THE world’s oldest golf pub – which has been at the heart of Musselburgh for nearly 200 years – is set to be transformed into a house.
The pub was originally built as Forman’s in 1822, but didn’t rise to fame until 20 years later, when Marion Forman’s husband died and she decided to continue running the public house.
You can build houses anywhere, but there is only one Mrs Forman’s. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.Neil Laird
She changed its name to Mrs Forman’s and provided hospitality during the many Open championships that took place over the years at the Old Course.
The pub was featured in the first golf history book – Reminiscences of the Old Bruntsfield Links Golf Club.
However, a planning application has now been lodged by developer EMA Architecture and Design Limited to transform the building into a private house with a garage.
The news has left golf historians devastated – with many saying the pub will be a “big loss to Musselburgh”.
Neil Laird, from the Scottish Golf History website, had just finished research which proved the building was the oldest golf pub in operation when he discovered it had closed down.
He said: “It was a shock and it will be a big loss to Musselburgh.
“At the very least the council should have investigated the possibility of a heritage group taking it over.
“It would pay its way and still contribute to the local economy.
“The National Trust owns two pubs in London and Belfast – The George and The Crown – and this pub is just as historic as they are.”
Musselburgh Old Course has been recognised as the oldest in the world and hosted six Open Championships in the 19th century.
In the past, the tavern was a meeting point for some of the world’s finest golfers.
Champions who are said to have eaten there include world champions Harry Vardon, Bobby Jones and James Braid – who won the Open Championship five times. Mr Laird added: “Musselburgh struggles to attract golf business and this will seriously reduce the visitor interest, which is as much in this pub as it is in the Old Links.
“I am sure that support could be raised to keep it going.
“You can build houses anywhere, but there is only one Mrs Forman’s. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
David Hamilton, a golf history author, said “I can’t believe that the council are countenancing this.
“All it requires is some imaginative redevelopment in that corner, keeping the heritage in some way.”
A spokeswoman for East Lothian Council said: “We can confirm we have received an application for change of use of Mrs Forman’s from a public house/restaurant to a private home.
“The application is pending consideration and we can’t confirm a timescale at this stage.”