John Abercrombie was born in Irvine, Ayrshire, in 1886 or 1887 (there seems to be no statutory birth record). He worked in a coal mine and, at the time of his sonís birth in 1910, he was a furnaceman (working on the ventilating furnace).
The family crossed the country to Armadale in 1911 and he was recorded as a coalminer in the census in April of that year living with wife, child and younger sister at 9 Cappers Row. His name starts to appear as greenkeeper at the Armadale club from the season opening in August 1912. Whether this was a full-time paid occupation is not clear but a miner did not have a great deal of free time to pursue any other pursuits (and his need to move when the club closed) suggest it was.
Now some greenkeepers did exactly that: they kept the green. For others it is a term synonymous with the modern golf professional. Abercrombie was of the second variety, playing in the top foursomes in internal captain vs vice-captain matches and against other clubs.
This is unusual in itself but what is absolutely remarkable is that he was greenkeeper and member of the club, Ď very successful competitor winning numerous prizesí according to his obituary in the Kilsyth Chronicle. This was at a time when class distinctions separated the gentlemen members from the workers who were often described only by their surnames. Even fifty years later professionals were not welcome in many clubhouses.
The situation did not last. The Armadale course was closed at the start of the First World War and the Abercrombies moved to Annathill where John resumed working as a miner at the Bedlay pit. Just before Christmas 1914 he enlisted in the 2nd Bn Black Watch.
Writing to his wife in Spring 1915 he said he had been '16 days in the trenches with only a break of two days and, though well, he was feeling a little overstrung with the tension and was looking forward to getting a rest'. It soon came. He died on 10 May from wounds received in action two days before. He is buried in Bethune Town Cemetery in France (III. C. 9). A second child had been born by this time so widow, Mary, was left with two little ones.
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