Killed in the First World War
(Source: © 2014-20, Douglas MacKenzie)
Golf professionals and clubmakers were, like every other section of society, affected by the First World War. Many clubmaking businesses went bust (Spence and Gourlay and Anderson and Blyth are two in St Andrews who met this fate) for the want of raw materials or trained staff, with their clubmakers in the trenches there were many hearings where business owners sought call-up exemption certificates for their most skilled workers. Alex Marling and George Smith just left their business Marling and Smith in Aberdeen and joined the Gordon Highlanders, Marling losing one eye, Smith his hearing in the fighting. They resumed their careers after the war as did others such as Ernest Jones despite the loss of a leg.
The Niblick Brigade, Professional Golfers in Trafalgar Square before enlisting, 1914
Others though did not return from the war. Indeed, the first British casualty of the war, John Parr, was a caddy at Friern Barnett who lied about his age (he was 16) when he joined the 4th Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment. I started off with no intention of creating a comprehensive list and I still want no connection with a roll of honour of those to whom Owen's 'old lie' dulce et decorum est pro patria mori is applied without consent after death. Were they heroes? Who can say. Many tried to avoid being sent abroad through appeals to military tribunals. Perhaps these is more heroism in doing what is expected of you when you are terrified and do not want to be there rather than simply being in the wrong place when shrapnel explodes. To me it is still a list of laddies killed in their prime for reasons which even after a century’s reflection are unclear.
There are deeper issues here which I will write about at book length, the arguments as to whether sport should continue during conflict, most in Scotland will be familiar with McCrae's battalion; and the elderly gentlemen who could pontificate in the press about caddies being better used on the Somme while they themselves continued to play over the links.
Nevertheless, Dr Phil Weaver, Curator of Heritage at the PGA, took up the challenge of the British Legion's Sport and the War project to document the deaths of all serving professional golfers and I have tried to help. It's difficult: the PGA lost much of its archive during bombing in the Blitz; the R&A messed about with definitions so that clubmakers who perhaps never played the game were still classed as professionals even if they never sought this status (or contrary to the rules played in amateur competitions) nor did anything we would now think of as part of a golf professional's duties.
Then there is terminology. Many clubs, especially in the West of Scotland, but not exclusively, used the term greenkeeper for professional whereas others meant by this someone who cut the grass. If there has been a long career before WWI it may be possible to unpick the difference from newspaper articles on tournament play but assistants may have gone from school to the golf course to death in the trenches in a very short time. If you have someone in your family you feel should be remembered or researched here, or particulary by the PGA who are creating a permanent memorial, please get in touch.
Sapper Frank Booth (Assistant, Lees Hall GC, 1918)
Frank Miller (Assistant, Gatwick, 13.10.1916, age 20)
Private J Williams (Assistant, Porthcawl, 1918, age 24)
Private Cyril Jackson (Assistant, Walmley, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 1916, age 21)
Private Harry Shutt (Assistant to Charles Gibson, Royal North Devon), 8.3.1916, Devonshire Regiment, Basra Memorial
Sergeant Henry Balfour (Assistant, Lossiemouth, Seaforths) 1918
J Simmons (asst to James Sherlock, Stoke Poges)
Private Robert Barr (Assistant, Old Ranfurly), HLI, 18.11.1916, age 20
L/Cpl Charles Lord (Assistant, Worsley), Royal Lancaster Regiment, 16.8.1916
W G Eastland (Assistant, Thanet), 13th Bn, Rifle Brigade (Niblick Brigade), 14.11.1916
Robert Smith (Clubmaker to brother, George E Smith, Deeside), 7th Bn, Gordon Highlanders, died of wounds, 4.6.1917
James Tunley (Private, Border Regiment, Assistant Llandrindod Wells, killed 1.4.1917), Buried Savy British Cemetery, Aisne
Signaller Clarence Maud, Royal Field Artillery, Asst to Thomas Tate at Horsforth 1912-1915, died of wounds 27.9.15
Lance-Sergeant Robert Clark, Australian Infantry, from Carnoustie, assistant and clubmaker to his brother Carnegie Clark at Royal Sydney, died from gas poisoning, West Flanders, 16.10.1917 aged 24
Private Peter Ward Gordon, b Broughty Ferry 13.8.1897, (Clubmaker to brother-in-law, Melville Brown, Malone GC, Belfast, Argylls, d 18.8.1916, Somme)
Robert Neilson, born 1887, assistant at Luffness New, Corporal 12th Bn Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) killed in action 25.9.1915. Commemorated Loos memorial.
James Bird, born Aberlady, 1889, assistant at Luffness New, lance-Sergeant 12th Bn Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) killed in action 25.9.1915. Commemorated Loos memorial.
Robert Stephen, assistant to George Heron at Fraserburgh, Private 14th Bn Highland Light Infantry, wounded 1916, killed in action 21.9.1917. Buried Fins British New Cemetery, Sorel-le-Grand
Private J H A Macey, (Assistant Littlehampton), 13th Bn, Rifle Brigade, d 10.2.1919
Able Seaman George William Fernie, clubmaker with his uncle Willie at Troon. Although in the Navy, he was sent as infantry with 'Howe's Batallion' and died on 16.11.1916 from injuries sustained in action at the Somme.
John Thomas (Private, 10th Bn, East Yorkshire Regiment). Described on grave as professional, must have been assistant at Wrexham, killed 14.8.1918, age 22.
Roger J Crook, (Sergeant, 13th Bn, Sussex Regiment). Assistant at Worplesdon, killed 5.10.1917 age 28.
John Torrens Bradie, b Dunblane 1897, assistant to his father, Michael, at Ardrossan and Saltcoats, 2nd Bn Black Watch, killed Basra 21.1.1916
Able Seaman James Robertson, assistant to his father at the town golf course, Galashiels, died with the sinking of destroyer HMS Pheasant, 1.3.1917