Life of Tom Morris Chapter VIII - Early
associations and marriage
ALLAN and Tom would get a
great ovation in St Andrews when they returned victorious from the match I
described in my last chapter. The splendid and unexpected victory which they
won was enough to stir the placid atmosphere of the old city, and to set the
small but select society of golfers talking and boasting of the prowess of
the two St Andrews champions of golf.
And it was a quiet little St Andrews in those days. There were, of course,
always a few regular residents in the old city who played every day, and now
and then their number would be augmented, their golfing form stirred and
their hilarity increased by "visiting brethren" from Musselburgh, Leith and
Perth links. There was no Club-House as a sumptuous rendezvous then. The
players met in the small Union parlour in Golf Place about noon, and the
matches for the day were arranged. And then out to play. If the matches were
concluded 3 or 4 holes from the home green, they would at once turn and
commence; their second round, taking a glass of ginger-beer mixed with
something stronger if they had it with them in their flasks, and "a snack"
or sandwich at the fourth or "Ginger-Beer" hole. Did the necessities of the
match bring them to the home hole, they would visit the Union parlour for a
quarter of an hour and take the slight refreshment they allowed themselves
there. They then started on their second round, which would be finished by
four o'clock, in plenty of time for their five-o'clock dinner.
Laying the Foundation Stone (St Andrews) 1852
How different, too, the links the terrible belt of "Rashies" for example at
the station wall on the left hand of the second hole going out. How far the
whins jutted out on the right all the way round, notably at the third,
fourth and fifth holes; but, indeed, all the way. Then "Hell" was "Hell,"
and the "Elysian Fields" a paradise and haven of rest and rejoicing. How
different the putting-greens -the rough surface of the sixth, the sandy
nature of the seventh, the undulations of the short hole, and the roots of
heathery nature of the ninth. Modern golfers can form little idea of what
the links were then like; nor should I be able to do so did not I know every
inch of the old course in the 'fifties. The width of the links is greatly
increased. Then there was only one hole on each putting-green, which
received scant attention in regard to its upkeep. Players used the same hole
both going out and coming in. Those first on the green had the right to "
putt " out before the match coming from the other direction approached. In
time two holes were made, but there was still only one putting-green. Nor
were there any teeing-grounds, and boxes of sand were quite unknown. Sand
was taken from the bottom of the hole; sometimes it was carried round by the
caddies in bags slung round their necks. The late Sir Robert Anstruther used
to say that the first links on which he saw sand boxes were those of Leven.
Players struck off, within a few yards of the hole, the balls which had been
sold them by Allan in the morning at the window at the back of his house,
where the Golf Hotel now stands. Looking in, the purchaser would see Allan
and Tom, and possibly Long Willie, busy in "the kitchen" stuffing with
feathers the bull-hide from which they were made. For his ball he would
likely have to pay 1s. 5d., or £1 for a dozen were he able to afford that
number at a time. Gourlay was then charging 2s. for his balls. These old
balls, of course, did not last long, and caddies were loth to start without
at least half a dozen in their possession or that of their "man's." One
round, barring accidents, was generally enough for one. Once open at the
seam and they were very prone to open there, especially in wet weather they
were done for. They burst and became useless. It is no wonder, then, that
the new ball, the gutta-percha, was hailed by the golfers of '48 and '49.
Mr James Balfour, Mr Leslie Balfour Melville's father, an excellent man and
a keen golfer, tells how he first made acquaintance with the innovation, in
his delightful Reminiscences of Golf on St Andrews Links (Edinburgh: David
Douglas, 1887, price 1s.) He says: "About the beginning of the year 1848
balls were first made of gutta-percha. I remember the commencement of them
perfectly. My brother-in-law, Admiral Maitland Dougall, played a double
match at Blackheath with the late Sir Ralph Anstruther and William Adam, of
Blair-Adam, and another friend, with gutta-percha balls, on a very wet day.
They afterwards dined together at Sir Charles Adam's at Greenwich Hospital,
and Sir Ralph said after dinner, 'A most curious thing here is a golf ball
of gutta-percha; Maitland and I have played with it all day in the rain, and
it flies better at the end of the day than it did at the beginning.'
Maitland came to Edinburgh immediately after and told me of this. We at once
wrote to London for some of these balls and went to Musselburgh to try them.
Gourlay, the ball-maker, had heard of them, and followed us around. He was
astonished to see how they flew, and, being round, how they rolled straight
to the hole on the putting-green. He was alarmed for his craft, and winning
an order from Sir David Baird to send him some balls whenever he had a
supply by him, he forwarded to him that evening six dozen! Sir David,
accordingly, was one of the last who adhered to the leather balls, and did
not acknowledge the superiority of the others until his large supply was
At first they were made by the hand by rolling them on a flat board; thus
made they were round and smooth; [The "featheries" were of a slightly oblong
shape. ] they were not painted, but used with their natural brown colour.
When new, they did not fly well, but ducked in the air. To remedy this they
were hammered with a heavy hammer, but this did not effect the object. They
still ducked until they got some rough usage from the cleek or iron. This
made cuts on their side which were not liked, but it made them fly. These
cuts were easily removed by dipping them in hot water at night. I remember
once playing with old Philp the club-maker. I had a gutta ball and he had a
feather one. With the dislike which all the tradesmen then had for the
former, he said, 'Do you play with these putty balls?' 'Yes,' I answered.
'But does not the cleek cut them?' 'Oh, yes,' I said, 'but if you give them
a hot bath at night that puts them all right.' 'That's the mischief o' it"
"Yet it was soon found out that this same hot bath, while it cured the
wound, spoiled the ball. I remember an amusing proof of this. I and a
friend, on the day before the medal, played with two guttas, and they worked
beautifully, so that we resolved to play with them next day for the medal.
But as they had been a good deal hacked we clipped them in hot water over
night and removed these defects. When, however, we played off the next day
before an assembled crowd, among whom were the ball and club makers, both
the balls whirred and ducked, amid the chuckling and cheering and loud
laughter of the onlookers. We had to put down feather balls at the next
hole. The fact was, they required these indentations to make them fly. About
this time it occurred to an ingenious saddler in South Street to hammer them
all round with the thin end of the hammer. The experiment was completely
successful and the ball thus hammered came rapidly into use, and they were
soon improved by being painted. But the ball-makers were still bitterly
opposed to them, as they threatened to destroy their trade. [Allan turned
out 2456 bulls in 1844 (feutherie.--).]
"After that an iron mould was invented for making these balls, and on being
taken from the mould they were indented with the thin end of the hammer. But
latterly the moulds have the indentations in them, so that the ball is now
produced indented and ready for being painted. The balls are made everywhere
now, but some are better than others, probably because; the maker takes
greater pains to use good gutta-percha."
Those were busy and happy years for Tom Morris, working at his occupation of
ball-maker and playing matches on his beloved links. He was a hard worker,
but he liked his work; he was strong and an adept at his business, and much
pride he would have in turning out a good "featherie" and in playing with
one of his own make. If he had not been golfing through the day, he and
Allan, with perhaps Hugh Philp, Robert Patterson, the slater, and Jamie
Kirk, the mason, would go out after the day's work was over for a few holes
to the Ginger-Beer Hole or the Hole o' Cross, if they had not time for a
full round. The stakes would be "Blaek Strap" (stout or porter), which the 7
would discuss before going to their beds. Allan and Hugh were great wags,
says Mr Balfour, and with Long Willie and old Bob Kirk as their caddies,
both full of fun, it was a great treat to follow the foursome, for besides
seeing fine play on Allan and Tom's part, the fun and frolic were kept up to
the end. Though no one could make a better club than Hugh Philp, he was no
(great) player, and the old man's temper was often tried by Long Willie's
pertinent (occasionally impertinent) remarks about his play; but all was
forgiven when the stakes came to be liquidated. This was invariably done in
the snug licensed kitchen attached to the Union parlour, then the
headquarters of the Royal and Ancient Club. Johnnie Ness, a Waterloo
veteran, was then the caretaker; Tom remembers him well. But amidst his work
and golf play Tom got time to do something else. He found leisure to do a
little bit of "courting," and in time he took unto himself a wife. The girl
of his choice was Nancy Bayne. Her father was coachman at Kincaple, or some
place in the neighbourhood, and they were married from Captain Broughton's
house at 2 Playfair Terrace, where she was then at service. The good old
Captain, whom I remember well, would, I am sure, give the young couple as
good a send-off as possible. He and Tom were old friends, and no doubt the
Captain had a great respect for the bridegroom as well as for the bride. The
following story is alike creditable both to Captain Broughton and Tom. It is
said to have occurred at the High Hole. Tom was badly bunkered, and had
tried once or twice to dislodge his obstinate ball, and playing two or three
"Pick up your ball, Tom, it's no use," called out the Captain.
"Na, na, I might hole it."
"If you do, I'll give you 50."
"Done," replied Tom.
He had another shot at it, eye on ball and perhaps one on the fair Nancy. My
some million-to-one chance the ball did actually go into the hole.
"That will mak' a nice nest-egg for me to put in the bank," said the young
fellow; and he tells us how "the Captain, he put on a gey sarious face, nae
doot o' that, and passed on."
The Captain honourably turned up with the 50, but Tom resolutely refused to
touch a copper of the money, remarking that the whole affair was a joke, and
" he wisna raly meaning it." No doubt the Captain remembered this when the
marriage day came round.
It was Principal Haldane who had baptised Tom, and probably the bride as
well, who married them "The Doctor" as I have said he was called.
The Doctor was a great favourite in St Andrews, and several stories are
still told of him. For two of these I am indebted to a charming lady who
knew him, and whom I am proud to call my friend. "Dr or Principal Haldane,"
she writes me, "was a bachelor, yet had a wonderful gift of drawing children
to him, and few could give so interesting and attractive an address to
Sabbath School children as he did once a month in one of the large halls of
the Madras College, at that time. Many still remember his kindly face and
simple, expressive words; parents as well as children attended to hear the
monthly address from the white-haired minister. The one romance of his life
did not prosper. It was said that he secretly admired, when a young man, a
Miss Jackson, relative of a University Professor. Not having courage to
propose, he asked the lady to come and see his house, wishing to know if she
approved of his pictures, furniture, etc., which she did. He then, in rather
a hesitating manner, remarked that he rather thought there was still one
thing wanting, hoping that the lady would understand and help him out; but
she would not speak, so, after repeated attempts, he at last stammered out
the remark that perhaps the only want was a sideboard. And so it was all
over, although friends suspected she would have been so pleased if he had
said 'a wife.' So he remained a bachelor, the one romance of his life
In the days preceding the Disruption of '43, when party feeling ran high,
and it was well known that Dr Haldane did not sympathise with Dissenters, a
report reached him that one of his parishioners named Charles had been
guilty of thrashing his wife. The Doctor called to remonstrate with him,
saying, "Charles, what's this I hear about your being unkind to your wife?"
To which Charles answered, "Weel, she's aye rinnin' to thae Disruption
meetin's, neglectin' the hoose, an' I canna get ma meat."
"Ay, Charles," said Dr Haldane, solemnly shaking his head, a well-known
habit of his, "but ye must be judicious, ye must be judicious."
It was this fine old Scottish minister, then, who married Tom Morris and
Nancy Bayne, and no doubt he would counsel the young couple to be "judeecious."
And "judeeecious" Tom has been all his days.
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