Chapter Nine:  The 1960s

Now if the 1950s were a difficult time for the club, the 1960s were altogether better. Although the membership totalled only 61 in 1961, within 5 years it had increased to more than 150. More visitors were playing again, especially at the weekends. They may have been tempted to play by the quality of the tea and scones served up by Mrs Mary Buchan, the green-keepers wife, a duty she had taken over from her mother-in-law Jemima, wife of John Buchan the clubs first green-keeper.


Marys tea and scones were legendary and appreciated by all. As the course was still only nine holes, players starting their game had to alternate with those about to set out on their second nine holes, so the latter spent the time waiting in the Pavilion, enjoying a cuppa and Marys scones. Mary was a remarkable woman caring for her family Billy and Evelyn, (both of whom would become club champions) on Willies meagre wage, providing refreshments for the golfers, and also collecting visitors green fees. She was paid an honorarium of £20 per year, increased to £30 in her last year (1967) when she collected £1300. The fact that the fees were 4/- (20p) per round Monday - Friday, and 6/- (30p) at the weekend gives some idea of the number of visitors playing.


The increase in playing numbers certainly helped the finances but it also highlighted the fact that the clubhouse facilities (such as they were) were totally inadequate. I say clubhouse facilities but in fact they were just the same two rooms in Sir James’ late parents house, given by him to the club nearly 40 years previously. This was wholly unsatisfactory for a club with a membership in excess of 150. Proper clubhouse facilities were urgently required, something recognised by Baillie J H Clark, a representative of the Ellon Town Council on the Management Committee. At the Annual General Meeting of 1963, he suggested that the club should look into ways of providing proper facilities for its members.


The meeting agreed with Mr Clark, but the secretary pointed out that building a new clubhouse would be a costly business and suggested that an Improvements Fund, to which money could be added regularly, be set up.


However the incoming captain Mr Alexander (Sandy) Thomson was enthusiastic in his support of the proposal. Sandy ran a butchers business in the town. A keen golfer he had served on the Committee of Management for several years, and there is little doubt that he was the driving force behind, not only the building of a new clubhouse, but also the extension of the course to 18 holes that would follow not too many years later. During his time in office Sandy was responsible for several innovations: the club did not have a constitution - Sandy had one drawn up by Ian Nicoll the club secretary and Frank Duguid a past club captain. He also introduced licensing for the sale of alcohol and tobacco in the clubhouse, as well as drawing up rules regarding the payment of subscriptions and notification to the members regarding the Annual General Meetings.


At the AGM the following year Mr Bill Bruce Junior, whose father Bill Senior, along with Bill and his brother Norman, ran a joinery and building business in the village, was asked for his opinion as to how much a new clubhouse might cost. He replied that if the club was considering building a new clubhouse, then in his opinion it had to be fit for purpose and at the very least should comprise a lounge, ladies and gentlemens locker rooms, toilets, a kitchen and a bar, all of which would cost in the region of £4000. Furthermore, in his opinion, the club should not consider embarking upon such a project without at least £2000 in the Improvements Fund. At the time it stood at £800 but within a year the fund had grown to more than £1800, and the Management Committee felt the time was right to look anew at building a new clubhouse. But the Club would first need to seek the approval of the Town Council, five of whose members, of course, sat on the Management Committee. 


By the time of the AGM of 1967, the Improvements Fund totalled £3500. But the estimated cost of the clubhouse had now risen to £6400, and as it had been decided to incorporate improvements to the green-keepers accommodation costing £1200, the total price would now be around £7600. Improvements to the green-keeper’s accommodation were desperately needed and long overdue. Little or no maintenance had been carried out on the house since it had been built nearly 40 years previously. Its condition had deteriorated over the years and it had long been condemned as being unfit for habitation. Yet Willie Buchan and his family had lived there for more than 20 years after the death of Sir James, and continued to do so. Space was limited for a family of four as the front two rooms were still being used by members, leaving only a kitchen and two small bedrooms upstairs. The roof leaked, the house was continually damp and it was infested with vermin. The house had long since been taken over by the club and surely it ought to have done something to improve the green-keeper’s accommodation, financial difficulties notwithstanding.


A housing grant of £500, a 50% grant from the Scottish Education Department and the Town Council sharing the cost of modernising the green-keepers house, meant that the eventual cost to the club would be about £3500. The contract was awarded to Bill Bruces firm, Bruce and Sons. Work proceeded uneventfully and the new clubhouse was completed by early 1968.


Colonel J H Reid of Fechil House, a founder member of the club, conducted the opening ceremony on May 5 1968. In his remarks he recalled the early days of the club when the membership was very small. He said it was very gratifying that it now stood at 200 and that the club could boast having a Scottish champion in its numbers. He was of course referring to Maurice Moir. 


Willie Buchan decided to retire in 1967, so his hard working and long suffering wife Mary, never did get to enjoy the benefits of her new accommodation.

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