Royal St. Luke’s Golf Club (Est. 1603)
From: The Secretary
I am about to depart from hence to the granite city of Aberdeen to attend the Walker Cup to be contested over the next couple of days betwixt the Land of the Absent Summer and the Land of Earthquake and Irene.
The Splendid Balgownie links is home to Royal Aberdeen Golf Club, 7th oldest in the world and only 180 years younger than St Lukes. I am in the unusual position this time of knowing the US Captain Jim Holtgrieve, a fellow member of Pine Valley over there – but not Nigel Edwards the Welsh Captain of GB&I . He it was who, with fellow Taffy Stuart Manley, pulled off a halved match and a win respectively to win a sensational last day at Ganton in 2003.
The Walker Cup is by far the best international competition to watch and attend. Far smaller crowds than at the Ryder Cup or the Open allow one to stroll around after the players, commenting on the matches with old friends before slipping into the R&A tent for a glass or three of their insanely expensive and scandalously insolent Chablis.
The city of Aberdeen itself is a delight – as are its unique and often incomprehensible inhabitants. The local dialect is known as Doric and is a variant of Old Scots, which itself sounds like Tibetan spoken underwater. The ‘wh’ prefix of plain English becomes ‘f’ in Doric with the interesting result that the reasonable enquiry, ‘What’s this?’ becomes ‘Fat’s ees?’ while that classic song of Johnny Mathis becomes the alarming ‘Fit noo, my Luve, noo that ye’ve left us?'
Apart from the difficulty of being understood, Aberdonians, who are a generous open-handed lot, have to contend with the unshakeable view of the rest of the UK that they are, well, conservative with currency – in a word, mean. A famous Aberdeen postcard is divided into two, each half being a photograph of the full length of Union Street, the city’s main thoroughfare. The left hand photo, taken at 6 a.m. on Midsummer morning and showing the street deserted, is captioned ‘Flag Day in Aberdeen’ – while the other, taken at noon with the street jammed with pedestrians, says ‘House to House collection Day’.
Even The Two Ronnies, that splendid and much-missed comedy show, got into the act. Some years ago Aberdeen City Council ran an experimental scheme on their city-centre buses whereby you paid when you got off, not when getting on. The system was called PAYL – for Pay As You Leave. The Ronnies certainly didn’t miss the bus. Their Show used to feature wondrous spoof Newscasts, in one of which Ronnie Corbett intoned: “Here is the News. Post-mortem examinations carried out this morning on the 68 Aberdonians found dead on a PAYL bus...confirmed that they had died of malnutrition.”
This is all most unfair, since the locals will extend the warmest of welcomes to the American Walker Cup team – as will the hundreds of Yankee golfers resident in the city and engaged in the offshore oil and gas industry.
There may even be a visitation to Royal Aberdeen GC from their new neighbour, one Donald Trump. He is presently engaged in trying to torpedo an offshore windfarm threatening to interfere with the view from his new links course up the road on the Menie Estate. This will be modestly entitled, ‘The Donald J Trump International Golf Links’. Donald’s astonishing hairdo which resembles the access ramp of a multi-storey carpark, has been much in evidence in Aberdeenshire of late as he sweeps around the golf course ordering changes to the layout, resiting bunkers and raging at those local property owners refusing to clear off to make way for his hotel.
I will be back in the city in November to speak at the St Andrew’s Day Dinner and propose, curiously, the health of ‘Provost Davidson & the Heroes of Harlaw’. This refers to the 1411 great battle between, in the blue corner, the trousered Lowlands of Scotland, represented by Aberdeen and in the red corner, the kilted Highlanders led by the fearsome flame-haired Donald of the Isles.
The latter had indicated, in Gaelic, his intention of torching Aberdeen and was met at Harlaw outside the city by the Provost, or Mayor, and his levies, furious at their golf being interrupted. They were supported by a brigade of Borderers equally furious at the interruption of their own main business, which may be tactfully described as the cross-border livestock transportation industry. Anyway, the result was a home win for Aberdeen but not for Mr Davidson who got on the wrong end of a claymore. After that, the farmlands of the shire settled down to their rich productivity, well illustrated by the two prosperous Aberdeen-Angus farmers down in London for the Smithfield Show. They were currently inspecting the models on display in a Rolls Royce showroom in Berkeley Square. “Fit’s this een, loon?”, said one to the pinstriped and carnation-adorned salesperson.
“I beg your pardon?”
“My friend is asking which model is this,” said the other.
“This is the Roll-Royce Silver Shadow Mk. IV, Sir.”
“We’ll tak twa.”
“I beg your pardon.”
“He’s saying we’ll take two.”
The Doric speaker then reached into his Barbour for his chequebook when his friend restrained him, saying firmly, “No, no Alastair – you got them last year…”