History of the Eriskay Whisky Galore Golf Club
For those who may not know anything about the Club, it is:
- founded on the Isle of Eriskay, Outer Hebridies in 1994
- a registered member of Scottish Golf (an amalgamation of the former Scottish Golf Union (SGU) and Scottish Ladies’ Golfing Association (SLGA)
- affilliated with Tain Golf Club
- a member of the North District Golf Association
- registered to administer our Members' handicaps
The Real History...
We have not really had time yet to fully research the Club’s history in depth. So, while the following is the best we can do for the moment, it may well change in due course! If you have any personal memories of related events, please take the opportunity to let us know your thoughts, by using our message system. Here’s our current understanding of how the Club developed!
Let’s employ a bit of imagination! Take yourself back to whatever you were doing in 1994. In my case, I was probably still bemoaning the fact that I had been daft enough to move back to “civilisation” (ie – Fifeshire) from the giddy heights of Steornabhagh, (Stornoway to those of you who, like me, have not yet mastered the Gaelic)…. where I had spent a generally happy – and extremely wet – five years. Ok – it did not rain all the time – just from September to May….. But then the sun would come out and make you wonder why you would want to live anywhere else……..
In that same 1994 year, however, the locals on Eriskay decided to brighten up their leisure time by creating their own golf course. Using croft land shared with cattle and sheep, and making best use of the natural sand dunes on Eriskay, they worked together to develop and tend the course and soon had a challenging 6 hole course operating – and not an HIDB grant in sight! (in-joke for those of a certain age…).
To stress just how challenging the course was, here’s a comment from Peter Armstrong, a past Member who was fortunate enough to have played the original Eriskay course. “As one of those who had the supreme privilege of playing around the Eriskay course – this is the only place where I've ever faced a dogleg putt because of a rocky outcrop on the green”. Such rocky outcrops were doubtless not the only “natural hazard” which the original members of Eriskay Golf Club had to face!
Sadly the course no longer exists – an insurmountable “natural hazard” occurred, when a house was built on the 5th hole in 1997…..ahh, the joys of Comhairle nan Eilean’s housing grants…..! Debate no doubt raged back and forth amongst Eriskay golfers as to whether this was an “Immovable Obstruction” (rule 24-2) or merited a free drop… “Playing through” in the true sense, might even have been an option, if the occupiers could be persuaded to leave their doors and windows wide open…...
Commonsense prevailed, however, and the decision was taken to close the course permanently…but the loss of the golf course was not seen as a sufficiently good reason to close the Club…..And so the “Eriskay Golf Club” continued in existence – presumably as a social entity for a few years (memories of this period of the Club’s existence are, perhaps understandably, hazy….).
In 2000, the Club moved its base to Torvean Golf Course, Inverness where Willie Rusk, the former Eriskay - South Uist - Barra Ferryman, and founder of Eriskay Golf Club – and now the Club’s Captain - was for a number of years the Starter. During Willie's years at Torvean, Eriskay Golf Club operated very successfully over the Torvean course, by kind permission of Torvean Golf Club. The main Club activities over that period were the, usually very well attended, two annual “Whisky Galore” Open Competitions, a number of two or three day golfing outings to other courses and, in recent years, an annual inter-club competition with golfing friends from Orkney Golf Club.
Over the years since then, the Club has continued to develop and thrive, reviving old golfing friendships, developing new ones and continuing to deliver the social occasions for which the original course and its Members were renowned.
In 2013, with a view to developing the Club a bit further, we entered into an affiliation with Tain Golf Club and an agreement whereby our Members would play their competitions over the Tain course during the 2013 season. At the same time, the Club successfully applied for and was granted membership of the Scottish Golf Union - perhaps a milestone marking the Club's transition to the status of a "serious" Golf Club?
The plans for 2013 involved a further expansion of the Club's competitions, with the addition of 6 Medal Rounds during the year, the continuation of the ever-present Club Championships and the, increasingly famous, “Whisky Galore” Open Competitions. In fact, the 2013 season was so successful that a decision was taken to limit membership numbers for the year, to allow us to take stock of how our move to the Tain course, and the expansion of our Club fixtures, works out.
After 5 very successful years at Tain Golf Club, in 2018 the club took the decision to move to the illustrious Nairn Dunbar Golf course. Whilst Tain was immeasurably enjoyable for most, some of our long term members struggled to master the Old Tom Morris links and the distance from Inverness (where most of our members live) also played a factor in the decision to move clubs. After 4 years at Nairn Dunbar Golf Club, Eriskay Whisky Galore Golf Club have returned to the Old Tom Morris links course at Tain Golf Club.
The future looks bright for the Club – here’s to 2022 and what we hope will be another successful year for the Eriskay Whisky Galore Golf Club!
The Club Logo – and the story for those who have never heard it!
If you have not heard of it (there must be some who have not!) the words “Whisky Galore” might not conjure up the wonderful image of the mid 1900’s which we Members enjoy; of “simple locals” pitched against the might of “Government Authority”; of cocking a snoot at officialdom; of the complex (or maybe not so complex) rights of the average man in the street (make that the average crofter on a beach) to apply their salvage rights to the recovery of “goods lost at sea while in transit” whilst the Government’s Customs man held a differing view.
The ship’s image contained in the Club logo, (shown above) is that of the SS Politician – long renowned throughout the Highlands and Islands - which sank off the coast of Eriskay in 1941, while carrying 28,000 cases of malt whisky. The sinking, and the escapades of the locals as they attempted to salvage the whisky cargo in the face of stiff opposition by the Customs and Excise men, gave rise to a "bestseller" book by Compton Mackenzie, entitled "Whisky Galore", and a later film of the same name. Each of these probably did more to promote interest in the Western Isles of Scotland than anything before or since (Bonnie Prince Charlie included!).
Metaphorical comparisons between the fate of the Politician and its cargo with Eriskay Golf Club are inescapable - at its most romantic, consider the sinking of the original ship and the subsequent “sinking” of the original Eriskay course; compare the resurrection of the “spirit of the ship” in terms of the fervour with which the - allegedly illicit - salvaging of whisky took place – with the resurrection of the spirit of the Club - doubtless the odd dram played an important part…..
Ok – the analogy has got a bit weak – lets settle for - some of us Members might occasionally like a dram – for some a cup of coffee will suffice - after the exertions of our round, in the conviviality of a group of fellow golfers, competitors – simply friends. That’s why we are Members of a Club which WILL have us as a Member….(apologies to Groucho Marx).
And that’s why the Politician sank…..(actually, that’s got nothing to do with why it sank…but it made a nice finish to the story….).!
When time permits, it is hoped to provide links here to TV videos and possibly photographs of the original Eriskay Golf Course. If you have any such photos, or even simply some nice photos of Eriskay, please let us know via the message system – we can handle any format of photos, from digital, to negatives, to prints – even faded scratched ones which have lain in a drawer for years - and we will guarantee to return the originals to you, once we have scanned them for use on the Club’s website. (But DO NOT commit such valuable photos to the normal post until we have discussed with you how best to send them)!
It only remains at this stage to express our thanks to an author, Roger Hutchinson, who now lives in Skye, for his assistance in clarifying our entitlement to use in our logo both the image of the SS Politician and the "Whisky Galore" reference. His book, "Polly - the true story behind Whisky Galore" , tells the story much more eloquently and no doubt accurately than my brief summary above.