The First Round of Golf in Ottawa: Rideau Hall, 1883
Eight years before the founding of the Ottawa Golf Club and the laying out of its first golf course in Sandy Hill in April of 1891, the first recorded game of golf in Ottawa was played in April of 1883 by Lord Lorne (1845-1914), Canada’s Governor-General from 1878 to 1883.
Together with two companions, Lord Lorne played over a golf course laid out on the grounds of Rideau Hall, a magnificent property seen below in a photograph taken around 1882 from the top of the Governor-General’s toboggan slide.
Figure 1 Rideau Hall, circa 1882. Skating rink in the foreground, downtown Ottawa on the horizon. Photo by William Topley, Library and Archives Canada, colourized by Ashley Newall.
By the early 1880s, the Governor-General had become a serious devotee of the royal and ancient game: the Montreal Herald observed in 1883 that “Golf” was “the Marquis’ favorite game” (28 April 1883, p. 8). He played on his Rideau Hall golf course “every fine afternoon” during the spring of 1883 (Montreal Herald and Daily Commercial Gazette, 28 April 1883, p. 8). Thirty-one years later, when, as the ninth Duke of Argyll, he died, a newspaper noted that his love of golf had endured: “The duke was a keen sportsman … his favorite recreations being golf, cycling, and shooting” (Liverpool Echo, 4 May 1914, p. 5).
This essay explores how Lord Lorne’s participation in Quebec golf culture in the early 1880s led him to lay out a golf course at Rideau Hall and thereby introduce golf to Ottawa.
The Marquis of Lorne’s Earliest Golf
Born on 6 August 1845, the first son of the man who would soon become the 8th Duke of Argyll, John George Edward Henry Douglas Sutherland Campbell would become the 9th Duke of Argyll on his father’s death in 1900. Until inheriting his father’s title, however, he was in the eyes of the law simply the commoner “John Campbell, Esquire,” but he was given the courtesy title Marquis of Lorne, and so he was usually addressed as Lord Lorne.
My focus in this essay concerns Lord Lorne’s golf activities. Readers interested in the biography of this multi-faceted Victorian can consult the entry about him in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Or there is the equally comprehensive but more recent item about him in the Canadian Encyclopedia.
Figure 2 Lord Lorne as a teenager, circa early 1860s.
Lord Lorne was educated at Edinburgh Academy in Scotland and then at Eton in England, but in the fall of 1862, he returned to Scotland and became one of 91 students at the venerable University of St Andrews (along with his younger brother Lord Archibald Campbell).
He committed to the full student experience at St Andrews, living in College Hall while studying the two-year curriculum at the university. He graduated in 1864 and then entered Cambridge University for a year.
It was no doubt during his two years at St Andrews that he was introduced to golf. On the one hand, there was the St Andrews University Golf Club.
Formed in 1854, the University Golf Club played matches against other golf clubs, such as those at Leven and Perth, several times each year. On the other hand, there were regular intramural golf competitions amongst the students and faculty of the university.
Figure 3 Lord Lorne, 1864.
Golf was certainly popular among the students, regardless of whether they had ambitions of making the university’s golf team.
In January of 1964, for instance, at the beginning of Lord Lorne’s last year at St Andrews, 34 students (or about 1/3 of the student population) entered the first intramural golf
competition of the session (Fifeshire Journal, 28 January 1864, p. 6).
St Andrews University’s student golfers may well have been tutored by Old Tom Morris. The latter certainly knew Lord Lorne well. Thirty years later, when talking to a reporter about prominent men to whom he had given “assistance and advice,”
Old Tom had an ironic observation ready-to-hand when he was asked about Lord Lorne’s golf game in particular:
Old Tom Morris, the best-known of all the Scotch professional players, is now seventy-five years old, and plays with all the grace and vigor of a man of twenty-five. His headquarters are the St Andrews Links, and there are few players of prominence in Britain who have not profited by his assistance or advice. An expert himself, he is a recognized authority as to the skill of others, and his criticisms are just and candid.
He thinks Mr. Balfour, the Tory leader in the House of Commons, is a good player and one who will continue to improve; Andrew Lang, the litterateur, he classes as a fair player; while of the Marquis of Lorne’s playing, he says it is “pretty well for Lord Lorne.” (“Golf and Its Players,” New York Times [19 March 1895, p. 6)
Just when it was that Old Tom first offered “assistance and advice” to Lord Lorne is not clear. Nor is it clear when Lord Lorne became a serious devotee of the royal and ancient game.
I find no public references to Lord Lorne’s having played golf before the 1880s.
In the summer of 1880, however, we learn not only that he is the patron of the Quebec Golf Club, but also that he is a member of the club. Furthermore, although half of the club’s forty members in 1880 did not actually play the game, Lord Lorne was one of the twenty who did.
And he was clearly no novice.
On 28 August 1880, he played in a foursome match on the 14-hole Cove-Field course of the Quebec Golf Club: the team of “His Excellency the Governor-General” and the Captain of the Montreal Golf Club, on the one hand, played against the Captain of the Quebec Golf Club and one of the latter club’s best players, on the other (Morning Chronicle and Commercial and Shipping Gazette [Quebec City], 30 August 1880, p. 4).
Foursomes golf requires each team to use one golf ball and to play strokes alternately until the ball is holed. Were Lord Lorne a beginner at golf, he and his partner from Montreal would not have been competitive against the two expert players they faced. In fact, they would have been demolished. And so, when we learn that “The match, after a very keen and exciting contest, resulted in a tie,” we know that Lord Lorne was by the summer of 1880 a competent golfer (Morning Chronicle and Commercial and Shipping Gazette [Quebec City], 30 August 1880, p. 4).
Furthermore, Lord Lorne gave signs of being rather taken with the game: “His Excellency … enters into the play with great spirit” (Morning Chronicle and Commercial and Shipping Gazette [Quebec City], 30 August 1880, p. 4).
The combination at Quebec of Lord Lorne’s enthusiasm for the game and his obvious competence as a player suggests that he had played golf more recently than his student days at St Andrews in the early 1860s. Where might he have acquired the experience that enabled him to play over the still rather crude course on Cove Field at a relatively high level of competence as soon as he joined the Quebec Golf Club in the summer of 1880?
The Governor-General’s Golfing Brother-in-law
In 1871, Lord Lorne married a daughter of queen Victoria, Princess Louise.
He was the first commoner to marry a British princess in over three hundred years.
Independent-minded and a supporter of women’s rights, Princess Louise had refused to marry a European prince and spend the rest of her life in a country less liberal than her own.
Her mother Queen Victoria accepted the match with Lord Lorne, but her brother Edward, the Prince of Wales (and later King Edward VII) opposed it.
Because of Lord Lorne’s low rank, he was seated far from Princess Louise at state functions. It was only during the five years of his appointment as Canada’s Governor-General from 1878 to 1883 that he outranked her.
From the point of view of Canadian golf history, the most fortunate thing about this ostensibly transgressive marriage was that it made Lord Lorne the brother-in-law of a relatively famous golfer: Prince Leopold, the Queen’s youngest son.
Figure 4 Princess Louise and Prince Leopold, late 1860s.
Royal siblings Louise and Leopold were very close: Prince Leopold visited his sister and brother-in-law at Quebec City in 1880, and he was the only member of the Royal Family who went to Liverpool to greet them on their return to Britain in 1883 at the end of Lord Lorne’s term as Governor-General of Canada.
And facilitating a closeness between the two royal households was the fact that the equerry and comptroller to Prince Leopold was the latter’s one-time tutor Robert Collins, whereas the equerry and comptroller to Princess Louise was Robert Collins’ brother Captain Arthur Collins, who would become in Canada the comptroller of the entire household of the Governor-General in the 1880s.
Promoted not just within the Viceregal household but also within the British army, Major Arthur Collins would be one of the two men who played golf with Lord Lorne at Rideau Hall in April of 1883 in the first recorded round of golf in Ottawa.
Prince Leopold’s official and public association with the game of golf in Britain began when he consented to serve as the patron of the Aberdeen Golf Club in 1872. Yet he never visited the golf club, let alone played golf over its links.
Figure 5 Prince Leopold, St Andrews, 27 September 1876.
Four years later, he agreed to serve as the Captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews for the 1876-77 season.
His oldest brother, Prince Edward, had served as the St Andrews Captain thirteen years before, but he had not visited the club. In 1876, Prince Leopold decided to take a different approach to the role of Captain.
According to the club’s traditions (which had been neglected by Prince Edward), to complete his formal installation as Captain in September of 1876, Prince Leopold was required to drive the first shot of the new season from the first tee of the Old Course: “the Prince … inaugurated … competition by playing off in accordance with use and wont the first ‘teed’ ball …. The ball, which was ‘teed’ by Tom Morris, was struck very fairly by His Royal Highness, who is, as is well known, no novice at the game, being in the habit of indulging in the ancient pastime in one of the royal parks” (North British Daily Mail, 28 September 1876, p. 4).
Figure 6 Prince Leopold on the first tee of the Old Course at St Andrews, 11:00 am, 27 September 1876. Old Tom Morris, who had teed the ball, stands behind the ball with his hands on his hips.
Prince Leopold returned to St Andrews in September of 1877 officially to relinquish the Captaincy to his successor. It turns out that he had not neglected his golf game while he was away from St Andrews.
During the morning of his last day as Captain, he followed for a number of holes several couples who were engaged in the day’s special golf competition, but such large crowds followed him around the course that he soon left for fear of interfering with the playing of the matches, for spectators were beginning to narrow the fairways.
In the afternoon, however, he played golf himself, taking several partners in foursomes competitions,
including, once again, Old Tom Morris: “In the afternoon, Prince Leopold …. appeared on the green and engaged in a foursome. At the start, his Royal Highness had Tom Morris as a partner and played against Mr. Whyte Melville and Mr. Skene. The Prince gave evidence that he possessed a considerable knowledge of the game and that his style had improved a little since his visit last year. With the aid of his veteran partner, he managed to secure a half match, which consisted of seven holes” (Field, vol 50 no 1292 [29 September 1877], p. 373).
And Prince Leopold apparently maintained his interest in the game long after his term as Captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews had ended: the Halifax Herald reported in an 1881 article about the “probability of the game becoming very popular among us” that “Prince Leopold … is himself a keen player” (17 May 1881, p. 1).
A hemophiliac who was always in delicate health, Prince Leopold had apparently been told by his doctors to play golf as a safe and healthy recreation for him. Subsequently, he had a golf course laid out for him “in one of the royal parks” (North British Daily Mail, 28 September 1876, p. 4). Perhaps this is where Lord Lorne had played golf out of the public eye before he came to Canada.
The Quebec Golf Course
The Governor-General’s official residence in Quebec City was the ancient fortification known as the Citadel, and “the glacis” –the sloping bank beneath its walls – served as the meeting place in November of 1876 for “markers in waterproofs and long boots, caddies with ragged breeches and chattering teeth, and players but sparely clad for the … pelting rain” who were about to participate in the Quebec Golf Club’s handicap medal competition (Field, vol 48 no 1253 [30 December 1876], 791). The last hole of the golf course was called “The Glacis Hole,” and beside the “Glacis” green was the first tee.
Comprising twelve holes during the first season of 1875, the golf course was expanded to fourteen holes by 1880. Buildings began to be constructed on this part of the golf course by the late 1800s, reducing the course to nine holes, but the first tee remained near the Citadel, as shown by the photograph below.
Figure 7 Two players tee off on Cove Field circa 1900. The wall of the Citadel is visible on the right side of the photograph.
The golf course was laid out on Cove Field, also called Cove Common.
It was bounded to the northwest by St Louis Road and to the southeast by the steep hills and woods running down to the cliffs along the St Lawrence River. The southwestern boundary was marked by two Martello Towers. the northeast boundary was constituted by the walls of the Citadel. Serving as the clubhouse of the Quebec Golf Club was the Quebec Racquet Court, located near the first hole and fourteenth green.
See the contemporary illustration below.
Figure 8 A contemporary illustration from Le Club de Golfe Royal Quebec, 1874-1974 ([Quebec City, 1974], pp. 8-9), of the 14- hole course of the Quebec Golf Club in the late 1800s. The St Lawrence River runs along the top of the illustration; the Citadel is shown on the left and the two Martello Towers are shown on the right. Although the golf course had just 14 holes, four greens were used over again (with new tees and new routings) to create an 18-hole circuit for championship competitions.
The illustration above shows that the Martello Tower closest to the St Lawrence River was the location of both the green for the sixth hole or “Tower Hole” and the tee for the seventh hole or “Valley Hole,” which ran along the southern boundary of Cove Field to a green located beside the other Martello Tower.
The photograph below, taken around 1900 from the Martello Tower closest to the St Lawrence River, shows both a general view northeast across the golf course to the Citadel and a particular view in the bottom left foreground of the well-trodden seventh tee box: the front of the tee box is indicated by a small marker like the one seen in the photograph above of players teeing off next to the Citadel, as well as by a chalk line marking the forward edge of the tee box, and perhaps by a faded chalk line marking its back edge. As a Pennsylvania newspaper explained to its readers in 1893 when golf was just beginning to be established in the United States, “The starting point on a golf course is called the teeing ground and is designated by two marks drawn across the course and at right angles with it” (Snyder County Tribune [Pennsylvania], 28 September 1893, p. 2).
Figure 9 A view circa 1900 from the Martello Tower looking north across Cove Field toward the Citadel on the horizon. The cliffs along the St Lawrence River are seen to the right. In the bottom left foreground is the 7th tee: a chalk line indicates the forward edge of the teeing area, and a small marker (like the one in the photograph above) indicates its right side.
Note that in the early 1880s, tee-boxes and greens at the five existing golf clubs in North America – Montreal (1873), Quebec (1874), Toronto (1876), Brantford (1879), and Niagara-on-the-Lake (1881) – were not specially-built-up parts of their golf courses. They were merely level areas of turf.
This early architectural philosophy was explained by Scotsman George Strath when, as one of the earliest golf professionals brought across the Atlantic to help establish the game of golf in the United States, he arrived in New York in 1895 and explained to a reporter why the land that he had been given for laying out a golf course at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn was better than other land in Long Island where he had recently laid out courses:
Mr. Strath spoke in the highest terms of the natural location of the grounds [of the Dyker Meadows Golf Club] and of the excellent facilities for the game. “Why,” he said, “the putting greens are the only natural ones in this neighbourhood. In all other places, it has been necessary to level off the greens, and that is not living up to the strict rules of this field sport.” (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 15 December 1895, p. 21)
These level areas of ground were treated differently from the rough and the fairway (called “the fair
green” in the nineteenth century).
The turf of the putting green might be rolled or pounded flat; its grass would be cut as short as possible (perhaps by a man with a scythe). Tee boxes, as we have seen, tended simply to be rectangular areas marked out by chalk lines. Tee boxes might be areas of exposed soil or sand, for grass was seen as unnecessary on a tee box since the ball was teed-up on sand kept in a box beside the tee (the wooden tee peg would not become the norm until the 1920s). And so, the fact that the seventh tee-box in the photograph above was well-worn was a normal playing condition.
The kind of chalk line that we see marking the seventh tee-box seems to be the subject of a newspaper report in 1880. Prior to the Challenge Cup match on Saturday, 22 May 1880, Quebec City had experienced such heavy storms that, although “the ground on the whole was in good order,” the amount of water that fell had “increased the difficulties of the ‘herring pond’” hazard and “the previous rainy weather had obliterated some of the teeing marks” (Morning Chronicle and Commercial and Shipping Gazette [Quebec City], 24 May 1880, p. 1). These “teeing marks” were presumably lines composed of chalk that had disintegrated or been washed away.
On Cove Field, finding level land for tee-boxes and putting greens was not easy. According to Charles Hunter, “The course runs over and across the old French forts and earth works, the hazards being deep precipices, old fortifications, gullies, moats, rocks, swamps, and bogs” (“Golf in Canada,” Athletic Life [February 1895], p. 63, cited in Redmond, The Sorting Scots of Nineteenth-Century Canada, p. 224).
With the links of the Quebec City Golf Club stretching from the glacis of the Citadel across Cove Field to the Martello Towers, we can see that when His Excellency the Governor-General was in residence in Quebec City, he lived on a golf course, so to speak.
And, as we shall soon see, he came to enjoy doing so – perhaps so much so that by the spring of 1883, with his term as Governor-General set to end in the fall, and uncertainty arising as to whether he would ever be able to play golf in Quebec City again, Lord Lorne had arranged also to live on a golf course when he was in residence at Rideau Hall.
The Brothers-In-Law at Quebec
On Sunday, 23 May 1880, Lord Lorne and Princess Louise welcomed Prince Leopold to Quebec City. Recently named the Duke of Albany by Queen Victoria, the latter was beginning a private tour of North America during which it was announced that he expected to participate in as few public events as possible.
He would not stay in Quebec City for very long. He departed for Montreal by train at noon on 26 May 1880.
Coincidentally, Prince Leopold’s visit to Quebec City occurred when golf was in the air: he arrived the very weekend that the Quebec Golf Club hosted the Montreal Golf Club for that year’s first match of the clubs’ annual home-and-home contest for the Challenge Cup.
On Friday, 21 May 1880, nine members of the Montreal Golf Club, led by 1873 founder Alexander Dennistoun, left Montreal by train for Quebec City. The next day, sporting new red jackets with brass buttons (the uniform worn in those days by members of golf clubs in Britain and Canada), the Quebec Golf Club won the Challenge Cup and evoked a pun from the sportswriter of the Morning Chronicle and Commercial and Shipping Gazette: “Most of the Quebec players appeared in the new club costume, which in many cases seemed to have a good striking effect” ([Quebec City], 24 May 1880, p. 1).
In inter-club matches in Britain and Canada in those days, single players from each team were paired together to compete by match play, but the match did not end when one player had won a greater number of holes than the number of holes remaining. Instead, all eighteen holes were played in each match, and the number of holes that the winning player accumulated was added to the total number of holes won by his team – the team with the highest number of holes won being declared the victor: “Play began at 2 o’clock, nine representatives of the Montreal club pairing off with an equal number of the home team…. Some of the scores were remarkably good. At the conclusion of play, it was found that Quebec had scored a victory by 23 holes” (Morning Chronicle and Commercial and Shipping Gazette [Quebec City], 24 May 1880, p. 1).
And so, the Challenge Cup competition had concluded the day before the royal guest arrived. Still, Prince Leopold and Lord Lorne spent several hours at the golf course on Monday, 24 October 1880. But they were not there to play golf or to watch a golf match. They sat in special stands erected for watching units of Canada’s Militia wage a simulated battle across the Cove Field golf course.
After the Monday war games, the golf turf painstakingly put in good shape for Saturday’s first big match of the season was so abused by foot, by hoof, and by wheel that it was unfit for golf for quite a while.
The military spectacle was attended by large crowds representing all aspects of Quebec City society, including the Governor-General, his family, and his retinue:
Thousands wended their way towards the classic Plains of Abraham where ample accommodation was afforded the wealthier classes in the shape of a grandstand of immense length … near the winning post of the old racecourse [near the Wolfe Monument] …. The Marquis of Lorne and her Royal Highness Princess Louise, Prince Leopold in Windsor uniform, with their numerous suite, took seats on the neatly decorated stand set apart for them. (Daily Evening Mercury [Quebec], 25 March 1880, p. 1)
The view for those in the stands was from southwest to northeast. The illustration below shows the starting position of attacking and defending troops in relation to the Citadel, the Martello Towers, the St Lawrence River, Cove Field, the Plains of Abraham, and a one mile stretch of St Louis Road.
Figure 10 Daily Evening Mercury (Quebec City), 25 Nay 1880, p. 1. I have modified the illustration above to mark the golf course with a green line, the Martello Towers with yellow dots, and the Citadel with light otange shading.
I have added to the illustration above the outline of the golf course.
The description of the starting positions of the various units of the Canadian Militia makes clear that the golf course constituted the main stage:
The attacking force will consist of 900 men and will be formed on the low ground at the extreme edge of the Plains [of Abraham] close to the Marchmont fence…. The defending force… will at once proceed to rake position under the walls of the Citadel, either in the ditches or low ground in front of them. They will throw parties of riflemen into the two Martello Towers and will leave one corps of riflemen under cover of the broken ground near those towers…. (Gazette [Montreal], 21 April 1880)
The sham battle required the attacking force to advance across the golf course to the walls of the Citadel and then to be repelled by the defending force back across the golf course:
On a signal being given, the attacking force advanced in order of attack across the Plains of Abraham, being first assailed by outposts near Wolfe’s monument, upon which they opened fire and drove them in. The Martello Towers and supported corps of riflemen opened a fire upon the assailants when within range. The towers were captured, and the troops driven in, retiring in skirmishing order upon the main body in the Citadel ditches.
The assailants advancing and steadily firing upon the retiring outposts were suddenly arrested by fire from the Citadel walls, and simultaneously by a sortie of the infantry concealed in the ditches. This main body, now reinforced by the outposts, advanced in order of attack over the Cove Common and rough ground covered by the fire from the fortress. They recovered the Martello Towers and detached a battalion of infantry and cavalry to the right in order to turn the flank of the retiring force …. (Daily Evening Mercury [Quebec City], 25 May 1880, p. 1)
A contemporary illustration of the simulated battle suggests the grand scale of the event (I have shaded yellow both the Martello Towers in the middle ground, which mark the southwest boundary of the golf course, and the Citadel far in the background, which marks the northeast boundary of the golf course).
Figure 11 Canadian Illustrated News, 1880.
A close-up illustration of the capture at the very beginning of the exercise of the Martello Tower closest to the St Lawrence River shows the intensity of the activity where the green of the Tower Hole (the sixth hole) was located and where the tee-box of the Valley Hole (seventh hole) was also located.
Figure 12 Canadian Illustrated News, 1880.
Given the traffic of troops, cavalry, and horse-drawn guncarriages that would be moving back and forth across its Cove Field golf course for hours on Monday, 24 May 1880, it is no wonder that the Quebec Golf Club scheduled its Challenge Cup match against the Montreal Golf Club two days before this simulated battle.
Although the short poles with bunting on them that marked golf holes in those days would have been removed before the exercise began, as well as the wooden tee markers seen in photographs above, Lord Lorne will certainly have known from previous periods spent at the Citadel that there was a golf course laid out on Cove Field. He and Prince Leopold may well have been able to see from the stands certain of the close-cut areas where greens were located, and perhaps some of the chalk lines marking tee boxes.
Discussion between them of the movements of troops, cavalry, and guncarriages back and forth across Cove Field may well have been the occasion for discussion between them of the golf course. There may even have been the odd joke: “Look, they have captured the Tower Hole! They are about to set off from the seventh tee …”
It may have been during this slow-moving military spectacle that one or the other of these brothers-in- law came up with the idea that Lord Lorne might become the patron and a playing member of the Quebec Golf Club. His brother-in-law had done as much a few years before in St Andrews.
And after all, His Excellency the Governor-General not only lived on a battlefield; he also lived on the golf course.
Playing Golf in Quebec
As we know, Lord Lorne became not only the patron of the Quebec Golf Club, but also a playing member of the club. His first recorded game of golf came in an exhibition match on 28 August 1880.
As mentioned above, he played on this day in a foursome match with the second-best golfer in Canada as his partner, Alexander Dennistoun, and this team played against one of the 1874 founders of the Quebec Club, Charles Farquharson Smith, and his partner, Thomas Martin Scott, Canada’s third-best golfer (Dennistoun and Scott being not quite as good as the latter’s younger brother, A.P. Scott, the holder of the course record at Quebec).
We recall that playing alternate shots over the course of eighteen holes, Dennistoun and Lord Lorne tied Smith and Scott.
Figure 13 Alexander Dennistoun (1821-1895), circa 1881.
A Scotsman born into an important family in Dunbartonshire, Alexander Dennistoun (1821- 1895) was the organizing force behind the founding of the Montreal Golf Club in 1873. As Gerald Redmond observes, Dennistoun “had played in his younger days over the famous links at St Andrews and Musselburgh and was a member of several other leading clubs in
Britain” (The Sporting Scots of Nineteenth- Century Canada [London and Toronto: Associated University Presses, 1982], pp. 218-
19). And even after immigrating to Canada, he returned regularly to Britain on extended golf vacations to play at such courses as Royal North Devon (also known as Westward Ho!). He strongly supported the Quebec Golf Club, maintaining a membership at the club and playing whenever possible in its club competitions.
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Thomas Marrtin Scott (1853-1932) and his younger brother Andrew Parks Scott (1854-1934) had immigrated to Quebec City by the mid-1870s. Tom was a bank clerk who would eventually become a long-serving manager at various branches of the Dominion Bank; Andrew was an accountant. They had honed their golf games as young men on the Musselburgh Links (one of three courses, along with Prestwick and the Old Course at St Andrews, that hosted Open championships in the 1870s and 1880s). They immediately joined the Quebec Golf Club when they arrived in the city.
Figure 14 Andy Scott, and an unidentified club member, Toronto Golf Club, 1896.
The Scott brothers became the club’s two best players.
Andrew won “the handicap medal of the club” in November of 1876 “with a score of 65, under conditions which made good play difficult and 65 a splendid score” (Field, vol 48 no 1253 [30 December 1876], p. 791). He won the club championship in 1879 and 1880, setting the course record on the latter occasion.
Lifelong bachelors, the brothers moved to Toronto in 1881 and joined the Toronto Golf Club, where Tom served as Secretary from 1881 to 1893. When the Toronto Golf Club visited Brantford in the fall of 1881, a local newspaper declared that “Mr. [Thomas] Scott, formerly one of the Quebec club,” is “probably the best player in Canada” (Brantford Weekly Expositor, 28 October 1881, p. 1).
The Brantford golfers had not yet met Andrew Scott, but they soon would.
Charles Farquharson Smith (1828-1883) was the manager of the Quebec City branch of the Bank of British North America. Born in Aberdeen, Scotland, he had immigrated to Quebec City in the early 1860s and soon became one of the city’s “most esteemed citizens” (Morning Chronicle and Commercial and Shipping Gazette [Quebec City], 15 August 1883, p. 2). In the fall of 1874, along with fellow banker James Stevenson (from Leith, near Edinburgh, Scotland), he founded the Quebec Golf Club, serving as Captain (the term common in the nineteenth century for the club president) until his unexpected death in the August of 1883.
Figure 15 James Lamond Smith (1822-1883).
Charles Farquharson Smith’s brother James Lamond Smith (1822-1883), who had immigrated in 1840 from Aberdeen to the part of Ontario that is now known as the town of Fergus, was inspired by his younger brother’s pioneering golf efforts in Quebec to found the Toronto Golf Club in 1876. In fact, it all began in Toronto with “a pivotal visit from Smith’s brother [Charles], a Quebec City Banker, who arrived bearing golf clubs and balls” (Book of Honour: Portraits of Men and Women Who Shaped Our Heritage, introduction by Lorne Rubenstein [Toronto: Toronto Golf Club, 2015], p. 8). Coincidentally, like his brother Charles, James Lamond Smith also died in 1883 (in January).
Playing with the Governor-General on a number of occasions between 1880 and 1882, C.F. Smith seems to have been one of Lord Lorne’s preferred playing partners. And his obituary suggests that he might well have been a good companion for the several hours that a round of golf takes: we read that he “was an earnest man” and that “a truer man it would be difficult to find” (so he must have counted his strokes honestly!), and we also read that his “mirth cheered the heart of his friends” and that “his fine humour surprised, charmed, but never wounded” (so presumably there was no trash talk!) (Morning Chronicle and Commercial and Shipping Gazette [Quebec City], 15 August 1883, p. 2).
In the spring of 1881, Lord Lorne played for the Quebec Golf Club team in the first match of the home- and-home contest with the Montreal Golf Club for the Challenge Cup.
Although in these matches the players usually went out in order of the players’ handicap rankings (the scratch players leading the way), on this occasion, the Governor-General (who was accorded a handicap of 12 in intramural competitions at the Quebec Golf Club) was sent out first against his Montreal opponent, C.C. Foster. Dennistoun, the top Montreal player, was the second player sent out, playing against the top Quebec Player, A.P. Scott. Then the second-best Quebec player was sent out: T.M. Scott.
Note that Lord Lorne’s handicap of 12 was calculated not in relation to the par score for the golf course, but rather in relation to the average score of the Quebec Golf Club’s best player, A.P. Scott. The Governor-General was expected usually to take 12 more strokes than Scott to complete a round of eighteen holes on Cove Field.
For the contestants that day, the fact that Lord Lorne had accepted the invitation to play in the contest made this match one of the most interesting ever played between the Quebec and Montreal golf clubs:
Figure 16 His Excellency the Governor-General Lord Lorne, circa 1881.
Yesterday was the day appointed for the match between the Quebec and Montreal Golf Clubs for the Challenge Trophy….
The announcement that his Excellency the Governor- General had accepted the invitation of the Quebec Club, of which he is the patron and a member, to play on the home team was received with evidence of the greatest satisfaction by both clubs, and on his arrival on the ground at 9:30 a.m., the hour appointed, play commenced.
His Excellency and his opponent, C.C. Foster, Esq., of the Montreal team, striking off first, the other couples following in succession, till all were, to use a nautical expression, under way, and the uniform green of the links was pleasingly relieved by the red-coats of twenty-two golfers.
Owing to the number of players engaged, it was only a very short time after the last couple had started that the Governor-General and his opponent finished their round of eighteen holes, and as couple after couple arrived, and the result was handed in, it seemed that what had promised to be a very close contest was rapidly resolving itself into another victory for Quebec. The result, a defeat for Montreal
by 24 holes, proved this to be correct. (Montreal Chronicle and Commercial and Shipping Gazette [Quebec City], 25 May 1881, p. 1)
The Quebec Golf Club won the contest easily, but the Governor-General lost a close match with Foster by one hole.
Perhaps Foster had been expected to lose. He was a stalwart of Montreal Golf Club competitions in the early 1880s, but he was not a very good golfer: in November of 1880, Dennistoun was the club’s scratch golfer, and Foster was accorded a handicap of 20 in relation to Dennistoun’s average scores over the club’s course on Fletcher’s Field (Gazette [Montreal], 5 November 1880, p. 2). In a straightforward match-play contest in which no allowance was made for handicaps, if Foster’s handicap of 20 was accurate, and if the Governor-General’s handicap of 12 was accurate, the Governor-General ought to have defeated Foster rather easily.
Foster was a typical late-Victorian Canadian golf club member: a well-respected businessman with a social conscience. From the 1870s to the 1890s, Foster was in the insurance business in Montreal.
Beginning in the summer of 1880, he was the “Sole Agent of the [London Assurance] Corporation in Canada” (Gazette [Montreal], 4 August 1880, p. 2). He was a member of Montreal’s “City Club,” comprising professionals and businessmen; he served on the “Gentlemen’s Committee” of the city’s Anglican “Church Home” for the counsel and protection of young single women arriving from other countries as governesses and schoolteachers; he was one of the founding members of the “Montreal Anglo-Israel Association” in 1880; and he was a warden of Montreal’s Church of St James the Apostle.
And so, Foster would have known well both the etiquette proper for the golf course and the etiquette proper for conversation with the Governor-General.
Whichever of the Quebec and Montreal golf clubs won the Challenge Cup in May, the victorious club held a handicap tournament amongst its members one week afterwards to determine which member would keep the prestigious trophy at home until the next inter-club competition in Montreal in the fall. At the end of May in 1881, the Governor-General entered the Quebec Golf Club competition for possession of the Challenge Cup, apparently desiring to take the trophy home to Rideau Hall for the summer.
Figure 17 The Challenge Cup, Canadian Illustrated News, 1880.
Played for in the spring at the Quebec Golf Club and in the fall at the Montreal Golf Club annually since 1876, the Challenge Cup has a silver golf ball added to it after each competition with the name of the winning club engraved on it.
Although on the occasion of the big match between Quebec and Montreal just a week before, “His Excellency, the Governor-General, … had returned to the Citadel a short while after the completion of his round,” and so he did not wait to learn the results of the matches following his own, he had a reason to stay at the golf course a little while longer after his round in this club contest for possession of the Challenge Cup (Morning Chronicle and Commercial and Shipping Gazette [Quebec City], 25 May 1881, p. 1):
A very interesting handicap match for the challenge trophy, won from Montreal on the 24th ult., was played off on Saturday last. The interest in the result of this match, usually very keen, was considerably enhanced by the fact that His Excellency the Governor-General was competing.
Eight couples played, but owing to the business engagements of some of the members, and their consequent late arrival on the ground, about one-half of the players were “in” before the other half had started. As a natural consequence of this state of affairs, the decision as left a much longer time than usual in doubt.
A great deal of pleasant enthusiasm was evoked when it was learned that the winning score of the first four couples had been made by the Governor-General, who played his round of fourteen holes in 84 shots, which his handicap of 12 reduced to 72. Owing to the height of the grass, which very much increases the difficulty of the round at this season, it was thought almost an impossibility that this should be beaten, but the arrival of Mr. J.D. Gilmour, with the score of 87, reduced to 67 by his handicap of 20, upset this theory, and landed him a winner by 5 strokes.
We wish His Excellency better luck next time. (Morning Chronicle and Commercial and Shipping Gazette [Quebec City], 6 June 1881, p. 1)
The next year, Lord Lorne was again playing golf at the Quebec Golf Club and his playing companion was again C.F. Smith. In June of 1882, however, they were competing not in a foursomes match, but rather as individuals. At stake was a prestigious club prize:
Yesterday the match for the silver medal of the Quebec Golf Club was played. The weather was anything but pleasant. In spite of the heavy weather, there were fourteen players [of the club’s tweny playing members] on the field. The first to strike off was His Excellency the Governor- General and Mr. C.F. Smith. The ground was in very inferior order, owing to the recent heavy rains, and as a consequence the scoring, with few exceptions, was high. At the conclusion of the round, it was found the medal had been carried off by Mr. D.D. Young, whose score of 105 less 9 was the best of the day. (Gazette [Montreal], 10 June 1882, p. 8)
Lord Lorne was obviously not just a fair-weather golfer.
And neither were his thirteen club-mates, for despite the bad weather and the poor course conditions, they had not had their fill of the game after the official competition was over: “Several interesting friendly matches were played in the afternoon” (Gazette [Montreal], 10 June 1882, p. 8).
Perhaps Lord Lorne played one more round with C.F. Smith, who would die unexpectedly a year later at fifty-five years of age.
The Rideau Hall Golf Course
Lord Lorne did not play golf in Quebec City in 1883. He played instead at Rideau Hall.
In May and June of 1881 and 1882, to the delight of all involved, His Excellency the Governor-General had participated in several competitions at the Quebec Golf Club. Perhaps he expected to do so again in May and June of 1883 and built a golf course at Rideau Hall to get in some practice in Ottawa so that he would be ready to play good golf as soon as he arrived in Quebec City that spring.
In April, however, the word was: “the Governor-General and the Princess Louise are to come to Quebec about the 1st of June” (Daily Evening Mercury [Quebec], 24 April 1883, p. 2). As it turned out, Major Collins, now “Co[mp]troller of the Governor-General’s Household,” arrived in Quebec City only on June 21st, three weeks later than expected: “The servants of the Vice-Regal household have arrived here and are preparing the quarters at the Citadel for the arrival of the Governor-General and Princess Louise” (Montreal Herald and Commercial Gazette, 22 June 1883, p. 8). In fact, Lord Lorne and Princess Louise never made it to Quebec City.
Perhaps Lord Lorne knew in April that the way his spring schedule was developing, even the idea that he might be at the Citadel as late as June 1st was optimistic. That is, he may have feared that he would not get to Quebec City until after the spring competitions that he had enjoyed in previous years had already been completed. If he had indeed anticipated in the spring that he might not play golf at Quebec City again, the Governor-General’s hankering to play his favorite game may have led him to take the only course of action that seemed open to him: the laying out a golf course at Rideau Hall.
But whatever it was that inspired Lord Lorne to inaugurate the formal playing of golf in Ottawa, we read in April of 1883 that members “of the Vice-Regal household play the Marquis’ favourite game of Golf (which is distinctively Scotch) on the Rideau Hall Cricket Grounds” (Montreal Herald and Daily Commercial Gazette, 28 April 1883, p. 8).
The Government of Canada had purchased Rideau Hall in 1868 to serve as an official residence for Canada’s Governors General. The Governor-General at that time, Lord Monck, immediately set aside ten acres on the southwest side of Rideau Hall for cricket. By the mid-1870s a pavilion and wooden stands were built adjacent to the playing field in this area.
The same area today hosts two cricket wickets, as seen in the aerial photograph below.
Figure 18 The two cricket wickets at Rideau Hall today. Image courtesy of Google earth.
The same area can be seen from the opposite side of Rideau Hall in the photograph below from 1882.
Figure 19 Detail from the Topley photo circa 1882 shown above in Figure 1.
That the area between A and B marked above was also open ground can be seen in an 1880 image.
Figure 20 Sketch from a photograph by Topley, 1880.
In 1883, because the area on the southwest side of the Rideau Hall grounds had even fewer trees than it has today, there seems to have been even more room for laying out a golf course from the points on the above photograph marked A and B than there would be today.
And since Lord Lorne and a few members of his household were the only ones ever to play the course here, there would have been no reason not to have maximized the number of putting greens that could be played to in this area by having fairways criss- cross each other: as there was probably only ever one group of players on the golf course, there would have been no danger of hitting other golfers.
It is difficult to imagine that there was anyone in Ottawa in 1883 with better knowledge of golf than the Governor-General, so it is quite possible that Lord Lorne was the one who designed the golf course and instructed the groundkeepers at Rideau Hall how to prepare it for play.
He may even have had occasion to deploy his team of moose in harness in some aspects of golf course preparation:
A Singular Success
The young moose recently purchased by His Excellency the Governor-General are, since their being placed at Rideau Hall, being trained to work in harness. The experiment so far seems to have been very successful, and if the young animals can be got to work between shafts it will be the first successful experiment of the kind known, and the trainer will make his mark. (Ottawa Daily Citizen, 20 April 1883, p. 2)
Or perhaps Lord Lorne sought help from his old foursomes partner of 1880, Montreal’s Alexander Dennistoun.
Figure 21 Willie Davis, early 1890s. The Golfer, vol 2 no 2 (December 1895), p. 51.
As Captain of the Montreal Golf Club, Dennistoun had announced to members in 1880 that he was making enquiries “in Scotland, with regard to obtaining the services of a professional player” (Gazette [Montreal], 22 October 1921, p. 21). In the spring of 1881, the Montreal Golf Club became the first golf club in North America to hire a golf professional,
providing “second class passage by the Beaver” for William F. Davis (1861-1902) to come over from Hoylake (that is, the Royal Liverpool Golf club) to teach new club members how to golf, to manufacture golf clubs, and to look after the golf grounds on Fletcher’s Field.
When they played as partners at Cove Field in November of 1880, Dennistoun is likely to have mentioned to Lord Lorne his plans to bring over a golf professional, and as the Governor-General never did anything by halves, he may well have sought permission from the Montreal Golf Club to bring to Ottawa the only expert available on the continent qualified to set up a Viceregal golf course.
Eight years later, still the only golf professional in North America, Willie Davis would be the one who was brought to Ottawa in April of 1891 to lay out the first golf course of the Ottawa Golf Club.
Was it the second golf course he had laid out in Ottawa?
The “Rideau Hall Golf Club”
Who were the members “of the Vice-Regal household” who played “the Marquis’ favourite game of Golf
… on the Rideau Hall Cricket Grounds” (Montreal Herald and Daily Commercial Gazette, 28 April 1883, p. 8)?
We know of three: “Together with Lord John Hervey and Captain Collins, A.D.C., the Marquis indulged in the pastime [of golf] on Saturday afternoon on the Vice-Regal cricket grounds” (Montreal Star, 23 April 1882). This game was played on 21 April 1883.
A week later, the Montreal Herald reported that “His Excellency the Governor-General and Captain Collins, A.D.C., with a third member of the Vice-Regal household, play the Marquis’ favourite game of Golf … on the Rideau Hall Cricket Grounds every fine afternoon” (28 April 1883, p. 8).
Just as Charles Farquharson Smith seems to have been Lord Lorne’s favorite golfing companion at the Quebec Golf Club, it would seem that “Captain Collins” served this role at Rideau Hall. It is not clear, however, whether Lord Hervey was always the “third member of the Vice-Regal household” who joined them at their game of golf “every fine afternoon.”
There may have been others.
In naming “Captain Collins” as one of the people who played golf at Rideau Hall, the newspapers had made a mistake: he teed off on 21 April 1893 at the rank of Major.
Figure 22 Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Collins, circa 1900.
Arthur Collins (1845-1911) was born the seventh child of an Anglican minister “of an old Berkshire family, which appears to have been settled in the county since the time of Henry VI” (Daily Telegraph, 23 November 1911, p. 5). He was sent to “Marlborough College, with a view to a military career” (Daily Telegraph, 23 November 1911, p. 5). In 1864, he purchased a commission as Ensign in the 57th Regiment of Foot, purchased promotion to Lieutenant in 1868, and then was promoted to Captain in 1873. He fought in South Africa in 1879 in what was called the “Zulu Campaign.” He was promoted to Major in 1881 and retired from the army in 1885 with the honorary rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.
Collins had been presented to the Prince of Wales in 1868 and his subsequent military service earned him the opportunity to serve members of the Royal Family as equerry.
Figure 23 Major Arthur Collins (standing) and Princess Louise at Rideau Hall, 1881.
By January of 1880, Captain Collins was in attendance upon Princess Louise, and she appointed him her Equerry in April. He was promoted in Canada to the role of comptroller of the Governor-General’s household until Lord Lorne and Princess Louise returned to Britain at the end of October in 1883.
Upon his return to Britain, he continued to serve in the household of Princess Louise. He regularly represented her on certain state occasions, as at the funerals of primer ministers Benjamin Disraeli and William Ewart Gladstone.
Collins came to be highly esteemed by a wide range of members of the Royal Family, with whom he enjoyed both professional and personal relationships.
Figure 24 Captain Arthur Collins in the pose of an aesthete at the Citadel, Quebec City, circa 1880. R.H. Hubbard, Rideau Hall: An Illustrated History of Government House (Ottawa: Government House, 1977), p. 49.
He produced, directed, and acted in amateur theatrical performances by various members of the Royal Family: “He had much to do with the dramatic performances that were given at Windsor Castle …. He was especially a devoted friend of many prominent members of the dramatic profession, and a constant visitor to the principal theatres of the metropolis” (Daily Telegraph, 23 November 1911, p. 5). He was regarded as an outstanding actor himself and was a close friend of composer Arthur Sullivan (serving as a pall bearer at the 1900 funeral of this co-creator with dramatist W.S. Gilbert of so many famous comic operas).
In 1892, Colonel Collins was appointed Gentleman Usher in the household of Queen Victoria, and upon her death in 1901 he was appointed to the same role in the household of King Edward VII.
When he died “in a nursing home” in 1911, the Daily Telegraph observed that “in him the Royal Household loses one who had rendered long and much-appreciated service, and society a most distinguished and popular personality” (23 November 1911, p. 5).
His funeral was attended by a Who’s Who of British royalty.
Lord John Hervey
Along with his niece, who was a lady in waiting upon Princess Louise, Lord John Hervey had accompanied Princess Louise to Ottawa in April after her stay in Bermuda early in 1883. For the rest of the year, he remained a guest in the Viceregal household until Lord Lorne and Princess Louise returned to England in the fall.
Figure 25 Lord John Hervey, circa 1900.
The tenth great-grandson of King Henry VII, Lord John William Nicholas Hervey (1841-1902) was the third son of the Marquis of Bristol. He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied in undergraduate tutorials with Edward, the Prince of Wales, and chummed with him at sporting events. His friend William Brampton Gurdon said that at both institutions, Lord Hervey’s “charm of manner, his constant unselfishness, and his readiness to help all those with whom he came in contact, earned for him that wonderful popularity which followed him through life” (Proceedings: Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and Natural History, vol 11, p. 149).
At the same time, during his time away at university, young Lord Hervey was a bit of a dandy, as the editor of the Cambridge Independent Press later recalled:
In the days when peers and sons of peers wore a distinctive dress to mark them off from the rest of the members of the university – I mean in the early sixties – one of the most familiar figures in Cambridge was that of Lord Hervey …. A University print of Cambridge celebrities of the period shows Lord John Hervey, a lank and youthful figure, standing amid a group which was catholic enough to include divines, dons, University athletes, and a famous prize fighter.
Lord John Hervey was also a member of an exclusive dining club, which boasted a strange uniform, and enjoyed some such title as the “True Blues” …. But Lord John Hevey was a very serious person in after life, and as a robust Liberal did yeoman service in many a good cause, notably in that of education. (28 February 1902, p. 5)
After graduating from Cambridge, Lord Hervey travelled widely:
He had visited Egypt, Palestine, and Syria immediately after taking his degree in Classical honours at Cambridge in 1865. He made a tour in Greece, which, as is well-known, was rendered more exciting than pleasant by his capture by brigands, on which occasion he showed considerable courage. He travelled much on the Continent, and in 1867-68 he visited India, with which, including Cashmere, he made a thorough acquaintance. (Gurdon, p. 151)
In 1871, he visited Toronto with one of the friends with whom he had been imprisoned by pirates in Greece. As president of the Athenaeum in the city of Bury (the Athenaeum was an association for the diffusion of useful knowledge), he lectured on his travels, speaking in 1884, for instance, about Bermuda and Canada.
He tried three times between 1868 and 1886 to enter Parliament on behalf of the Liberal Party but lost all three elections. He thereafter “devoted himself to the duties of a country gentleman in Suffolk,
where he was highly respected by all” (Bath Chronicle, 27 February 1902, p. 8). The duties in question, as he saw them, required an engagement with local politics, and so he served on the Suffolk County Council from 1889 until his death in 1902.
His work on behalf of the county was unstinting. In fact, “his death was actually caused by his devotion to his work”: “Undertaking in the very severe weather of last winter an inquiry near Bungay, on behalf of the County Council, which necessitated a journey and exposure late at night, he contracted the disease
to which he succumbed after a fortnight’s illness” (Gurdon, p. 150). He had gone to a village called Mettingham “to inquire into a question respecting disputed footpath rights,” and so the need to be out and about in the cold, which led to double pneumonia (The Times, 26 February 1902, p. 10).
He also served Suffolk County as a Justice of the Peace and as a Major in the West Suffolk Militia, and he was also active in various philanthropic causes, including the founding in 1877 of a club for workingmen known as the Horringer Men’s Club, which endures today as the Horringer and Ickworth Social Club
Lord Hervey also served as president of associations with literary, scholarly and archeological interests, and he researched and published at his own expense ancient Suffolk County records: he extended and translated the Latin text of the Suffolk Domesday Book (1086), and at the time of his death had translated much of the Hundred Rolls and Extracts Therefrom dating from the reign of King Edward 1st (1272-1307).
In connection with the second annual meeting of the Royal Society of Canada (instituted the year before by Lord Lorne), the Governor-General hosted the famous American writer Samuel L. Clemens (that is, Mark Twain) at Rideau Hall from May 23rd to May 28th of 1883.
Figure 26 Samuel L. Clemens (alias Mark Twain), circa 1883.
The man to whom one of the famous golf sayings has been ascribed (apocryphally and probably erroneously) – “Golf is a good walk spoiled” – thoroughly enjoyed his time at Rideau Hall.
Arriving at noon on Mar 23rd, he gave a private reading for the Governor-General and Princess Louise and then gave a speech to the Royal Society. Before dinner, he wrote to his wife: “Livy, my dear, fun isn’t the name for it! I wish I had come a day sooner, as I was invited to do” (Mark Twain Day by Day: An Annotated Chronology of the Life of Samuel L. Clemens, by David H. Fears [Banks, Oregon: Horizon, 2008], vol 1, p. 1162).
Sunday, May 27th, was a day for sport and recreation.
While Lord Lorne and Princess Louise went to church, Clemens stayed behind and played billiards with Lord Hervey (Mark Twain, p. 1162). After lunch he played a few more games of billiards with lady-in-waiting Miss Hervey (Mark Twain, p. 1162). Later in the afternoon, with Lord Lorne and one of the other ladies in waiting (as well as three dogs), Clemens went on a five-mile walk through the woods at Rideau Hall and along the Ottawa River. Then, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm, it was time for tennis, which “all hands” played, including Princess Louise (Mark Twain, p. 1162). Clemens was relatively new to the game and fretted that he had not played very well, but he consoled himself with the thought that it was a game at which he would improve if he were to play it regularly (Mark Twain, p. 1162).
During the round of readings, entertainments, sports, and games that he so much enjoyed at Rideau Hall, Clemens became friends not just with Lord Hervey, but also with Major Collins, inviting him to visit the Clemens family in Hartford, Connecticut. Collins wrote to Clemens in June to say how much he had enjoyed the writer’s visit to Rideau Hall and to express the hope of being able to visit him in Hartford in the fall (Mark Twain, p. 1165). But Collins eventually wrote in October: “Alas! It cannot be, though I would of all things like to come & see you” (Mark Twain, p. 1182). Throughout October, the Governor- General’s household was preoccupied with preparations for departure for Britain at the end of that month.
During Clemens’ visit at Rideau Hall, the evident pleasure the household of the Governor-General took in games and sport, and the expectation that “all hands” would participate in a game like tennis, regardless of whether anyone had experience at the game, makes one wonder whether the same attitude was taken toward golf at Rideau Hall during the spring of 1883.
The opinion of Lord Lorne on this matter is suggested by a quotation in the Montreal Star: “His Excellency has recommended practising his favorite game of golf” (23 April 1883, p. 3). Perhaps a game of golf with Lord Lorne, Major Collins, and Lord Hervey across the cricket grounds of Rideau Hall was Mark Twain’s first walk spoiled by the royal and ancient Scottish game.
Yet after Clemens left for Montreal on May 28th, he immediately wrote to his Canadian publisher: “To say I had a delightful visit at the Government House is putting it tamely – very tamely, indeed” (Mark Twain, p. 1163). Such a sentiment suggests that no walks at all were spoiled – whether on the cricket grounds or otherwise.
Rideau Hall Golfers Post-Canada
I have found no evidence that Lord John Hervey ever played golf again after his match with Lord Lorne and Major Collins at Rideau Hall on 21 April 1883.
Lord Hervey’s game was cricket. When in India in 1868, he played for the Calcutta Cricket Club. When in Bermuda in March of 1883, he played for the Garrison team of the British Army. At Rideau Hall in May of 1883, he played for the Ottawa Cricket Club in a match against Montreal.
Incidentally, cricket was also the game of Canadian golf great George S. Lyon before he was introduced to golf at the Rosedale Golf Club in the fall of 1895 when he was thirty-seven years of age. Three years later, he won the Canadian amateur championship, which he would win seven more times, along with the gold medal for golf at the 1904 Olympics. Cricketers have always found that many of their skills as batters transfer effectively to the motions required to hit a golf ball with power and accuracy.
So, if the golf he played at Rideau Hall was Lord Hervey’s first experience of golf, he may have surprised
Lord Lorne and Major Collins by how quickly he picked up the fundamentals of the game.
Major Collins eventually became a serious devotee of the royal and ancient game, but he did not think of his golf at Rideau Hall as marking the beginning of his devotion to golf.
In 1900, Golf Illustrated described Lieutenant-Colonel Collins as “an enthusiastic golfer” and devoted several paragraphs to him in an article called “Interesting Golfers”:
Colonel Arthur Collins …. Is a keen golfer and has played for about eight years. He belongs to the Littlehampton and Chorleywood Clubs and is very partial to both greens; of inland links he considers Chorleywood by far the most sporting.
Colonel Collins, for one who has taken up the game comparatively late in life, plays a very steady game, and he attributes his success in great measure to the advantage he has enjoyed of playing a good deal with first-class players. Both at St Andrews, where he pays most enjoyable autumnal visits to Mr. and Mrs. Asquith (H.H. Asquith was a leading figure in the Liberal Party and would serve as Prime Minister from 1908 to 1916], and at Pau, Colonel Collins has had many opportunities of playing with such first-class performers as Mr. Charles Hurtchings, Mr. Horace Hutchinson, and the brothers Blackwell, and he speaks most gratefully of their kind advice and encouragement.
“To know your limitations” is Colonel Collins’ favourite golfing maxim, and, in his experience, many golfers would play and enjoy the game better if only they would try not to do too much. He has played all games in the course of his life and unhesitatingly pronounces Golf to be the most scientific. Like many others, Colonel Collins has given up shooting in favour of golf, finding that he gets more enjoyment and more benefit from it.
Colonel Collins is a frequent guest at Sir Edward Lawson’s week-end parties at the private links at Hall Barn, where, perhaps, more golf is played than on any other private course in the kingdom. He also often plays at Lord Dartmouth’s excellent private course at Patshull. Of more celebrated links, Colonel Collins thinks that Westward Ho! Is far and away the best in the three kingdoms. (Golf Illustrated, vol 3 [30 March 1900], p. 279)
To have told the editor of Golf Illustrated that he had “played for about eight years” (that is, only since about 1892) means that Collins did not regard his love affair with golf as dating from his match with Lord Lorne and Lord John Hervey at Rideau Hall in the spring of 1883. It was perhaps only the growth of golf as a popular sport in the south of England in the early 1890s that brought him the occasion to renew his acquaintance with the game.
For Lord Lorne, however, golf remained a favorite game for the rest of his life.
Figure 27 The golf course of the Inveraray Golf Club circa 1900. Inveraray Castle is visible in the background.
In 1893, he was pleased to see a nine-hole golf course laid out on the shores of Loch Fyne next to Inveraray Castle, the home of the Dukes of Argyll. In fact, he immediately presented the Inveraray Golf Club with a prize for competition.
Lord Lorne would henceforth be able to play golf very conveniently whenever he came home to see his father, the eighth Duke of Argyll.
Later in 1893, at the other end of the country, as explained by a letter to the editor of the journal called Golf, Lord Lorne was observed teaching a royal relative how to play golf (perhaps paying forward lessons he may have received from another brother-in-law, Prince Leopold):
A correspondent writes: “I ran down to Bembridge, Isle of Wight, the other day for a week’s Golf and thoroughly enjoyed it. The links were new to me …. To make a good round you must never make a mistake. It is as sporting a course as one can wish for. Amongst other well-known golfers, I noticed Prince Henry of Battenburg playing a match against his brother-in-law, the Marquis of Lorne. The latter plays a good game and was evidently coaching the former.” (10 February 1893, p. 348)
Elected to Parliament in the 1890s, Lord Lorne also enjoyed playing in Parliamentary golf competitions. He was one of the eighty-eight entries in the 1897 Parliamentary Golf Handicap Tournament, for instance, which was a match-play competition that ran from the end of February until the middle of May (it included members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, as well as Parliamentary journalists and officials) (Glasgow Herald, 26 February 1897, p. 7).
Later the same year he ensured that he would be able to play golf easily while on holiday in France: “The Marquess of Lorne has bought an estate in France, where he will build a chalet and spend much time on the magnificent golf-links which have been inaugurated in the neighbourhood” (The Faversham Mercury and Sittingbourne and Whitstable Journal, 8 May 1897, p. 8).
Figure 28 George Lowe (1856-1934), in the 1890s.
Lord Lorne loved to talk about golf with other golfers. He even became something of a golf geek, insofar as he would talk particularly about who were thought to be the best makers of golf clubs. And he remembered what he learned.
For instance, at the Isle of Wight, he had been told about the Scottish clubmaker George Lowe, who had apprenticed first under Old Tom Morris in Scotland and then under the latter’s nephew, Jack Morris, at Hoylake. And so, when Lord Lorne travelled north to Liverpool at the beginning of 1898 to formally open the new clubhouse of the Royal Lytham and St Annes Golf Club, in his well- received speech (which the newspapers reported was interrupted often with applause), he was able quite knowledgeably to compliment club members on their acquisition of George Lowe as their golf professional by recalling his golf talk at the Isle of Wight from years before:
Their professional player (George Lowe) had presented him [Lord Lorne] with three of his unique iron clubs. Lowe’s name was well known in the South of England [according to Lord Lorne]. He first heard him spoken of in the Isle of Wight, but his clubs would probably go where his name was not so well known (hear, hear, and applause). (Liverpool Daily Post, 7 March 1898, p. 3)
Lorne Lorne had played a round of golf over the links at Royal Lytham and St Annes before the ceremony at which he officially turned the gold key to open the clubhouse, and so, despite not playing very well (or perhaps because he had hit some pretty crooked shots), he was able to weave into his speech witty observations about both the golf lessons and the moral lessons that he had been taught by the club’s golf course:
He also congratulated the members upon their charming course. He had always heard that golf was a moral education, besides adding ten years to a man’s life. But in St Annes, they pointed a double moral by making their members play upon two churches: by playing toward the Church of Lytham and towards the Church of St Annes (laughter). If, [as it] was called in Scotland, they deviated, they got into difficulties. And [so,] it seemed that a highly moral lesson was being read to both old and young (laughter). He hoped their community would take the lesson to heart and become very straight golfers and very straight livers (hear, hear). (Liverpool Daily Post, 7 March 1898, p. 3)
One can get a sense from this speech the delight that Lord Lorne experienced in being with golfers who shared his passion for the game.
Perhaps that is why he enjoyed the regular company of Charles Farquharson Smith at the Quebec Golf Club: Smith loved golf and he had a good sense of humour. One hopes that Lord John Hervey and Major Arthur Collins held up their end of this bargain at Rideau Hall.
In England and Scotland, Lord Lorne did more than just open clubhouses and donate trophies. Like his brother-in-law Prince Leopold, for instance, he accepted requests to serve as Captain or President of various golf clubs. Golf Illustrated outlined this aspect of his golf profile near the end of the nineteenth century:
The Marquess of Lorne, as a true Scotchman, is a devoted adherent of the Royal and Ancient Game. He has been captain of the London Scottish Golf Club and is often seen playing at Wimbledon, while he is also a frequent visitor at Wembley, of which club he is President. As Governor-General of Canada, Lord Lorne did much to foster Golf in the Dominion. (vol 1 no 4 [7 July 1899], p. 1)
Figure 29 The Duke of Argyle and Princess Louise circa 1910.
And he maintained his interest in golf well into the twentieth century.
Once again in 1910, for instance, now known as the ninth Duke of Argyll, he was building a chalet on a golf course in France:
Princess Louise is now to have the only English royal residence in France. A charming little chalet has just been erected by the Duke of Argyll on the Hardelot estate in Picardy, France, commanding a beautiful view over far-reaching, undulating pine forests and over the English Channel.
Hardelot has an excellent golf course, the most curious feature of which is that the first teeing ground is situated on the top of one of the towers of old Hardelot Chateau. (The Globe [Toronto], 13 August 1910, p. A6)
Perhaps it might be said that as a result of his enjoyment of those long-ago days in Canada both at the Citadel and at Rideau Hall, John Campbell – alias Lord Lorne, alias the Duke of Argyll – had acquired an undeniable taste for living on a golf course!
© Donald J. Childs 2021