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Antique Golf Clubs from Scotland
Gilbert Heron
Aberdeen etc
There were three generations, at least, of Gilbert Herons associated with golf. The first was appointed by the Aberdeen club to be a full-time greenkeeper at Balgownie after they had sacked Andrew Simpson for failing to supervise the cutting of gorse adequately. Nevertheless, Simpson was still to visit twice a week to keep an eye on Heron.

I am sure Gilbert Heron was happy to get the job. The Parliamentary Blue Book of the Royal Commission of Labour shows he had been a ‘farm servant’ for 23 years before this with the birthplaces of his children around the shire, Logie Buchan, Tarves, Longside, Belhelvie, suggesting moving from one feein’ mart to another. He had been recently widowed and the Aberdeen club gave him the old Watch House at Balgownie to live in. The 1891 census shows him living there with a 13 year old stepdaughter, a servant in her 50s and five children under the age of ten.

He seems to have done a good job on the links as the Aberdeen Journal of 25 September 1891 reported ‘The greens were again in good order thanks to the care bestowed upon them by the keeper, Mr Gilbert Heron’. Perhaps his experience gave the idea to his brother, George who became greenkeeper at Peterhead.

He was already 37 at the time of the April 1891 census so he was not, as the Royal Aberdeen history states, the Gilbert Heron who later became professional at Murcar. That was his son, born in 1881, and aged 9 in the 1891 census.

Young Gilbert presumably assisted his father in greenkeeping as his experience at Aberdeen is referenced in a newspaper article in 1913. In 1903 he became assistant greenkeeper to his uncle at Peterhead and then became professional and greenkeeper in his own right at Fraserburgh in April 1913.

In 1919, now married, he was offered the post of professional and steward at Murcar back in Aberdeen. Presumably his wife did most of the clubhouse duties as she was also rewarded with ‘generous parting gifts’ when their ten years at the club, and their departure, were marked in 1929. During his time at Murcar he played in the 1000 Guineas tournament at Gleneagles in 1925 and was 10th in the Scottish Professional Championship of 1928.

After retirement he became a ranger on the town links and continued scoring in the low 70s for his rounds there until shortly before his death in 1952. He was known for his prodigious strength both in driving, for example winning the long driving competition, a side event at the 1925 Scottish Professional Championship, and, it was said, he broke more mashie niblicks than anyone else in the game’s history because of his strength.

His son, another Gilbert but known as Gibbie, succeeded Fred Robertson, another north east professional, at Oslo in 1925. A more lucrative offer tempted him away to Copenhagen in 1927 but he returned to Oslo in 1929. As a result, he was interned in Germany and Austria during the Second World War but was back in Aberdeen in 1949 looking for a local assistant to supplement his Norwegian one in Oslo.

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