New book launches Port golf club’s centenary year

PORT Bannatyne Golf Club’s one hundredth birthday celebrations begin tonight (Friday) with the launch of But Not A Grouse In Sight, a lovingly detailed history of the club penned by its centenary captain, Iain L. MacLeod.

Written over the last four years - though it was being planned, and the first letters of research sent away, as far back as 2001 - the book tells the stories of the club’s best players, most illustrious competitions and most faithful servants and supporters over the last hundred years.

“I wanted to place the course in the context of the village,” Iain told us, “because it’s very much a village golf club. And while the book details the development of the club, I also wanted to look at the development of the village over the years. 

“There are many places where the golf club is not really located in the community - my son Neil and daughter Kirsty are both members of clubs which are sat out in the countryside, but in the Port the club is very much part of the village, and in many cases it’s the personalities in the village that have made the club.”

Started in 1912, largely thanks to the enthusiasm of a group of businessmen who met at the nearby Kyles of Bute Hydro, the Port’s hundred years, like those of any organisation, have encompassed many ups and downs - the former represented by a particularly vibrant period in the 1930s, and the latter by a fallow spell which began in the mid-1950s and lasted until the late 1960s, during which time the club was essentially dormant.

Among the notable figures in the club’s history considered worthy enough to have their own chapters in the book are E.D. Hamilton, probably the best Scottish amateur golfer of the 1930s, who received his academic education at North Bute Primary and Rothesay Academy, learned his golf at Port Bannatyne and retained a soft spot for the village and the club throughout his life.

Also featured are Gilbert McKellar, three times Port club champion in the late 1930s, who took over the running of the course in 1944 and was its dominating force until he left to farm in Glendaruel in 1954; and Colin Stirling, another former Academy pupil who went on to become a military and civilian pilot, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross for gallantry in the Second World War, and whose golfing championship wins stretched across the globe, from Port Bannatyne to Newfoundland and Singapore.

Winners of club championships and other major tournaments in the club’s past and present are profiled too, alongside tales of memorable ‘overseas’ tours to Canada and Cumbrae, friendly-but-intense rivalries with other clubs, and the stories behind some of the competitions which comprise the Port’s varied golfing calendar - as well as entertaining observations on the development of Port Bannatyne as a village alongside the evolution of the club.

All contribute to a worthy monument to the centenary of ‘golf at the Port’. But for those who may be wondering: just where does the title of the book come from? Well, if you don’t know the Port club all that well, take a look at the club badge and you’ll see the emblem of a red grouse in the centre. 

But ‘Not A Grouse In Sight’?  Says Iain: “A member at the Port is Jimmy Gordon, who was the Bute Estate gamekeeper for many, many years, and talks about the hundreds of pairs of grouse taken off the north end. 

“But farming methods change, and the only place you’ll find a red grouse anywhere on Bute now is on Port Bannatyne Golf Club’s badge.”

‘But Not A Grouse In Sight’ is launched tonight (Friday) at Port Bannatyne Golf Club at a free ‘cheese and wine’ evening, beginning at 7.30pm, to which all are welcome.