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Antique Golf Clubs from Scotland
Clubmakers
Andrew Simpson
Aberdeen
Andrew Simpson Andrew Simpson was born on 17 June 1849 in Aberdeen to Charles Simpson, a tailor, and Ann Robertson. Jackson’s Register, and many other sources, it seems, confuse him with Archie Simpson, the later professional at Royal Aberdeen. Andrew probably had more to do with the design of the course at Balgownie than Archie who is frequently credited with it.

At the time of his marriage to Catherine Paton in 1873 he is described as a ‘joiner (journeyman)’. His best man was Charles Playfair, who, in addition to making fishing rods, was a clubmaker in Aberdeen and this may have something to do with Andrew becoming involved in this line of work.

In the Post Office Directory of 1879-80 he is listed for the first time as ‘attendant at the links’, replacing Francis Ross. The 1881 census describes him as ‘joiner and club keeper’. Terms such as ‘attendant’ and ‘club-keeper’ are ambiguous. They can mean a steward but equally they can describe someone carrying out what were later deemed a professional’s duties: greenkeeping, clubmaking, giving lessons. Bauchope in his golfing annual of 1888-9 describes Andrew Simpson both as the ‘clubhouse keeper’ and the ‘greenkeeper’ at Aberdeen. In any event, in the next census of 1891, Andrew Simpson is described as a golf clubmaker at 16 Golf Links. In that same year he appears in the Post Office Directory for Aberdeen As ‘Golf Club Maker, Links, foot of Urquhart Road’. This is also the first time Golf Club Maker appears as a separate category in the Directory, probably because Andrew forked out for an advertisement in the back of the annual. In 1887 he laid out the now famous course at Nairn, another one now misattributed to Archie Simpson.

1888 saw the move of the Aberdeen club from the traditional links to a new course at Balgownie, what is now Royal Aberdeen. Bauchope writes ‘The laying out of the green was done by Mr Giles, gardener, under the superintendence of the then captain of the club, Mr William Leslie, and Andrew Simpson, the clubhouse keeper.’ He gets the date of the opening wrong , 31 March 1888 (it, in fact, coincided with the start of the Spring Meeting on 18 April and playing for the Johnstone Cup and the Silver Cross) but the personnel involved in the design and laying out of the course are confirmed by a report on the work in the Aberdeen Journal of 20 February 1888. None of the subsequent newspaper reports on the links, even when Archie Simpson was professional between 1895 and 1911, make any remarks about him being involved with the design. The only mention is again in Bauchope, after noting Andrew Simpson’s superintendence, ‘A good deal of labour had to be expended in making the links suitable for the purpose, but it is now expected that after a little play the course will be one of the finest in Scotland, this being the opinion of the brothers Simpson, of Carnoustie, the well known professional players.’

The Aberdeen club was split between members playing over the old Town Links and the new course and, as Andrew Simpson was keeper of the old links, he stayed where he was and employed a man to look after Balgownie. There was a lack of supervision and the whins (gorse) apparently got out of control and Andrew was sacked. His wife had a separate contract to provide catering to the club. However, when the club advertised for two greenkeepers and a new caterer there were no suitable applicants so the Simpsons stayed in the Town Links clubhouse in Urquhart Road, Andrew continued with his clubmaking and his greenkeeping on the Town Links, the cost of the wages for which were shared between different Aberdeen clubs. Royal Aberdeen’s history states the role of greenkeeper at Balgownie was taken over by Gilbert Heron who later became professional at Murcar but this is incorrect, it was his son then aged nine who was at Murcar from 1919.

By 1895 Andrew Simpson offered clubmaking services both from 117 Urquhart Road and from new premises at 202 King Street. The King Street shop continued until 1902 when it became Mrs Simpson’s dressmakers (whether this was Catherine, his wife, is hard to say as her profession is not given in the 1901 census).

Andrew died on 3 November 1902. The 1903-4 Post Office Directory shows only Mrs Simpson living at 39 Constiution Street and the premises on Urquhart Road have been taken over by another clubmaker, William L Ritchie.

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