Book of the week: Tales of Stumpie Eye, Pawky Dave and Lang Willie

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The Independent Online
A Wee Nip At The 19th Hole By Richard MacKenzie (CollinsWillow, hardback, pounds 12.99)

SOME PEOPLE go out and see the world, others are lucky enough to sit back and wait for the world to come to them. Rick Mackenzie, as the caddie- master at St Andrews, is one of the latter. You never know who will turn up in front of the Caddie Pavilion by the first tee of the Old Course. One turned out to be an American publisher and, impressed by the sheet briefly describing the history of the caddies and by talking to the caddie- master himself, he suggested that Mackenzie write a book.

A Wee Nip at the 19th Hole is the result and it has been an instant hit in America, selling over 60,000 in its first couple of months. The slender volume is a quick read, but a rewarding one.

How did the term "caddie" originate? Mary Queen of Scots may have had a hand, as she used young students called "Les Cadets" to carry her clubs when she played a round or two in France. Later came the "Edinburgh Cawdys", who were described as "useful blackguards, who attend coffee houses and public places to run errands" and "wretches who lie in streets at night, but were always trusted and never unfaithful".

Many of the early professionals started as caddies, including Old Tom Morris, four times the Open champion, who became the first Honorary Professional to the Royal & Ancient, the first Keeper of the Greens at St Andrews and, 1875, the first Caddie Superintendent.

At the time, caddies were termed first class or second class, a distinction mainly based on whether a man indulged in more than a wee nip at the 19th. Once, having been sacked for appearing on the first tee drunk, "Old Gran" replied: "Maybe I'm drunk , but I'll get sober, you canna gowf and ye'll no' get better."

A lot of famous characters get a mention, but their stories could have been expanded at the expense of some detailed accounts of wage demands. To earn extra cash, some enterprising caddies used to stir up the waters of the Swilcan Burn, which catches any short approaches at the first hole and would later pick out the balls when the waters were still again.

Stories abound about the "Barrel Dancer", "Pawky Dave", "Stumpie Eye", "Hole-in-'is-pocket", "Trap Door" and "Lang Willie". One caddie, later in life, took to using a bicycle to carry clubs around the Old Course. He was fined at the local magistrates court for being drunk and not having a rear light.

The origins of some stories may be lost in time, but Mackenzie is being sued by a 72-old-year St Andrews caddie, James Moore, who claims that he is the co-author of the work and that many of the anecdotes are his.

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