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A Golfing Idyll
or The Skipper's Round with the Deil on the Links at St Andrews by Violet Flint


As some prefatory explanation may reasonably be expected as to how I became acquainted with the subject of the following narrative,—‘A Golfing Idyll,’ I have had the presumption to call it,—I may inform the reader that circumstances induced me, a lady medical student, at present studying in London, to take my Autumn holiday in St Andrews. I know the old place well, and have many acquaintances there. As to Golf I can, I think, hold my own with most of the Golfing sisterhood, and am well up in the jargon of the Links and game. One day found me, sketch-book in hand, sitting on the brae-side by the butts, behind the Club. As I sat, listlessly toying with my pencil, and quietly enjoying the scene before me, I remarked a man, whom I had not previously observed, also sitting, a few yards off, on the slope towards the sea. On closer inspection I recognised him to be an old Caddie, well known to most frequenters of the Links, but not very creditably, I am sorry to say, as he was one of the sad victims of the vice that has cut off so many poor fellows of his class. I noticed at the same time that he now looked very decent and respectable, was neatly dressed in blue serge, a bit of blue ribbon apparent on the lapel of his coat, and that altogether he had the appearance of a person well cared for. He seemed to be engaged in an agreeable conversation with himself. As he sat, smiling and muttering, he was shortly joined by another man, a stranger to me, a ruddy-faced jolly-looking personage, with a free and easy manner, who proved also to be a Caddie. As to how the latter accosted his old friend, and what followed, is all described in the ‘Idyll'.

As I was only a few yards distant from them, I could hear distinctly every word they uttered. The old man did not seem to mind my presence in the least. Before commencing his tale he looked round, saw me, and, with a back toss of his head which seemed to say to his friend, ‘ Oh, it is only a lassie,’ proceeded with his story. Throughout the narrative he was exceedingly animated—rising, sitting down, and gesticulating, as if under the influence of considerable excitement and emotion, evidently earnestly intent on impressing on the listener the truth of what he was relating. The latter listened open-eyed and open-mouthed, uttering occasional ejaculations, such as, Oh Lord! Gude sake! Ay man! etc.

The Skipper delivered himself of what he had to say in pure Scotch Doric, more or less, but occasionally broke out into good English, showing himself to be a man of better education than I believed him to be. This idea was strengthened by his reference to Bunyan ; and the extravagant vision at the ‘ end hole,’ with all its bathos and absurdity, suggested some acquaintance with Milton.

I listened most attentively. I have a good memory, and when I got home I committed to paper all that I remembered, most carefully. Moreover, I had several interviews with the old gentleman, and have done my best to convey to the reader, as accurately as I could, his version of his extraordinary adventure.

As to my reason for weaving the story into rhyming doggerel, I hold myself excused in that I did it for my own amusement, influenced also by a belief that it might possibly prove more readable and attractive in that shape to the persons I chiefly wished to peruse it, viz., my friends of the Caddie fraternity.



Since I penned the first prefatory lines to this trifling work, I regret to inform my readers nonresident in St Andrews, that my interesting old friend the Skipper is no more. He died at the ripe age of 75. Peace to his memory! Some time before his death, I had what proved to be a final interview with him, when he rehearsed his queer weird story, adding some curious reminiscences of his early days in connection with the Links of St Andrews and his favourite pastime. As they may be interesting to some of my older golfing friends, I have interpolated them into the rugged doggerel of the text from the notes I took at the time. He also at the same time pathetically deplored the unreasoning and obstinate incredulity of friends who persisted in disbelieving his story, and suggested, with a view to convincing and converting them, that I should have some of the more striking incidents in the story illustrated. I have done so, but alas ! his old eyes will never look upon them and acknowledge the credit due to Mr Bannerman, the clever draughtsman.

At the close of our interview, he also alluded to his precious breeks with which, in his opinion, rest the onus probandi of his adventure. It was his intention, he told me, to have them framed and glazed, with the fateful mark prominently displayed— the date, incident, etc., carefully printed—to be made over at his death to the local Museum, and safe custody of Mr Couttes. It was not every man, he proudly asserted, who could receive and survive a skelp o’ the Deil’s tail!

V. F.
Torrington Mansions,

You can read this book here and enjoy the illustrations (pdf)

Return to History of Sports in Scotland


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