Statue to honour golf pioneer at home of the game

John Rattray statue and maquette held by David Anderson, who has been working with the Committee at Leith to help secure enough funds to enable the installation of the statue
John Rattray statue and maquette held by David Anderson, who has been working with the Committee at Leith to help secure enough funds to enable the installation of the statue
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He may have signed the first ever rules of golf and treated Bonnie Prince Charlie on his sick bed but the legend of John Rattray remains relatively unknown.

Now golf fans hoping to bolster his profile have tee-d up considerable funding to celebrate the life and achievements of the 18th century doctor by erecting a larger than life statue on Leith Links – the original site of Muirfield Golf Club.

The Committee of Leith Rules Golf Society (LRGS) have raised money and commissioned the forging of life-size statue of Dr Rattray to be installed on Leith Links where the first green of the 5-hole course was situated in 1744, just as the new Rules of Golf are due to come into force in 2019.

Work has begun to prepare the site, and to help fund the necessary groundwork and maintenance a limited number of smaller statues of Rattray – designed by Kilmany sculptor David Annand and forged at Powderhall foundry in Newhaven – have been produced and are being offered for sale to golf enthusiasts.

All profits from sale of the bronzes, priced £1,750 or £4,400 depending on size will go to the Leith Rules Golf Society for the installation and maintenance of the Rattray statue.

The R&A has contributed to the project and received the first 16-inch Rattray bronze in St Andrews, while Sir Nick Faldo also raised cash by auctioning one of his rare Pringle pullovers

David Anderson, who resurrected the 1920s Kingarrock Hickory Golf course near Cupar for the National Trust, has been working with the Committee at Leith to help secure enough much-needed further funds are raised to erect the statue and give it the pedestal it deserves.

He said: “Despite the significance of this event to the development of the sport, very few golfers have ever heard of Rattray.

“As a surgeon, champion archer, golfer and personal physician to Bonnie Prince Charlie, he led a notable life.

“Erection of his statue is long overdue and will be a lasting legacy to the history of this great sport.

“By purchasing one of these uniquely numbered bronzes, you or perhaps your golf club, will not only be contributing to a worthwhile cause, but you will own a piece of history that will increase in importance and value as the years go by,” added Mr Anderson.

Accomplished golfer Dr Rattray was an extremely influential figure at the Honourable Company of Gentlemen Golfers in Edinburgh.

He twice won the coveted Silver Club, which had been presented to at the annual competition ‘Gentlemen Golfers’ by the Edinburgh Town Council on the condition he drew up regulations for their competition and rules ‘for the goff’.

It was also his love of the sport that would save his life.

After he found himself in the thick of the doomed Jacobite uprising and facing execution, just a year after he signed the new rules, he was imprisoned in Inverness after the Battle of Culloden.

Muirfield, which originally played on Leith Links, had a number of high-ranking professional members including golf partner and Scotland’s most senior judge, Duncan Forbes, whose personal pleas saved his life.

newsen@edinburghnews.com