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Caddy Days

 

All Earlsferry boys were good golfers and all have been caddies at some time or other.

 

At the time I caddied, Sandy Henderson was the starter. Sandy knew the benevolent and generosity level and the golfing ability of the various golfers and always assigned me with one of the best players and payers. Although there was a general amount that caddies expected for their services it was left strictly to the golfer as to how much he actually did pay the caddy.  Some men were generous to a fault and there were the others.  It wasn't long before the caddies had them all ranked. When the ones high on the totem pole showed up every caddy clamoured to be chosen.  When the lowest on the scale appeared the caddies would disappear. 

 

While waiting to caddy we had a variety of games that we played.  A favourite was called chuckies which was a game of skill played by arranging five stones in the hand, throwing them up in the air then catching them all again as they fell.  Another was pitch and toss.  In this game a stick is stuck in the ground and a circle is scratched on the ground around it.  Then from a distance of about fifteen feet pennies are pitched at the stick. The owner of the penny nearest the stick collected the lot.  Another game was odds and evens which involved each player to throw a penny into the air, catch it and display it on the back of the hand.  Odd man won.  There were other variations of this game.

 

Caddy tales of the golfing prowess or lack thereof of the various golfers would fill volumes.

 

In my early days golfers shared the links with sheep that wandered the common lands of the links at will.

 

Three of the players (not their real names) who always gave me a chuckle when they showed up were Dannie Ballantine, Frankie Anderson and Freddie Brown. When Dannie  showed up he was more likely to be more than a little bit tipsy than not but in his favour he always paid well.  He'd place a silver coin on his ball as he teed off.  If you found the coin you kept it. Frankie was a tippler and he bloused about every shot.  Freddie was a local business man. All three had the same two faults, the booze and the gowf.  Dannie, Frankie and Freddie invariably played together and oh the merriment of that threesome.  When their golf game was over and they retired to the clubhouse it was drinks all around. The three of them spent money like drunken sailors.  And did these three dress up. They were indeed dapper figures as they sported Errol Flynn moustaches and all the rest.  Flap top brown and white golf shoes, gaudy Argyle knee length socks with jerseys to match, tweed plus-four knickerbockers, checkered shirt, bow tie and a golf cap.  It seemed like each tried to out do the other.  They were a sight to behold.  As long as they splashed money around they had lots of friends but as the years passed and the money dried up their friends vanished like melting snow off a dyke.

 

Then there were the cheapskates, the worst of whom was the corpulent Harry Rodgers.  Harry stuck his belly out, walked splay footed on his heels and swaggered like you wouldn't believe. It was a wonder he didn't fall over backwards. The caddies named him Greezybelly.  When Harry appeared all the caddies really did vanish but there was always one who got stuck with him.  When the going rate was "Half a Croon" he paid a "shullan" and a "tanner" and if he was really feeling generous and magnanimous, "twa bob".  He even made his caddy stand around and wait to be paid.  When he finally did pay, he would say, "Take this home to your mother and oh, here's a penny for yourself."  Harry owned one of the largest and grandest beach front houses in the village.  He was so full of his own importance that despite his miserliness we all got a good laugh at his antics.

 

The 13th. hole at the Croupie Rock

 

Caddies became especially attentive to the needs of their player on the 13th hole. Just above the 14th. tee which was below the Croupie Rock was a tiny refreshment tuck shop that, in the summer time, sold Aero Bars, Cadbury's milk chocolate bars, Toblerone, Rowntree's gums and pastilles and my favourite, the best chocolate bar ever, Duncan's hazel nut chocolate bar. Liquid refreshments consisted of Adamson's clear, Leven made, fizzy lemonade and the drink of choice, Irrrn Brrru. It was great stuff and looked and tasted like it could have been brewed from "rroossty irrron girrderrs frae the Forth Brig."  Usually the player paid for what the caddy consumed along with what he  himself did. 

 

The caddies had a good way for handling those who they thought had not done right by them.  Ha, ha.

 

The course had two short holes, the 3rd and the 11th,  at which, now and again, somebody would make a hole in one.  The 10th  was a good drive but it was here that quite a few holes in one were made.  From the tenth tee the fairway is up and over a hill.  When the ball is driven over the hill it rolls down over the hill in the general direction of the green.  Near the green is an elevated outcropping of rock called the Lunder Law.  From this vantage point players can be seen as they drive off the 10th.tee. When an offending player was known to be on the course a caddy (who wasn't caddying that day) would station himself atop the Lunder Law.  When this caddy saw the miserly players tee shot roll down over the hill he'd run from his perch, pick up the ball, drop it in the hole, then make himself scarce.  A hole in one calls for a celebration, whisky to flow at the clubhouse and a generous reward to the caddy.   Pay me now or pay me later.   The caddies had their method.

 

Then there were the duffers, the clean, fresh air missers,  (Mulligans), the ones who were always out of bounds, the ones that cut the cover of the ball, the slicers, the hookers,  the players who'd lose their tempers and would throw or bend and break their clubs. The caddy saw them all.  It really was a great exposure and a wonderful education.

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Then there were the true gentlemen and the gentlewomen, the real players of the game, the ones who would in all humility and sincerity ask the caddy for his advice.

 

There was always someone in the village who had a little dog that was an expert in finding lost golf balls. Some dogs have the extremely uncanny ability to sniff and locate every lost ball, even those completely hidden and buried deep in the tall rough grass.

 

Golf can be an extremely pleasurable and satisfying game but if there's one game that can humble, humiliate, deflate your ego and take you down a peg, it's golf.  Just about the time when you're starting to puff up, smirk  and brag about your prowess as a hot shot, your game is almost certain to go to hell and you can do nothing right. The rot can set in at any time. Usually it begins right after you've hit a screamer of a drive right down the middle of the fairway, followed by a magnificent approach shot and a long curling putt that finds the hole dead center.  Visions of being an Arnold Palmer or a Jack Nicklaus float in front of your eyes.  Now you've got it.  This is going to be a round to be remembered.  One for the books. One that you'll brag about in the pub.

 

You're first man up. You tee up the ball a little bit higher to make maximum use of the tailwind.  If the last drive went like a scalded cat you aint seen nothing yet.  With a little extra oomph this one's going to be pin high.  With a mighty swipe the club head descends, hits the ground behind the ball and the ball goes thirty yards off the tee.  Holy smoke!

 

From then on it's all uphill. Nothing goes right. You shift your stance. You fidget with your grip. You hook to the left. You slice to the right. You're deep in the rough. You lose your ball. You pitch into a bunker.  From 18 inches the ball rolls completely around the cup to look at you.   Aye, it's a great game.

 

 

Three great Earlsferry caddies that I like to remember are Andrew Robb who lived in Allan Place and the two Walker brothers, Jock and George. The Walkers lived  at the very west end of the Ferry High Street in a very old stone built cottage that was right next to the north garden of Earlsferry House. All three men were in their 70's and each was over six feet tall. I don't think any one of them had ever married. They had long been retired when I knew them.  Colourful characters to say the least. Andrew was a ex navy man and always wore a navy jersey and his bell bottom navy blues. Jock and George both had been men of the sea in the merchant marine.  Jock had a look-alike who was Lord Halifax and this became Jock's nickname and he acted the part. All three were knowledgeable caddies and their services were much in demand. The threesome were jovial men and they gave colour and interest to the gowf and the Ferry in general. After a round of caddying it was their penchant to retire to the 19th. hole where they never ever had to buy their whisky and the more they consumed the wilder and louder became their hilarity and their tales of adventure on the high seas. One time Jock returned to his cottage to find his brother George laying dead on the floor. The story is that Jock on seeing George laying there just shook his head and made a typical Scottish matter of fact comment, "Aye George but you've been a cheugh ane in yer day."  When Jock also finally went to his rest in the Kinneucher churchyard  he had no living relatives and the "authorities" had the Walker's cottage demolished for road widening. 

 

What a shame. No, what a tragedy.  Just baffles me that we allowed this to happen. To the best of my knowledge not one of us protested. The Walkers stone cottage was tiny but it was many hundreds of years old and just oozed old world Earlsferry charm with its door in the middle of the front and a leaded pane window on either side. Another lead pane window looked out of the end gable with a view towards the West Sea where the Walkers gathered sea coal for cheery warming fires on cold winter nights. The chimney was in the crow stepped gable of its west end. The roof was made of sturdy and colourful red pan tiles. It was just a great snug and cozy little dwelling. One that most anybody if they lived in it today would think that they'd died and gone to heaven.

 

To allow traffic to move faster we razed the Walkers Cottage to the ground and ignominiously carted it off and dumped it over the bank at the West Sea to end up its days alongside of the remains of the ancient Earlsferry corner house that was at the extreme other end of the village. All you can do is shake your head in disbelief but that's what happened. Come to think about it that's where Wilson the Bobby's cottage ended up too when it was demolished to make way for a grander edifice. The Walker's and Wilson's cottages looked a lot alike and similar to The Cross cottage that I was born in except that the Cross has a stair and living space in the attic.

 

Caddying days were fun but in addition to being fun there was a big bonus to being a caddy. Most all of the players that we caddied for could well in their youth also have been caddies and have carried their own clubs.  Many of the players were very responsible individuals in that they either owned or managed huge enterprises abroad. Years later I was to find out that we young men of the caddying fraternity  were far more than just caddies. We were raw material. A seemingly casual question such as did you ever deliver newspapers at four in the morning was a way of finding out if, one day, could you be responsible for creating a highway over a mountain, a bridge over the Zambezi or might you be able to establish a string of banks in India, manage  sheep ranches in Australia, a tea estate in Ceylon, (Sri Lanka") a diamond mine in the Transvaal, a chromium ore plant in British Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) or one day captain a new Queen Elizabeth ocean liner. Because of the relationships formed between the players and the caddies many a caddy ended up in a responsible position in one of their far flung enterprises.

 

The two men that I mostly caddied for and  who made a considerable influence on my later life were Gerard (Monty) Moncrieff who lived in the house Seaforth at Telfers Wynd and Commander Heathcote who's home was The Deck at Chapel Green. Both of these men were men of great accomplishment and integrity, what today you would call old world aristocrats. Sometimes the two of them played together and on these days my  choice was Monty.

 

Lunder Law and the 10th green

10th green