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A Wife’s Place in the Golf World of 1886

Last November I wrote a Post that included a poem from the Captain of the Thistle Golf Club, David Jackson. The poem came from a 32 page book called Golf Songs & Recitations published in 1886. In my November Post I said that the book was not available in any library. I have since learned that one copy exists in the library of the University of British Columbia. I managed to find a 1988 reproduction of the book.

I picked up Jackson’s book again recently and found a relatively short epic poem called “The Breaking O’ the Clubs.” The poem describes the tensions that golf created between a man and his wife in the 1880’s when golf was becoming more popular among the rank and file. In writing the poem, Jackson used some Scottish dialect which I have tried to translate using Internet sources. The poem is interesting both for its lively content and its “happy” ending.

THE BREAKING O’ THE CLUBS

Ae nicht (One night) I had a round at Gouff wi’ my cronies, Bob and Tam,
When we were through, to weet our mou’, some ane (one) proposed a dram;
Sae down we sat, and had a chat about our Drives and Putting—
Wi’ (with) joke and sang, it wisna lang till it was time for shutting.
Then hame I goes on my tiptoes, but ah! the wife was waken.
“The morn,” she cries, “afore ye rise, I’ll ha’e yer Clubs a’ (all) broken;
Ye gang tae (go to) Gouff, it’s a’ your houff, and then ye maun (must) be drinking,
Some morning when ye canna rise, ye’ll get the sack, I’m thinking;
Whaur wull you be, the bairns (children) and me—oh, man, ye should think shame,
If I should rise and break yer Clubs, I woudna be to blame.”
To bed I sprung, and held my tongue, thinks I before the morrie,
For a’ this lung and words high-strung she surely will be sorry.

When morning dawned, I wakened, yawned, was pulling on a stockin’,
When horrors, a’! what was I saw – my Clubs and Cleeks a’ broken.
As guid (good) a Club as e’er was swung, I won at last Spring Meetin’,
My driving Cleek, my lofting Iron, a’ tools that ne’er were beaten,
How aft I’ve praised their style o’ mak’, and rubbed wi’ oil their handle,
It’s quite enough to drive me mad, and raise a perfit scandal.
I fumed and swore, and loud did roar, and kicked up such a shindy
The neebors gathered round the door, and some glowered through the window.

“Shall I give up the Gouff for this, and frae (from) my Clubmates sever,
I tell ye plainly to yer face ye needna think it—never;
Fareweel to a’, for I’m awa, my peace wi’ you is ended,
Unless ye gang (go) this very day, and get thae Clubs a’ mended.”
I left the house in awful scorn, their cries to come back spurning,
My heart wi’ grief and anger torn, my brain wi’ rage near turning.
That was a dull and dreary day, to breathe seemed quite a labour,
I coudna sing a lilt, or say a word to my next neebor.
When I came hame frae wark that night, my heart a’ wives reviling
Wha’s (Whose) was the first that met my sicht—my ain (own) and she was smiling.
“Oh, come awa, I’m awfu’ glad that this long day is ended,
For I ha’e been at Patrick’s, lad, and got yer Clubs a’ mended;
And there’s a Club I bought for you – he said ’twas special made, man,
The wale (choice) o’ wud, a powerfu’ shaft, and bonnie driving head, man.
Forgi’e me noo.” “I will, my doo.” And bright her face did shine;
And ever since ye coudna ha’e a better wife than mine.

Though somewhat over the top, this story is probably representative of male golfers’ attitudes in the 1880’s.

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  1. [...] his “songs and recitations” in a short book of 32 pages in 1886. Last August I wrote a Post that featured one of his poems. Jackson and the other club house poets wrote about golf with an [...]

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