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Memoirs of the Legendary Iron Man of Saint Andrews
A literary treasure 200 years in the making
(Paperback: 254 pages) Available at Amazon.com
A literary treasure 200 years in the making
(Paperback: 254 pages) Available at Amazon.com
Memoirs of the Legendary
Iron Man of Saint Andrews
Iron Man of Saint Andrews
A Literary Treasure, 200 Years In The Making
Auction Of The Circa 1800 'Ringmaker' Iron
From the fairway of the Old Course of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland, a shepherd’s cottage overlooking the golf-links could be seen upon the distant hillside. A striking young girl came out of a side door of the small cottage and started arduously walking down the hill. The spitting image of her great, great, great-grandmother, that lived in the very same cottage over 150 years ago, she had inherited the angelic face of a Gaelic princess. Dressed like a typical teenager, she listened to music through earplugs as she walked.
Reaching a dirt path that meandered through several parcels of private property, the stunning, fair-haired beauty made her steady way toward the fairway of the ancient golf course. Secured under her arm was what looked to be a four-foot long carrying case, similar to the type used to carry a pool cue. She passed the infamous Road Hole Bunker, continued walking alongside the 18th fairway of the famed Old Course, and then strolled into the heart of the old grey city of St. Andrews. Once there, she boarded a bus that made its way to Edinburgh.
In Edinburgh, she walked swiftly, very much like a soldier on a mission, through the business district of the historic old city. As the day’s shadows grew steadily longer, she made her way through the back alleys of a not-so-pretty part of downtown Edinburgh, where various panhandlers, prostitutes and drug dealers propositioned her repeatedly. Barely looking up to make eye contact as she passed, she answered them with a polite “No, thank you.”
Fifty kilometers from her home in St. Andrews, she finally arrived at her destination. She entered Phillips Auction House to find that she was late. The evening’s proceedings were almost over. As she entered the big room of the auction house, the auctioneer said, “Ladies and gentlemen, this next item on our list, and the final item being auctioned today, is an extremely valuable antique golf club. This circa1800, round-toe heavy-iron has a large dished face and a hosel that measures six inches in length.”
The auctioneer held the ancient golf club up high for all to see and said, “The large iron head makes this a hefty club, with a dead weight of over 23 ounces. The name of the clubmaker is not known. His work, however, is easily recognized by the ornamental ring cut around the top of the hosel, so collectors and museum curators simply refer to him as the ‘Ringmaker.’ Currently, six examples of the Ringmaker’s work are known to exist.
“In 2000, a Ringmaker heavy iron, similar to this, sold at a Phillips auction for just under £20,000. This piece has been identified and authenticated by our esteemed guest, world-renowned antique golf club collector, appraiser, and PGA Hall of Famer, Dr. Gary Wiren, Ph.D...
I might add that Gary also is one of America’s Top Ten Golf Teachers as well as Sr. Director of Instruction at all of the prestigious Trump Golf properties. Dr. Wiren is intimately familiar with this particular piece and its history and we thank him for being with us today and lending us his expertise. Please stand and identify yourself, Gary.” With that said, the crowd applauded as Wiren briefly stood and smiled.
Continuing, the auctioneer said, “If you please, ladies and gentlemen, we are starting the bidding at £10,000. We have £10,000, from Mr. Eisner in the front row. Just then, a woman in the third row shouted out, “Eleven thousand!” The auctioneer replied, “We have £11,000, do I hear £12,000?” A third bidder yelled out, “£12,000!” The auctioneer affirmed, “We have £12,000, do we have £13,000?”
At that moment, from the back row, a quiet but firm voice interjected, “Twenty thousand pounds!” Simultaneously, everyone in the room turned their heads to see who it was. There, sitting in the back row, between two very well dressed and solidly built bodyguards, was self-made billionaire and consummate golfer Donald J. Trump.
Trump, a one-handicapper whose mother was born and raised in Scotland, was in Edinburgh on business.
The auctioneer politely asked, “Did I hear a bid of twenty thousand pounds from the back row?” Trump silently nodded and the auctioneer shouted with glee, “We have £20,000 from Mr. Trump, do I hear twenty-one?” No one responded. After a brief pause, the auctioneer said, “We have £20,000 going once, £20,000 going twice, sold to Mr. Trump for twenty thousand British pounds sterling!
“That concludes today’s auction ladies and gentlemen. Please help your self to the champagne and hors d’ oeuvres that our staff has so graciously provided, and on behalf of Phillips Auction House, thank you for attending today’s proceedings.”
As the auction attendees stood and made their way toward the refreshments, Trump walked up to Wiren, holding his newly acquired £20,000 antique golf club and said, “I want to thank you again Gary, for your help in authenticating this golf club as a genuine Ringmaker club.”
“That’s quite all right, Boss,” replied Wiren. “It’s a pleasure just seeing a club of this rarity in such wonderful condition.” Suddenly the lovely young girl from St. Andrews interrupted the two men. “Excuse me, gentlemen,” the girl exclaimed. “May I please have a word with you, Mr. Trump, sir?” “Why certainly young lady,” said Trump. “What can I do for you?” The girl replied, “My name is Alexandria. I am here on behalf of my grandfather. He wanted to attend the auction himself, but he is 90 years old and doesn’t get out much. I spoke to him on the cell phone just now, and he told me to show you this.”
Alexandria handed the case to Gary Wiren, who laid it gently on one of the display tables in the auction-house showroom. He opened the case and said, “What have we here?” He reached for his glasses as he carefully took an old golf club from the case for closer inspection.
As his eyes focused through his bifocals, Wiren’s jaw dropped. He could not believe his eyes. He immediately recognized the antique golf club as being the work of the legendary clubmaker, known to collectors and museum curators as the Ringmaker. Trying his best to appear calm, Wiren asked, “Where did you get this golfclub, young lady?"
“It belongs to my grandfather,” she explained. “How much do you want for it,” asked Wiren? The beautiful young girl looked Wiren squarely in the eyes and replied, “Oh, it’s not for sale, Dr. Wiren. It’s a family heirloom.” Just then, the auctioneer walked up to them holding a phone and whispered a few words to Dr. Wiren. Wiren then turned to Trump and the young girl and said, “Will you folks please excuse me, it’s imperative that I take this call.”
After Wiren walked away, Trump said to the young girl, “So, Alexandria,” she interrupted him, saying, “Please call me Alex.” “Ok Alex,” continued Trump. “If that club is a family heirloom, how long has it been in your family’s possession?” “150 years,” answered Alex. “Grandfather has a set of four clubs made by his great, great grandfather. He thought you might appreciate seeing them and learning the true story of the mysterious Ringmaker.”
Handing a piece of paper to Trump, she said, “Here’s the address in St. Andrews where Grandfather will be tomorrow at noon. He asked me to tell you to please feel free to stop by and visit him.” Then, just as quickly as Alex had appeared, she packed up the ancient golf club and was gone.
When Wiren came back, he was disappointed to see that the young girl as well as the antique club was gone. Still in a bit of a daze, and hardly believing what had just taken place, Wiren could think of nothing else but learning the identity of the legendary Ringmaker. Oblivious to what was going on around the auction house showroom, Wiren just stood there looking at Trump, who was still holding in his hand the scrap of paper that could lead him to the great, great grandson of the Ringmaker.
Trump put the scrap of paper in his pocket and said, “What’s the deal, Gary? Was that another authentic Ringmaker club or not?” “I’m not sure what the proverbial deal is, sir,” replied Wiren, “but I can assure you that was definitely a genuine Ringmaker club.”
“She invited me to visit her grandfather in St. Andrews tomorrow at noon to see three additional Ringmaker clubs,” said Trump. “What affect will this have on the value of the $40,000 club that I just bought?” “I’m not yet sure of what consequence this will have on the value of your golf club, sir,” answered Wiren. “If that young person’s story is accurate, then there are four more Ringmaker clubs than previously known.” He then added, “I can assure you, though, that I had no prior knowledge of these additional four specimens, and if you’d like, I’m certainly willing to accompany you to St. Andrews tomorrow to see if the young lady’s story checks out.” “I’d love to, Gary,” replied Trump, “but tomorrow morning is my only chance to play golf before I fly back to New York tomorrow evening.”
Wiren then said to Trump, “If these other Ringmaker clubs are authentic, perhaps you may wish to purchase them from her grandfather in order to protect your £20,000 investment.”
“I’m too busy to spend a day, or even a half-day worrying about it,” Trump replied. “I collect golf artifacts because I enjoy doing it. I don’t really think of this as much of an investment. Besides, the girl said her grandfather’s clubs were not for sale at any price.” With a smirk, Wiren replied, “Sir, it has been my experience in matters such as these that everything has a price. Also, I’m sure you’re aware that the more complete your collection is the more overall value your collection will accrue.”
Trump didn’t hesitate. He replied, “Very well, I’ll have my driver pick you up at your hotel at nine a.m. tomorrow morning and we’ll go to St. Andrews together.” He then handed Wiren a business card and said, “Call the office and tell my assistant if you’re going to be any later than nine.” “Yes, sir, Boss, I certainly will,” replied Wiren.
Later that evening in his hotel room, Wiren came up with a long list of questions that he should have asked Alexandria before she had darted off – like what was the Ringmaker’s real name and where was he from? Dr. Wiren could not help but fear that it might be a hoax, and had a long night of tossing and turning.
The next day, at 8:45 a.m., Trump’s limousine was waiting outside the front door of Wiren’s hotel. Wiren walked out carrying a suitcase. Assisted by the doorman, he was escorted to the long black sedan. After getting into the limousine, the driver said to him. “Hello, Dr. Wiren, my name is Charles. If you are ready, I will take you to pick up Mr. Trump now.”
Wiren replied to the driver, “I’m afraid there has been a change of plan, Charles. I received a phone call early this morning informing me of a family emergency and I must catch a plane to Florida in an hour and 45 minutes. I need you to please take me to the airport immediately. Mr. Trump will have to go to St. Andrews today without me. Please express my sincerest apologies to him, but it is absolutely imperative that I catch my flight home this morning.” “Yes, sir,” replied the respectful driver, as they sped off to the airport without delay.
Later that morning, the same limousine drove to St. Andrews, Scotland, without Dr. Wiren. It arrived at the address a little before noon. It was the same quaint little cottage overlooking the Old Course that Alexandria had come from at the start of her trek to Edinburgh the day before. The cottage was backed by a small terraced garden and a century’s worth of lush vegetation. As the real estate mogul got out of the limousine, his first thoughts were of the ideal location of this tiny golfer’s hideaway overlooking the historic Old Course.
When Trump knocked on the door, a spry old Scotsman answered, “Hello, may I help you?” Trump showed the elderly gentleman the handwritten piece of paper the young girl had given him the night before and replied, “Hello, my name is Donald Trump. I got your name and address from Alexandria.” “Of course you did,” the little man exclaimed. “I’ve been expecting you.” At that moment he opened his screen door and reached out and shook Trump’s hand saying, “I’m very happy to meet you, sir, my name is Amos. Alexandria is my granddaughter. We call her Alex. She called me from the auction in Edinburgh yesterday and told me that you had purchased the Ringmaker iron.”
As Trump listened, 90-year-old Amos went on, saying, “I’ve got some things that I’m certain you will enjoy seeing, but I must first ask you to be discreet about the details of all you are about to see. For you must understand, sir, this is my ancestral home, and what you might call memorabilia, are my family’s heirlooms. My grandfather made me swear to protect them with my life, and I fear if word about my extensive collection ever got out, I would most assuredly be robbed. Therefore, before you enter the inner sanctum of this cottage, you must give me your word that you will tell no one of this location.” After Trump assured the frail little man that he would tell no one of the whereabouts of his family heirlooms, he was cordially invited to enter the little cottage.
Amos then proudly gave his esteemed guest a grand tour, starting with a collection of extremely old photographs that hung on the walls of the tiny foyer, just inside the front door. Very much like a museum, rare old photos were displayed on every wall of the little house, including photos of a few of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club’s earliest members.
Amos’ eyes lit up as he recited with great fervor what he knew of the history of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club, and though Trump had heard much of the same information before in countless museum tours, he still kept quiet and politely listened as the old Scotsman proudly spoke of the birthplace of golf. He said, “The Society of St. Andrews Golfers, as the club was originally known, began in 1754, when 22 noblemen and gentlemen of Fife all pitched in to purchase a silver club to be played for annually, right out there on the Old Course. The winner hence became Captain of the club for the year. The club soon evolved from this competition, meeting regularly to take part in what they called the ‘healthful exercise of golf,’ usually followed by dinner and comradeship.
“The Society received its Royal status in 1834, and was therefore renamed The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. Although he was a commoner, several notable R&A figures were chums with my great, great grandfather back then.”Sir Hugh Lyon Playfair (1786-1861) - from the book, Memoirs Of The Legendary Iron Man Of Saint Andrews
Pointing to a photograph on the wall, the old man said, “Here is a photograph of an acquaintance of his. This proud looking fellow is Sir Hugh Lyon Playfair. the Provost or ‘Mayor’ of the former Royal Burgh of Saint Andrews from 1842 to 1861. Back in 1835, he formed another private club called the Union Club with a membership, which consisted almost exclusively of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club’s members. The Union Club ran a small clubhouse facility called the Union Parlor, and in 1853 it was they who put up the money to build the Royal and Ancient Clubhouse behind the first tee of the Old Course.”
Pointing at another very old picture, the old man continued, “This is a portrait of John Whyte-Melville, Esquire, of Strathkinness. He was another prominent member of the St. Andrews gentry and became a member of the Society in 1816, when he was only 19 years-old. He very much loved to play golf and was a noted ‘waggler’ when addressing the ball. He served as the Society’s Captain in 1823, and was also awarded the prestigious honor of laying the first foundation stone of the Royal and Ancient Clubhouse when work on the building began in June of 1853. Upon its completion, the first meeting of the Union Club in the new clubhouse was held on July 19th, 1854. It continued to be known as the Union Clubhouse until both clubs formally merged under the Royal and Ancient title in 1877.”
Amos then showed Trump an extremely rare photograph of the Royal and Ancient clubhouse and said, “This portrait was made not long after the clubhouse was first erected. As you can see, it was a much smaller building than is viewed from the links today. That was 80 years before the clubhouse first started to be expanded upon, in order to meet the growing number of members.”
“That is an amazing photograph, Amos,” commented Trump. “May I please take a picture of it with the camera in my cell phone?” “Of course you can, my friend” answered Amos. “Now that you’re a trusted member of my inner circle, you can take as many photos as you like.”
Trump then took a cell phone from the inside pocket of his jacket and snapped a photo as Amos continued telling his story with the greatest of pride. He said, “When the Union clubhouse was built in 1854, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews was already 100 years old. Allan Robertson, who is most often credited as being the world’s first golf professional, was only 39 years old at the time. My great, greatgrandfather was 33 years old then, as was Tom Morris Sr., Willie Dunn Sr. and his twin brother Jamie Dunn. At that time Tom Morris Sr. had already been serving as custodier of the links at the Prestwick Golf Club for three years and his son, Young Tommy, was already 3.”
Then the frail little man stopped to take a breath. He turned around, looked up at his guest, and said, “That was a time of great golf clubmakers and ball makers. Hugh Philp, who was regarded as the premier clubmaker of that era, was already 72 years old by then and his now eaqually famous nephew, Robert Forgan was 30. And, of course, Willie Park Sr., the first Open winner, was already 20 years old at that time and his younger brother Mungo Park was 19.
Amos then pointed to another extensive photograph collection hanging on an adjacent parlor wall, where he had pictures of every generation of his ancestors, dating back to the 1800s. He said to Trump, “This is a portrait of my great, great grandmother. Her name was Anja; she was from Ayrshire. Her family was Gaelic and she was said by many to be the most beautiful woman in all of Scotland.”
Suddenly Trump spoke up, “I can’t believe it! She looks exactly like your granddaughter, Alexandria.” “Aye, that she does,” said Amos, “but even though Alex is the spitting image of my great, great-grandmother, she is actually named after my great, great-grandfather.”
Pointing to another ancient photo, Amos then said, “And this is a picture of my great, great grandfather with Tom Morris. This is the only known picture of him. His name was Alexander Mackenzie, but he was called Alec. I believe you know him as ‘The Ringmaker,’ but back then, as a blacksmith in Ayrshire, he was known by many as ‘The Iron Man of St. Andrews.’ He and Tom Morris were great chums. They played golf together on the Old Course since they were both wee lads. Although no official record was made of my great, great grandfather’s birth or baptism in 1821, the old grey city was indeed the home of his childhood and subsequent early manhood. This was before the advent in Scotland of compulsory registration of such events, which didn’t take place until 1855.”
The old man then took an ancient leather golf ball from it’s display case and showed it to his guest and continued by saying, “As I am sure you well know, Mr. Trump, before 1848 all golf balls were made of leather and stuffed with feathers, like this one. ‘The feathery,’ as it was called, was a hard leather ball, stuffed with tightly packed feathers that gave it resilience and power. Back then a new ball would cost a nobleman a minimum of four shillings, but a finely constructed feather ball from a well-established master ball maker could sell for as much as a half a crown, which for a common laborer in 1848 was a week’s wage. So, the expense of buying balls obviously ensured the exclusivity of those who could play.
The task of constructing a feathery was arduous for the ball makers and often proved to be very much detrimental to their health. The ball makers would inadvertently inhale the feather dust, and thus were prone to fatal lung diseases, mistakenly diagnosed as tuberculosis or ‘consumption.’ As young men, both my great, great grandfather and Tom Morris were in the feather-ball making business, until after the invention of the gutta-percha ball in 1848, when the bottom fell out of the feather-ball market.”
Amos opened an antique trunk that sat in the parlor and took out a tattered old Bible, and said, “In 1847 this Bible, printed totally in Gaelic, was given to Anja and Alec as a wedding gift from Anja’s Gaelic family, the Clan McGlocklin, and it has been in my family ever since.” He laid the massive old Bible down on a coffee table. He then pushed an ottoman up to the short little table and sat down in front of the ancient book. Trump stood next to Amos and peered down at the book over the old man’s shoulder. As he opened the ragged Bible, he said, “As remarkable as this 160-year-old Bible is, its most amazing feature is not readily apparent. Even if you can’t speak or read Gaelic, as I turn the pages you can plainly see this is very much a standard format, period Bible.”
As Amos opened to a bookmark toward the back of the book, he continued, “But, the real wonderment begins when you look more toward the rear of this voluminous book, and this, I might add, my good sir, is where it really starts to get interesting. There you find hundreds of pages of text that were meticulously handwritten in Gaelic by my great, great grandmother.” The feeble little man then said to Trump, “I read in a magazine that your mother was born in Scotland and was raised on the Hebridean island of Lewis where Gaelic would have been widely spoken.” Then he asked, “Do you speak Gaelic, Mr. Trump?” “Very little,” answered Trump.
Continuing with his story, Amos then said, “Now, my great, great grandmother was a well-educated, Gaelic schoolteacher in Ayrshire, whose job it was to teach proper English to Gaelic children. She was very articulate, and during her long married life, as my great, great grandfather found time to dictate, she took it upon herself to write her husband’s memoirs.
“So what we have here, my good sir, is the complete and very factual lifelong history of none other than the legendary Ringmaker. Though it was originally dictated in English, and then transcribed here in Gaelic, much of the verbiage is in the form of direct quotations of the ancient Scots mother-tongue of the period. So, therefore, this manuscript is a bit of a vernacular quagmire. If you can’t read Gaelic, I can translate it to proper English for you. Furthermore, I can attest to the accuracy of my translation, for my own dear mother read it to me hundreds of times in its entirety when I was a wee lad.
“As you can see, she has boldly entitled on the first page of this biography, ‘Memoirs of The Iron Man of St. Andrews,’ and it begins with one of my great, great-grandfather’s earliest memories of childhood experiences.” With that, the aged Scotsman began to read aloud, directly from his ancestor’s memoirs.
"Memoirs of The Iron Man of St. Andrews"
"Memories of a long life well spent are treasures to a man when he is older. Like childhood souvenirs of his own bygone era, his precious memories can neither be bought nor sold. Yet the risk of them fading greatens as each year takes its toll upon his mortal body. It is with preservation in mind that the dictated memoirs of Alec Mackenzie are here transcribed. For his was a life colored with much otherwise inconceivable astonishment.
By the close of the middle ages, his place of birth, St. Andrews, was considered the ecclesiastical and intellectual capital of Scotland and a major center of its political and economic life. But, it was much more than that to young Alec Mackenzie. For though Britain’s religious reformation had relinquished the influence of the Catholic Church and thereby reduced the venerable city to what some might have described as unbelievably squalid and miserable, to young Alec Mackenzie, who was neither well-born nor well-to-do, the wee Royal Burgh was home, and a place of true wonderment.
In Scotland it is said that 'Every man kens (knows) best whaur his ain (own) shoe binds him.' It is here as it should be, next to the links of the hallowed Auld Course in the town of Saint Andrews that the earliest childhood recollections begin for the Iron Man of St. Andrews."
The End Of Chapter 1
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Table of Contents - 31 Chapters, 254 Pages
- Prologue – (Auction of the Circa 1800 ‘Ringmaker’ Iron)
- The Memoirs - The Wizard O’ The North, 1827
- Rosmairi Mackenzie & The Land O' Leal
- Learn’n Golf - The Game O’ Life (Old Course 1831)
- The Robertsons (Peter, Davie & Allan)
- Hugh Philp (The Stradivari of Clubmakers)
- Ball Mak’n (“Balls are whaur the money is.”)
- The Art O’ Club Mak’n
- The Apprentice, 1834 Blacksmith’n, “a vocation wi’ a future”
- Putter & Haggis, 1846
- Captain Mac 1846, Niver beat the landlord at golf
- The Ol’ Union Parlor, Tales of Chinese pirates & opium wars
- Rosmairi’s Gaelic Home, 1847 (Coontie O’ Ayrshire)
- Two Hole Course, Uncle Murdoch’s intro to golf
- Muireall McEwan’s 100th Birthday
- Turn’n O’ The Caber, (Anja)
- If It Isna Scotch, Tis Nae Whusky!
- Eat’n O’ The Haggis (haggis eat’n weary-whiddle)
- ‘The Day Efter’
- Master Cleekmaker
- Wi’ Birth Comes Death, 1848 (Winnie's Birth)
- Saint Andrews, 1852
- The Iron Man Visits Prestwick, 1854
- Death O’ Angus Mackenzie
- Test’n Cleeks Wi' Tom Morris
- The New Clubhouse at Saint Andrews, 1854
- A Wager Made
- The Golf Match (the Old Course in 1854)
- Home Hole
- The Golden Years
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This historical novel presents a revealing look into the real history of 1800s Saint Andrews Scotland and its golfers. Based on real events, the 93,000-word memoirs entail a hauntingly in-depth account of the Iron Man's 89 well-spent years of life and golf within the enchanted royal burgh of his birth, beginning mid-June of 1827, when at age six, he and his six year-old best chum, wee Tom Morris met "The Wizard of the North," Sir Walter Scott beneath St. Rules Tower in the graveyard amongst the ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral.