Our ten days in the Emerald Isle have come to an end and the first half of our trip left no doubt at all in our minds as to just why this island is so green. However, we were blessed with an Indian summer ending and a millpond crossing back to North Wales and on to our home in Cheshire, which was a lovely way to finish our “special K” holiday In Ireland – other cereals are available. We christened our holiday that because, rather bizarrely we stayed in a total of four places and all their names began with a “K” – Kildare, Kenmare, Kinsale and Kilkenny. Only one of these destinations was actually planned – the rest of the time we just went where the fancy took us – or should that be where the knotion took us?
The golf clubs had been thrown in the boot but alas, never got an airing, walking and cycling getting the exercise nod instead on this occasion. But, hey, it’s good to keep your options open and I always think a wee break now and then from this infuriating game helps to keep the enthusiasm levels high. It means that when I play next Monday at lovely Enville with Patricia and Anita, a long-term pal of mine, I’m sure to be reminded of that old adage that “every shot is a surprise”. Dad used to modify that into one of his favourite golfing sayings which was, “every shot is a joy to someone!” How true that is – particularly in match play!
It’s hard not to think of my parents a great deal when I’m back in Ireland. There’s scarcely a corner of it we didn’t travel to in my and Patricia’s amateur days, starting from the age of 11 or so, and everywhere we went over the last week and a half had many happy associations and memories. It’s a bit of a shock to the system, though, when you want to check a fact or ascertain the veracity of a bit of golfing folklore and you realise with horror that there’s no one around any more to ask about it. Why, oh why didn’t I pay more attention to the generation ahead of me?
One such incident occurred this week when I received a question on Twitter, along with the accompanying photo from Jen, a member of Greystones Golf Club.
“Hi there. Am a member of @GreystonesGolf and there’s an old picture on the wall of the ladies’ locker room of the Irish Ladies’ Golf team – 1920 at Newcastle. Included in the line up is one Mrs Madill…..any connection to you? Curiosity finally getting the better of me!”
To my shame, I couldn’t immediately come up with an answer to Jen’s question but cloudy memories began to surface of a distant relative called Georgie Madill, whom I believed had married one of Dad’s uncles. Patricia proffered the suggestion that she was the one married to the Rear Admiral of the family, but digging back into family history on my return home proved that Georgie, nee Lauder, had married one of my grandfather’s other brothers, David. Ivan Morris’ excellent “History of Women’s Golf in Ireland” confirmed that Georgie was one of three Lauder girls, all connected with Sutton Golf Club, and that Georgie “had an international career that lasted until 1933”.My interest in the team photo was further piqued by two additional members of that 1920 team – May Fitzgibbon, back right, and Violet Hulton, second from the right in the front row.
Jen had referred to her fellow club member, Miss Fitzgibbon, as “a legend in Greystones”. Well, my whole family had the pleasure of meeting the Greystones legend in 1970 when we travelled to the club for the Irish Girls’ Championship. Along with the redoubtable Audrey O’Donohue of Dun Laoghaire, May Fitzgibbon ran the Girls’ Championships for all the years of my eligibility as a junior golfer. She and Audrey handled everything as regards running the championships and organising consolation events for those beaten early on. I do remember May having to organise a search party for me and Sheena O’Brien-Kenney after we had failed to appear back in the clubhouse after one of those consolation events. We had been chatting nineteen to the dozen, had grown a little weary of all the shots we were hitting and had simply parked ourselves in the rough to continue our chatting as we made daisy chains!
Audrey and May were a fount of all information, educating the parents as to the best events to enter their offspring into, where to stay and so on. They did the lot and were a comforting fixture of my junior days and I doubt any of us ever had the faintest idea that between them they had played for Ireland for a total of 18 years. In fact, it is believed May was the first left-hander to play international golf for Ireland. Alas, as is often the way, it was only in later years that we realised those two doyennes of Irish golf had probably forgotten more than we could ever aspire to know about the game.
In the front row of the photo is Mrs Hulton. Violet Hulton was Violet Hazlett, one of the famous Portrush golfing sisters who seemed constantly to vie with each other for British and Irish titles in the early part of the 20th century. May Hezlett was undoubtedly the star of the show but her siblings were all international players as well. After Ireland won the women’s home international series in 1980, (their first victory for 73 years) Mrs Hulton, the sole surviving member of the victorious team from 1907, wrote me a note of congratulations. It’s one of my most prized possessions and I was honoured to strike up a bit of a correspondence with her before her death at the age of 99 in 1982.
I do treasure the connections across the generations and especially those connections that have been forged through golf. Up and down the land in dusty corners of clubhouses and locker rooms there is a wealth of pictures of those who have enjoyed success in this game, sometimes at the highest level. Dust them off and hang them in pride of place. They are fellow members, fellow golfers and why not bask a little in their reflected glory?