Mary and golf

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YOUR booklet to accompany the Mary, Queen of Scots exhibition was very interesting (3 August). However, I’m not sure what evidence there is to claim that Mary was “the first woman to practise the art of golf in Scotland”.

Golf in the 15th and 16th centuries was by no means a game reserved for the rich, and it was surely its popularity among ordinary people that led to the attempts by various kings to ban it, along with football, for fear that archery practice was being neglected.

There is no reason to believe that women did not play golf as well as men (exclusivity came much later!). It has been claimed that golf was played early on the various links in and around Edinburgh by fishwives. While it may be the case that Mary was the first woman golfer whose name we know, that is not the same as her being the first woman golfer.

Second, although the fireworks set off in 1566 in honour of the birth of her son James may have been the first in Edinburgh, they were not the first seen in Scotland for, in 1538, fireworks spelling out “James” and “Mary” were let off during the celebrations of the marriage of Mary’s parents, James V and Marie de Guise-Lorraine, in 
St Andrews.

Jane Ann Liston

St Andrews, Fife