History: The Melbost Links
The Original Melbost Links
The Melbost links were situated on Broadbay, 1 3/4 miles from Stornoway. Although not exceptionally long the links were neither easy nor monotonous and enjoyed beautiful firm turf.
The magic of the old Stornoway Golf Course is caught by the story of the four Englishmen who came year after year to Lewis to play golf before the First World War. Rain, hail or shower, they were on the course. Gales whistling in from the Minch or the Atlantic did not deter them.
At the end of every holiday they went up to the Far hole on Strupie Point, a narrow spur of land jutting into the sea between high cliffs, with magnificent caves eating in below their feet. There they teed up, facing the wrong way, and drove every single ball they possessed into the bosom of Broad Bay.
Balls which had rolled in the machairs of Steinish and Melbost, among the scented wild flowers, were not to be desecrated by the touch of unconsecrated turf.
– James Shaw Grant.
Golfers and Crofters
The following is an extract from the ‘Highland News’ dated Saturday. September 26, 1891.
A sitting of the Crofters’ Commission was held in the Court House, Stornoway, on Saturday last, to dispose of the application, at the instance of Lady Matheson, for resumption of 192 acres of the Melbost and Steinish Links. Nineteen crofters from Melbost and thirteen from Steinish, who were interested in the price of ground appeared. The estate was represented by Mr Slater and Mr Orrock. The crofters were unrepresented.
On the application being read over, some of the crofters said they did not know why they were called up at all. They did not get any notice except what they held in their hand (notice of time and place of sitting). Mr Morgan said that copies of the application had been served on them in June. Not being in any way prepared, Mr Hossack said they would be allowed an adjournment to permit of them putting their heads together, and of selecting one person from each township to appear for them.
Before adjourning, Mr Slater said he wished to explain the application. he said this was an application by Lady Matheson to resume possession of the Links of Melbost given to the crofters in 1897, under the Crofters Act. They had no desire to deprive the crofters of any right to grazing there. They simply wished to conserve the right of golfing there. They had this right before the crofters got the Links. The farmer who had it then did not and could not stop them. A few of the crofters understood this, and thought they had the right to stop it altogether. The estate and the golfers held that they had the right. They did not want to have any friction with the crofters. The application was for the privilege they formerly enjoyed.
The Commissioners were quite empowered to assess whatever damage they did. Whatever damage they did would be deducted from the crofters’ rent. They did not wish in any way to take the land from them. Mr Slater stated that it was the intention of the estate, when they gave the Links to the crofters, to conserve the right of playing golf on them. The late Sheriff Spittal, the late Mr K. Mackenzie, and Mr Wm. Brown, and many others, played golf there. It was also the intention of the estate to use the Links for recreation purposes, and to fit up the beach for bathing. This was not lost sight of yet. After this had been explained to the crofters in Gaelic, Mr Hossack said that Mr Macrae was in Court, and he might, perhaps act for the crofters. Mr Macrae assented, and an adjournment of an hour was made.
On resuming, Mr Macrae stated that the crofters were not disposed to take up any hostile attitude against the golfers but they wished to have a claim for compensation for damage done by the golfers. The damage was of two kinds. First, there was an instance of the ball getting into the growing corn, and the golfers going after it. Second, of their cattle being hit, and hurt by the ball.
After a little discussion by the agents, a minute was agreed to whereby the resumption was restricted to the mere golfing course, as there was no desire to deprive the crofters of any pasture land they had, and also that compensation would be given for the damage done to the grass.
Mr Macrae then led some evidence to show what kind of other damage was likely to be done.
Mr Evander Maciver of 15 Melbost, aged 68, said that he had seen the game of golf played this and last year. He saw three or four people, about a week ago, playing. The ball went into the field of growing corn, and they went in to search of it. This happened to John Macleod’s of 28 Melbost. He saw them last year, cutting with a mower and a scythe some grass about the holes. They cut about a couple of yards about each hole. Including ladies and boys, he saw a crowd of about forty persons there at one time. He hoped the players would not be taking down bottles with them, and breaking them when empty, and leaving them on the grass.
Mr Macrae having advised the crofters to keep on good terms with the golfers, the Commissioner took the matter of compensation into avizandum. All the crofters in Court agreed with the manner in which the dispute was settled.
The course at Stornoway Golf Club is set amongst the woodlands of Lews Castle and rises out of these towards the moorlands to the west of the town. An undulating landscape presents the golfer with a course that demands a keen shot-making ability and a canny judgement of distances.
Stornoway Golf Club
Lady Lever Park
Isle of Lewis
Tel: 01851 702240