This document is intended to be a living history of greenkeepers' associations in the United Kingdom. If you have any information or photographs that you would like to add, email email@example.com and use the subject title History of Greenkeepers' Associations.
War was upon us and obviously it would be impossible to run the association as it had been. It was decided to draw up a War Time Policy. A committee comprising F G Hawtree, chairman A G Whitall and secretary W H Smithers would look after the interests of the association until the end of hostilities. It was recommended that the subscriptions for the period of hostilities would be Section Fund 2/-, General Fund 2/-, Board of Golf Research (BOGR) 1/- and the sub for the benevolent fund would be waived. However, at a further meeting it was decided to retain the sub for the benevolent fund, which would be 1/-.
In 22 September a meeting was attended by F G Hawtree, chairman A G Whitall, R Tydeman and G Philpot, editor of the British Golf Greenkeepers' Association (BGGA) Journal. The acting secretary, Mr Timson, was unable to attend as he was still on Police Reserve duty. F G Hawtree agreed to act as secretary.
Hawtree’s first task was to inform the committee that the funds of the BGGA stood at £4. Because of this, he had approached the News of the World for assistance and they had agreed to fund the association, within limits. This was known as the Rehabilitation Fund. The details were that they offered to meet the initial expenses of reforming the association. At a later date the details were explained to show that the News of the World would also provide financial assistance for three years. They would also provide each section secretary with an honorarium.
The News of the World presented to the association a challenge cup, valued at £100 guineas and a replica worth six guineas. This was a fantastic offer and it can fairly safely be said to have enabled the BGGA to carry on almost as they left off in 1939.
The reason behind the News of the World’s generosity goes back to the first president of the Golf Greenkeepers' Association (GGA), Sir George Riddell, or Baron Riddell of Walton Heath, who was managing director of the News of the World and proprietor of other newspaper titles as well. The second president of the association, Sir Robert Webber, had also been employed by the News of the World and we must assume that F G Hawtree’s connections with these people and the newspaper made it possible to ask them for help.
It was decided that the magazine should be published monthly during the next year. An essay competition would be held on the subject of ‘post war greenkeeping’. Subscriptions would remain at 6/- until 1 June 1946, then return to pre-war subs of 10/- for head greenkeepers and 8/- for assistants.
On 5 December an extraordinary general meeting of the East and West (Scotland) Sections of BGGA was held, where it was decided to break away from BGGA and reform the SGGA. It is likely that this was not carried unanimously and that there were more West Section than East members there, as for some time it appeared the West was on its own
In the first year after hostilities, the main focus of the executive was to encourage all sections to reform and carry on with lectures and meetings as before the war and it would appear these efforts were reasonably successful.
A proposal to change the name to the British Golf Course Superintendents Association was defeated. However, it was agreed to accept assistant greenkeepers as members and new subscription rates were set at £1 for head greenkeepers, 12/6 for first assistants, 8/6 for assistants and £2/2/- for associates. It was also agreed that all articles printed in the magazine from greenkeepers would be paid for.
Once again mention was made of a Northumberland and Cumberland association, but there are no details to follow up on this.
An income tax demand for £10 in relevance to the benevolent fund was received. F G Hawtree thought this had to be wrong and further enquiries were made.
There was one setback to the BGGA in 1946 when letters were received from the BGGA to reform the Scottish Golf Greenkeepers' Association (SGGA). This obviously made a dent in the membership numbers, but as assistant greenkeepers were now admitted as members, it was hoped the fall would not be so great.
On 8 May the SGGA was reformed with a constitution and subs set at 10 shillings (50p). On 18 June a Mr Woods proposed that a national secretary be appointed and Mr Alec Pringle, the head greenkeeper of Glasgow Golf Club was duly elected.
In 1946 it was noted that the Scottish president, Mr Mathieson – not a greenkeeper – made “an exceedingly generous donation of £10 to the West Section".
At a meeting in November, Mr W McGregor, the head greenkeeper at Royal Burgess, proposed a name change of the SGGA to the Scottish Golf Superintendents Association. This was subsequently defeated at the AGM. This proposal has been suggested on a few occasions over the years and has nearly always been defeated – perhaps even then we were being influenced by the Americans.
In May correspondence with The R&A regarding the suggested participation of some BGGA members in the forthcoming Walker Cup trials was discussed. Unfortunately, it’s not been possible to find the identity of these members.
Confirmation was received from the English Golf Union that the BGGA was now an associate member of the union.
At the AGM F G Hawtree stepped down as secretary and Mr D V D Moss was appointed at a salary of £100 per annum.
A proposal was made to start a new SGGA section in the north of Scotland. Talks were held but nothing came of them.
The first official SGGA golf tournament was held at Gleneagles and was a great success with 166 entries.
The SGGA executive received a letter from the East Section raising concerns regarding greenstaff wages and conditions.
The following was a speech made by Mr D M Mathieson (a non-greenkeeper) upon resigning from the position of SGGA President at the AGM:
“I accepted the office of the honorary president with real pleasure because from out of my long associations with the game I fully realised that golfers owe a real debt of gratitude to those who look after and tend the links. I knew of their difficulties, that their anxieties are manifold and their responsibilities heavy. The game is played outside the clubhouse and unless the course is in good order, the club cannot prosper.
“The accomplishment and fulfilment of your duties demand special qualities and qualities of a high order. A Scottish greenkeeper is accepted the whole world over as a man of ability and sterling character and it is the duty of the Scottish Greenkeepers’ Association to maintain and strengthen that reputation.
“It’s an honour to belong to this association and I hope that every member is proud to be on the roll and resolved to take his share in the purposeful endeavour to make their association fulfil its object. The association was founded to enrich the activities and forward the interests of Scottish greenkeepers, but let the service be unselfish and remember to help the weaker brother, and if you can remove a stone from his path never falter or fail to do so.”
What a splendid speech, so much of it as true today as it was then.
A new section was formed in Ireland and for the first time a wages recommendation was issued by the BGGA for head greenkeepers. For 18 holes with accommodation, that was to be £6-10/- to £8 per week. In those days the vast majority of clubs supplied accommodation.
It was also decided that BGGA should write to every golf club in England, Ireland and Wales, appealing for funds. This, of course, was one idea to make up for the loss of support from the News of the World, whose three-year guarantee of financial assistance had come to the end. The BGGA would be eternally grateful to the News of the World for its assistance, however it was now time for the association to makes its own way and the appeal to clubs was a first step in an effort to raise funds.
Sometime between October 1948 and May 1949, Mr A G Whitall died. Whitall had been chairman of the association from 1935 until his death.
From the SGGA minutes of 1948, a letter was received from Mr Johnstone of Dumfries, informing the executive that the greenkeepers in that area intended to form their own association, however there is no further mention of this.
At the SGGA AGM in October, Mr Ritchie proposed that the SGGA should amalgamate with the BGGA, but this was defeated.
During this year the BGGA's Northern Section was raising points on the running of the association that they disagreed with. Some members of the section had suggested leaving BGGA to form their own associations.
Finances were improving as the appeal made to clubs had brought in £215-0-6d – not a lot when divided by the number of clubs in England and Wales. Also, a Derby sweep held during the year had realised a sum of £330-12/4d.
A Northern Ireland section was formed, so it would appear that while some were not too happy with the association, others were still keen to join.
The question of amalgamating with the groundsmen’s association was raised and discussed but as usual nothing came of it.
Mr W McGregor, the head greenkeeper at Royal Burgess was elected the first chairman of SGGA.
A new section was formed to cover the area north of the Tay, to be called the Midland and North East Section. Members in Fife would have the option of joining this one or the East.
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