History of Leith, Edinburgh

August 18, 2007

The Links of Leith, famous men and Golf

In the year 1724 the Honourable Alexander Elphinstone who was the elder brother of Lord Balmerino (who had been executed on Tower Hill for taking part in “45” rebellion) played on Leith Links what prints of the time said “was a solemn match at Golf” with a another famous person Captain John Porteous who was later hanged during the Porteous Riots from a dyers pole by the Edinburgh mob. The wager at the time was twenty guineas.

On this occasion the reputation of the players for skill excited great interest and the match was attended by James, Duke of Hamilton, George, Earl Morton, and a vast crowd of spectators. On this occasion Elphinstone proved the winner.

President Forbes (of the Court of Session) was also an enthusiastic golfer that frequently played on the Links of Leith when they were covered by snow. Thus Thomas Mathieson, minister of Brechin in his quaint poem “The Golf” first published in 1743, says;

“–great Forbes, patron of the just
The dread of the villains, and good mans trust
When spent in toils in saving human kind
His body recreates and unbends his mind”

Elsewhere he refers to the Links

“ North from Edina eight furlongs or more
Lies the famed field on Fortha’s sounding shore
Here Caledonians chiefs for health resort
Confirm their sinews in the Manly sport.”

When the silver club was given by the Town Council and magistrates of Edinburgh in 1744 to be played for each year. In 1745 before the rising of Clans, President Forbes was a competitors in a game of Golf with Hew Dalrymple, Lord Hailes, and other eminent men in Edinburgh.

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