top 84 Scottish clubs formed up to and including 1880. The club was instituted on 3rd April 1880. Prior to this a newspaper report of 1874 reports the game of golf being played over eight holes on the moor at the base of the Eildons. There was no written record handed down of what took place at the first meeting or of who attended as the first Minute Book of the club covering the period 1880 to 1892 unaccountably has been lost. From available information, Melrose Golf Club is estimated to be among the 107 oldest British clubs formed by the end of 1880.
The following are some of the original members who must have been instrumental in founding the club. Mr A Curle, the first President of the club, and Mr John Freer, the first Secretary/Treasurer. Dr Grierson, who became the first Honorary Life Member of the club in 1888, was probably the first Captain of the club, although no record could be found to prove that.
Other known original members of the club included Mr Frank T. Robertson, Mr A E Scougal, Mr A T Simson, Mr W Pennycook, Mr T S Bogie and Mr Drysdale.
By 9th July 1882, the membership of Melrose Golf Club numbered 30, from 1882 to 1890, after the Autumn Competition, the players adjourned to a Hotel for their Annual Dinner at which prizes were presented to the winners.
The first Annual General Meeting recorded in the newspapers on Thursday 8th March 1883, was held in Mrs Cleaver’s commercial Hotel with Mr A. T Simson in the Chair. the Treasurer’s Accounts were submitted and examined. After paying for the erection of the new clubhouse, the balance against the club was only a few pounds, which the current year’s subscriptions then due would add to.
The membership in 1887 was 41, which increased to 55 the following year, 68 in 1893 and 72 in 1895.
The entrance fee and annual subscription in 1887 were fixed at ten shillings each but were reduced a year later to five shillings each and remained as such until 1895.
During 1893, committee meetings were held in a room in the King’s Arms Hotel whose owner, Mr Henderson, was paid five shillings for the use of his premises. In 1895 the annual subscription was raised to ten shillings and sixpence with the entry fee still five shillings, but a working man’s subscription of five shillings was now included. That lasted only one year. The following year, subscriptions remained the same but a boys’ subscription of two shillings and sixpence was added. In 1895, the committee decided that ladies would be admitted to membership at an annual subscription of five shillings with no entry fee.
In 1907, the Constitution and Rules of the Club were drawn up. They were considered, approved and adopted at the A.G.M. That was the first record in the Minute Books of any Constitution and Rules of the Club. The decision was made in 1909 that each member could introduce a friend for play on not more than four occasions during the year and that the names of the member and visitor were to be entered in a Visitors’ Book kept for that purpose in the clubhouse. Visitors played free until 1927, when a charge of one shilling per player per day was introduced. In 1909 the membership of the club, excluding boys, was 114.
The Minute Book of 1911 showed that at the first competent meeting Mr Andrew Graham gave notice that a Vice-Captain be appointed each year so that he might, being a member of the committee, take the chair in the absence of the Captain and thereby become acquainted with the working of the club and would automatically become Captain the following year. This came into effect at the 1912 A.G.M. 1913 saw the apperance of a local rule for the Junior members of the club which stated that: “Boys and girls under 15 years of age be prohibited from commencing play after 5:30pm.” It was thought that this might help to alleviate on the course congestion which was common in the summer evenings.
So many members were on Military Sevice by 1916 that the decision was taken to re-elect all the Office Bearers for the remainder of the war. After the war in 1919, the club was re-established and from the accounts the total funds in the Treasurer’s hand were £26 13s. 3d. in addition to War Stock valued at £75.
1922 saw a rise of ten shillings for ordinary membership subscriptions to twenty five shillings. While occasional members subscriptions had gone up from seven shillings and sixpence to twelve shillings and sixpence, the club at this time was not charging an entry fee for new members. At the 1923 A.G.M. a revised Constitution and Rules of the Club were approved. At this time the club had 76 members, 32 occasional members and 20 boy members. Rule 3 of the Constitution was clarified in 1925 to mean that the retiring Captain should serve on the Committee for one year after office and should retire along with two members who would be due to retire in rotation.
The club reached its fiftieth year of existence in 1930, however the club Minutes of the time do not show any special celebrations to mark this anniversary. Between 1933 and 1936 various schemes were held to raise club funds and in 1935 a decision was made to impose on each member a voluntary levy of one penny per round of eighteen holes to help with purchases of new machinery. December 1936 shows the first recorded social evening when the cups and prizes won during the season were presented to the winners.
1940 brought war time conditions back to the club, which saw the appointed office bearers agree to serve for the duration of the war. As to be expected, very little activity was reported in the minute books during this time. At the beginning of 1946 a notice was sent to all members whose names were on the club’s books in 1939 inviting them to attend an Extraordinary General Meeting (E.G.M.). A copy of the contents of the letter can be read by clicking on the picture opposite.
The meeting was very well attended with Mr William Lawrie in the chair. The company were asked “Is it the wishes of the meeting that the Club should continue”, to which there was unanimous agreement that it should. It was at this meeting that the decision was taken to merge the Ladies’ and Gents’ Clubs with the result that the General Committee was to be made up of nine gents and three ladies.
As club funds were minimal, it was imperative now that the club find ways of raising money, which hatched a number of fund raising schemes. Willie Sinclair kindly offered the back premises of his shop to be used for fund raising ventures, the first of which was a jumble sale which raised £70 of much needed funds for the club. Further fund raising followed included a whist drive, held in Melrose Grammar School, raising £41 11s, A jumble sale in the back yard of Mr J. Purves’ Antique shop, raising over £100. By the end of April 1946, the credit balance in the Royal Bank amounted to over £220 for club funds.
It is thanks to the work and enthusiasm of those members who wished to make the club viable again that it has continued to the present day.
On the 8th May 1947 a Captain versus Vice-Captain’s match officially opened the 1947 season and did so for a number of years until it was dropped from the fixture list throughout the fifties and sixties. The idea was resurrected in the early seventies and has continued on the fixture list of the club until the present day.
A good proportion of pre-war fixtures and competitions were taking place again in 1948, which saw the release of fixture cards to members. During that season a lottery was held in aid of club funds which raised over £600, which was used to help with the purchase of a tractor. Mr Tom Graham, the Captain, who fathered the idea, and his committee deserve the credit for instigating the event and providing, financially, the best year in the club’s first-100-year history. At the end of 1948 a Grand Ball was held in December as a social occasion and the venue was the Dryburgh Abbey Hotel.
The following year saw an innovation for the members of the club, that was a club outing in the September of 1949 to Longniddry Golf Course and as the outing proved to be very successful and enjoyable, it became an annual event in the fixture card which has continued to the current day.
In 1950, an approach was made by the club to Melrose Town Council for permission to play golf on Sundays. In a vote of five to three in favour, the request was granted that golf be played after 1:00 p.m. on the Sabbath. The motion was proposed by Provost William Lawrie and seconded by Bailie Hutcheson. The charge to visitors for Sunday golf was two shillings and sixpence. The club revisited Melrose Town Council in 1968 with a request for all-day Sunday Golf. Permission was granted.
1953 saw the introduction of an end-of-season Dinner Dance, accompanied by the presentation of prizes, held in The Burts Hotel. The Dinner Dance became an annual function through to the 1980s.
The committee agreed in 1972 to meet regularly each month from March to November at 7:30 p.m. in the clubhouse. In the following year, 1973, the club registered for value added tax from 21st July. The Committee recommended that members who had attained the age 65 or over on 1st April 1977, and who had completed five years membership of the club, should pay a modified subscription of £10. The recommendation was approved unanimously. The membership of the club in July 1978 was – Gents 214, Ladies 73, Life Members 2 and Juniors 71.
THE FIRST CLUBHOUSE was built in 1882 and was opened on Saturday 8th July. This clubhouse was built by members and measured twelve feet square and had separate boxes running along two sides for the clubs of the different players. Over the door a slab was placed on the wall with two clubs crossed and the motto “far and sure” with the date 1882. The cost of building the clubhouse was just over £50.00.
The first extension to the clubhouse was undertaken in 1896 and this was to cost approximately £70.00. This extension was to be added to the back of the existing building to form a T shape. Also in 1896 there was a resolution that beer should not be sold in the clubhouse for the meantime.
The second extension to the clubhouse was undertaken in 1907. When completed the outward shape was almost a square instead of the previous T shape. The improvements, which included a lavatory, greatly increased comfort and convenience and it was hoped would attract members and visitors. The clubhouse was rough casted and the wooden shutters which covered the windows were replaced with wire gauze on iron frames. The total cost of this was £92.12.6d.
In 1961 the South of Scotland Electricity Board installed electricity for the clubhouse at a cost of £41. 11. 7d to the club. The remainder of the 1960s and first two years of the 1970s the clubhouse had very little done to it and most of the lockers were not used and the interior became rather shabby and dirty. The old wooden floor began to decay and for a time was covered with rubber matting and linoleum. The next transformation took place in 1972. In June of that year plans were made for improvements to be carried out to provide a social meeting place at the front and changing accommodation at the rear of the gents’ clubhouse.
Further plans for improvements were made in 1973. During 1974 the Committee agreed plans for an extension measuring 31 feet by 12 feet to be added to the right hand side of the gents’ clubhouse at a cost of £1,142. In 1978 Messrs J S Crawford began work on a new extension which would be completed by the beginning of April. The new clubhouse would add to the amenities and comfort of the members and would provide premises for social functions in the years to come.
BEFORE THE LADIES CLUB WAS FORMED
The earliest record found of ladies playing golf at Melrose, occurred in June 1894. It was reported that the ladies held a competititon for a clock presented by Mr William Dick and golf balls presented by Mr A Davidson. The clock was won by Miss Lumgair while Miss Renwick was winner of the golf balls. Other scorers mentioned were Miss A.A. Turnbull, Miss A. Turnbull, Miss Henderson and Miss J Lumgair.
There was a record in October 1896 of a Ladies competition for a gold bangle, presented by Mr W Y King when Miss K Dunn won with a score of 72.
During 1896 the Minute Books of the Men’s Club stated that Ladies would be admitted to membership on payment of an annual subscription of five shillings with no charge for entry. Five years later, in 1901, Mr Andrew Davidson was appointed to interview the Ladies with a view to forming a Ladies’ Club, but nothing developed from the meeting. By 1904, the Ladies’ subscription was raised to seven shillings and sixpence.
THE LADIES’ CLUB SINCE ITS INSTITUTION
On Friday 19th May 1905 a meeting was held in the Ormiston Hall for the purpose of forming a Ladies’ Golf Club. There was a large attendance and the proposal was adopted with great enthusiasm.
The first officials were elected as follows:-
President – Mrs Simson, Eildon Grove
Captain – Mrs Wade, St. John’s
Secretary – Mrs Fordyce, Southfield
Treasurer – Miss Davidson, Market Place
On Saturday 3rd June, 1905, the formal opening of the Melrose Ladies’ Club took place at Dingleton Common, when the ceremony was performed by Provost Mark Turnbull in the presence of a large number of players and spectators. Thereafter a mixed foursomes competition was played for prizes presented by members of the Golf Club.
In December 1905, Lady Mary Kidd of Lowood, intimated that she would give a trophy to the Ladies’ Club and the following year she presented a Rose Bowl for competition. In 1908 the membership of the Ladies’ Club was 70. The subscription of the Ladies’ Club in 1920 was eight shillings and juveniles up to seventeen years paid four shillings. The 6th of June 1914 brought the next step forward for the Ladies of the club with the opening of a Ladies’ clubhouse built next to the existing clubhouse, pictured opposite on opening day.
After the Second World War in 1946, it was decided to merge the Ladies and Gents Clubs when the Ladies would have three representatives on the General Committee. in 1951 the Minute Books of the Ladies’ Club became available. On 27th March the Ladies held their first A.G.M. since both Clubs were amalgamated, and a Ladies’ Committee was formed to attend to the business of their Club.
All details on this page were taken with permission from A History of Melrose Golf Club,
researched and published by Mr David A MacKenzie, which covers the first hundred years of the club’s history.