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Ben Sayers


NORTH BERWICK
GOLFING PIONEERS

Club Makers
Golf Professionals
and Course Architect


NORTH BERWICK
LINKS IN THE 1890s
by DOROTHY CAMPBELL

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Ben Sayers Ltd. - Apprentices and Clubmakers

NAME
APPRENTICESHIP
EMPLOYMENT
Ian Arundel
1926-31
Masterton Golf Club, New Zealand
John S.M. Arundel
1909-14
Euclid Country Club, Michigan, USA
Alex Bell
1896-99
Oahu Country Club, Honolulu, USA
James Brash
1924-29
Prestonfield Golf Club, UK
Alan Brodie
1911-16
Jefferson Lakeside Country Club, Virginia, USA
Michael Burke
1920-24
L'lle Rousse, Corsica, France
Cuthbert Butchart
1902-04
Baltimore Country Club, New York, USA
Herbert Budd Clarke
1911-16
Sioux City Boat Club, Iowa, USA
Thomas Dickson
1906-11
Oakpark Country Club , Chicago, USA
Maynard Goldsmith
1923-28
Royal Cape Golf Club, Capetown, South Africa
Allan McLachlan
1929-34
Hermus Golf Club, South Africa
Cyril Goodchild
1931-36
Bramall Park Golf Club, UK
James Gullane
1906-11
Colorado Springs Golf Club, USA
Alex Hay
1948-52
Woburn Golf Club, UK
Bob Jamieson
1951-56
Turnberry Golf Club, Scotland UK
John Johnstone
1887-92
Port Elizabeth Golf Club, South Africa
Richard S. Kelly
1886-91
Royal Norwich Golf Club, UK
Daniel Kenny
1897-02
Buffalo Country Club, New York, USA
Roderick Keppie
1910-15
Killed WW1
J. Little
1953-58
Musselburgh Golf Club, Monktonhall, UK
Charles Marr
1907-12
Indian Hill Golf Club, Chicago, USA
Alex M. McLaren
1897-02
Royal Melbourne Golf Club, New South Wales, AUS
Jock M. McLaren
1923-28
Lawsonia Golf Course, Wisconsin, USA
James Richardson
1909-14
Sunnybrook Golf Club, Pennsylvania, USA
John Richardson
1906-11
Essex Fells, New Jersey, USA
George Sayers
1902-07
Merion Cricket Club, Pennsylvania, USA
David Stephenson
1903-08
San Francisco Golf Club, California, USA
William R. Stuart
1903-08
Paisley Golf Club, Scotland UK
Tom Taylor
1908-13
East London Golf Club, South Africa
Archibald Thomson
1921-28
Mt Vernon Country Club, New York, USA
George Thomson
1895-00
Huntingdon Valley Golf Club, Pennsylvania, USA
James Kelly Thomson
1909-14
Mohawk Golf Club, New York, USA
John Thorburn
1889-97
Peebles Golf Club, Scotland, UK
Tom Turnbull
1890-95
Helensburgh Golf Club, Scotland, UK
Hugh Young
1897-02
Pontefract & District Golf Club UK
Alex Wilson
1923-28
Ryde-Parramatta Golf Club, New South Wales, AUS.

The clubmakers listed above served a five year apprenticeship with Ben Sayers & Son Ltd. before emigrating to America, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. It is not recorded how many apprentices Sayers recruited each year but if the youngster showed promise on completion of his apprenticeship, he was sent to work in Sayers retail shop beside the first tee on the West Links, where he would gain experience serving the customers and demonstrating new clubs. Old Ben was often asked by Golf Clubs around the world to recommend a young clubmaker who would be interested in becoming their professional and the young man working in the shop was next in line to be offered the position.

In April 1897, Willie Stewart and John Purves both employeed by Ben Sayers requested a professional license to play the West Links but were refused. In those days a club maker was deem to be a professional, yet in 1906 Robert Murray, Arthur Grant and George Sayers were all approved and given a license.

Among Sayers apprentices was Bob Jamieson who was appointed assistant at Royal Birkdale, before moving to Crieff Golf Club for ten years. He was appointed head pro at Turnberry where he remained for 32 years. During his career Bob Jamieson trained 32 assistants who took their skills to all corners of the world. Another Sayers apprentice was Alex Hay who was appointed Director of Golf at Woburn and was a regular BBC TV Golf commentator. In 1995, Alex gave Ian Poulter his first break when he appointed him assistant at Woburn. Poulter continues to be associated with the club and coaches the juniors.

In 1881, when Ben Sayers made North Berwick his permanent base he lived at 41 Westgate (now No.47). Sayers continued to describe himself as a golf ball maker. In 1894 he rented the shop at 102 High Street and converted the basement into a workshop. One of the first clubmakers he employed was Charlie McDonald from the Braid Hills who trained Sayers first apprentices John Johnstone, Richard Kelly and George Thomson.

In those early days clubmakers were deemed to be professional and were not allowed to play in amateur tournaments. With Sayers now employing men solely as clubmakers the rules were altered so that clubmakers could join the artisan golf clubs and win the prizes.

[West Links]
Advert from the 1950 US Open Programme at Merion

In 1895 the business was expanding and for the first time Ben Sayers was described as a golf club manufacturer. Sayers erected a timber building on the wall of Inchgarry House adjacent to the eighteenth tee on the West Links, where he could offer lockers for the visitors and sell clubs and balls, until 1918 when it was taken down. In 1896 he gave up the lease of the shop at 102 High Street and converted the property at 10, Quality Street as his workshop (now the site of the Tourist Information Centre). The building was originally the stables and coach house for the Dalrymple family living in their town house opposite (The Lodge). In 1905 Sayers had an office at 6 Market Place and Ben's son George Sayers lived in the coachman's house at 14 Quality Street until he emigrated in 1913.

In 1912, Sayers opened a shop at 21, Station Hill, but as the hardship of WW1 began to bite and the clubmakers were conscripted into the armed forces, the shop in Station Hill was closed. In 1917 Ben Sayers Ltd. moved to the vacant shop adjacent to the first tee on the West Links. During the 1920s the clubmakers continued to work from both 10 Quality Street and the workshop on the West Links where there was no electricity and all the machinery was petrol driven. Jim Brand served a five year apprenticeship with Ben Sayers (1953-58) before moving to work with Slazenger Ltd. at Horbury Bridge near Wakefield from 1961-62. Following his National Service Jim emigrated to New Zealand. Willie Whitelaw also apprenticed with Ben Sayers and emigrated to New Zealand in 1954 and joined Slazenger Ltd in Wellington. Willie retired in the Masonic Apartments, Lower Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand.

In 1934, Ben Sayers Ltd. opened a retail shop at 56 High Street with a workshop and blacksmith's forge behind in Forth Street. The company moved to a new factory on Tantallon Road in 1962. The factory employees established the Ben Sayers Golf Club and played their competitions over the Glen golf course. In 1954 the Clubmakers PAR Competition was won by Jackie Little while the runner-up was 15 year old apprentice Maurice Brown who was later appointed production controller. In 1957 the Ben Sayers Championship was won by R. Goodchild who defeated W. Brunton 2&1 in the final. The prizes were presented at the annual Ben Sayers Supper. The names listed below include some of the clubmakers who remained in North Berwick and were employed by Ben Sayers Ltd. If you can add to this list please contact me directly.

W. Stewart 1897     Isamal Mann1950
J. Purves1897     R. Goodchild1957
J.Fender 1911     I. Lumsden1958
J.Waters 1913     W. Brunton1959
L. Mitchell 1913     E. Kydd1961
A. Tyers 1914     D. Cochran1962
W. Henderson 1920     R. Melrose1962
G. Izett 1922     W. Sibbald1963
R. Baniford 1930     R.D. Douglas1964
G. Murray 1923     J. Anderson1965
H. Murray 1924     D. Anderson1966
C. W. Thomson 1930     A. Hutchison1965
T. Arundel 1948     W. Legget1966
M Brown 1968     J. Neil1985
S. Marr 1979     J. Clunie1958
G. Edwards 1952     D. Adams1968
T.Gillespie 1975     J. Brand1953

[West Links]
The Stymie - Davie Grant, North Berwick

[West Links]
Ben Sayers Factory, Forth Street, North Berwick

Copyright © Douglas C. Seaton 2021, All Rights Reserved.