Ryder Cup drives Leith Links statue hopes

A computer-generated image of how the John Rattray sculpture would look. Picture: comp
A computer-generated image of how the John Rattray sculpture would look. Picture: comp
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SCOTLAND’S hosting of this year’s Ryder Cup is set to boost fundraising efforts for a statue of an 18th-century golfing ­legend on Leith Links.

The plan for a memorial to John Rattray, one of the architects of modern golf, has taken a step forward with the Scottish Parliament backing the principles of a bill to exempt the monument from a general ban on buildings on the links.

Now the group behind the scheme needs to find more financial backing to make sure the statue, commemorating Bonnie Prince Charlie’s personal surgeon who helped draw up the first set of rules for golf, will go ahead.
Pat Denzler, chairwoman of the Leith Rules Golf Society, estimates around £250,000 is needed to pay for the statue, the associated landscaping and to set up a fund for maintenance of the memorial.

She hopes the Ryder Cup, to be staged at Gleneagles in September, will give an extra edge to the campaign.

She said: “We’ve got £57,000 so far. We have been applying to trusts and so on, but they want to know we have all the necessary permissions, so getting the bill through parliament will be very important.

“The Ryder Cup coming to Scotland will raise the profile of golf in general and we hope to benefit from that. It’s Homecoming Year as well, so we hope that will all help.”

Planning permission has already been granted.

The life-sized statue has been commissioned from sculptor David Annand, who was responsible for the statue of poet Robert Fergusson outside the Canongate Kirk.

Rattray, a surgeon and member of the Royal Company of Archers, was the first captain of the Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Leith Links.

In 1744, he and his fellow golfers appealed to the town council for a silver club to be awarded annually to the winner of an Open golf competition. The council agreed to offer such a prize only if rules were set down and signed by Rattray. He went on to win the competition in both 1744 and 1745. These original rules form the basis of the game played today.

The bill is needed because existing legislation bans the erection of buildings, including monuments and statues, on Leith Links.

In a debate at Holyrood, Tory MSP John Lamont, who chaired the committee looking into the bill, told the parliament: “The committee is satisfied this bill is tightly drawn to create an exception only for this particular statue and no further development can take place at this site on Leith Links.”

Edinburgh North & Leith Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm said it was fitting that a statue to John Rattray should be put up as quickly as possible.

He said: “Leith has a rich and varied history and part of that is the significance of Leith Links. There is going to be heightened interest in golf in Scotland this year because of the Ryder Cup and I hope that will provide a boost for fundraising for the statue.”