Father of golf to be honoured with Leith statue

A STATUE is to serve as a permanent tribute to the golfer credited with inventing the rules of the game – and further enhance Edinburgh’s claim as the sport’s true home.

A £200,000 memorial in a city park is to be built after planners backed a monument to John Rattray, the surgeon and captain of the club where the first rules were laid down at Leith Links in 1744 – ten years before golf was played competitively at St Andrews.

The Leith Rules Golf Society has already commissioned David Annand, one of Scotland’s leading sculptors, to create the two-metre high statue to be raised on Leith Links.

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The backing of officials is a significant step as the group has faced a battle to gain approval for the project, and is waiting for Holyrood to grant an exemption to a bylaw later this year which prevents construction in Edinburgh parks.

Comprising avid players and historians, the society has already been pledged some of the £200,000 funding, including from descendants of Rattray, and now intends to raise the remainder from fans during the Open at Muirfield, East Lothian, in July.

Pat Denzler, secretary of the Leith Rules Golf Society, said that it is hoped the statue will be built by next year in time for the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

“We are keen to step up fundraising and get the whole project on track,” she said. “At the moment it has been low-key because we have been waiting for an exemption to the bylaw .

“We’re going to be looking at people from the golf world, and we expect a lot of interest this summer, when the Open comes to Muirfield .”

Planners have recommended councillors back the project on Wednesday. However, this is subject to the applicants addressing security concerns from Police Scotland, which said the area suffers from “a high level of recorded crime and anti-social behaviour”.

Police said CCTV may be needed to monitor the statue, as bronze is a valuable metal which has been heavily targeted by thieves in recent years.

Ms Denzler added: “It is quite tricky to factor in the security costs, CCTV for example, at this stage, but we’re confident we can address these issues.”

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Rattray accompanied Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army south to Derby and back to disastrous defeat at Culloden, where he was captured.

He was spared from being hanged, however, when Scotland’s most senior judge, Lord Forbes, a golfing partner of Rattray, intervened.

Although Leith Links may have been where the rules of golf were first laid down, it is not the only place in Scotland to claim a long association with golf. The Society of St Andrews Golfers, founded in 1754, published and formalised the rules.

Rob Munn, the former deputy Lord Provost of Edinburgh, said that the arrival of the statue in Leith would be hugely significant to the area.

“We expect this will help to put a focus on Leith and may well attract tourists and golf fans to the area,” he said. “There is no shortage of interest in the history of golf in Scotland.”