Dornoch Historylinks Image Library

Royal Dornoch Golf Club
Furness Postcard Collection - Golf course Dornoch
Furness Postcard Collection - Golf course Dornoch

Colour postcard from the Furness Collection showing a view of the Royal Dornoch Golf Club links course with gorse in bloom in the foreground, the beach and sea and Embo on the far side of the bay

From Historylinks Image Library comment Dec 2015 the location has been identified as "the green is the seventeenth taken from the path leading to the eighteenth tee."
Picture added on 24 April 2008
Childhood mischief at the Dornoch golf course’s ninth fairway …
In 1952, my young brother George, my older brother Hamish and I spent the school summer holidays from Glasgow in Embo. We lived in a number of tents in the “banks” between the sea and Boston House at the front of the village. I was then 12 years old and George was 10 and Hamish about 18. Boston House, as is well known, is now known as “Grannies”. Looking back now on these fun days I have difficulties explaining why we were living in tents when we had plenty of close relatives in Embo who would have put us up. In fact in that summer my father’s first cousin Kate Mackay (Kate aig Adam); the daughter of the Grannie in the famous song, still lived in Boston House with her husband William Mackay (Bielsie). I think our decision to stay in these tents was our way of saying that we were “big” and “grown up” enough to look after ourselves.
However, on one very wet week we were visited by the Police and kindly told that we would have to seek shelter in a house. George and I then went to live with our aunt Margaret Fraser (Maggie Moyse) in her home on Front Street while the wet weather lasted. Hamish being older and braver than us, continued to live in the tents…more than likely to make sure that they did not blow away in the rainstorms.
In a way, this campsite was ideal as we were within very easy reach of the water well between Boston House and Springwell Cottage. The well we knew as “Pump a stan” (The down well) and our family had used it when we lived in Springwell Cottage before going to live in Glasgow. Well, often used it would be better, and this was when the trek to the public water stand next to Mr. Alastair Calder’s house wall, the Embo school headmaster, was too far to walk. At that time, the well was on the seaward side of the hillock where my brother Hamish some years later uncovered the ancient gravesites. The water from this well was very good for drinking but sadly, with the making of the road works around the Grannies complex it has been diverted and covered over. It was always my belief that this well was fed by Loch Na Megain (English: The loch in the meadow). In the past, this loch was just on the Dornoch side of the old Embo hall. This loch and the old Embo Hall have both since vanished. The loch area has been fully drained and is now part of the largish field that goes as far as the old railway line and the “new houses” of upper Embo. If one has access to Google Earth the darker area of the old loch site can be easily seen along with what appears to be radiating lines that are probably the drainage system used to drain it.
During that holiday, we often went caddying at the Dornoch golf course and if not busy there we spent the long summer days fishing and as well as “poaching” rabbits. In fact, there was never a day that was not filled with some sort of excitement. Late in the holiday, I even had my left collarbone broken when I was a hit with a very stale loaf of bread that we were using as a rugby ball. The name of the hooker in our two-man rugby game will remain anonymous.
One of our popular fishing spots was at the “pirant” which is a group of very large rocks with some deep tidal pools that was at the back of the Embo pier. We knew this as a very good fishing spot from the years that we lived in Embo as we fished there often. In addition to this, my father had at one time driven an iron bolt into one of the rocks there that edged a very deep pool. He then used this to secure and set a baited lobster pot that allowed us to often have five star lobster meals. (I know that there is a split infinitive in this sentence but I decided to forgive it as the correct version sounded a bit awkward!)
However, I had better get to the mischief at the Dornoch Golf Course…
In our many hunting and fishing expeditions, we also sought out the very large edible crabs (Gaelic: partan) that were then plentiful in the rocky shoreline running south from the Embo pier then past Port Na Culaidh (English: harbour for small boats). This is the sandy area on that rocky shoreline where the burn, that rises in Forestry Commission’s tree plantations inland from Embo Farm and then runs past The Yards, enters the sea. This was our favourite crabbing spot as there were many large flat stones there and these served as perfect homes for some very large edible crabs. Some of these flat stones we almost knew as friends because whenever we removed their crab lodgers, two or three days later new lodgers had moved in! Moreover, these lodgers were always the biggest and tastiest we would find.
Oh yes, that Dornoch Golf Course story…
From that area, we would then scout as far as the large grey rock that we knew as Creag Liath, which stood in the sea immediately adjacent to the ninth fairway of the Dornoch Golf Club’s Championship Course. (Interestingly I have just seen from the web that this 435 yard par 5 hole is named “Craigliath” on the Dornoch Championship Course’s score card. Interestingly, on the same score card the eight hole is called “Dunrobin”, whereas “Embo” would have been a more accurate name…but perhaps not quite as posh!) In those past days, there was a sand bank where the highest of spring tides met the rough grass bordering that ninth fairway. Midway along this fairway, a large concrete storm drainpipe came out from under the golf course. On the day in question, there had been heavy rain the previous night and a large volume of water was entering the sea from the storm drain. As bad luck would have it there was a link fence secured to stout poles set in place at the mouth of the storm drain. With hindsight, I can now see that this was done to stop seaweed (Gaelic: strailleach) from entering the pipe and blocking it. Anyway, my brother George and I thought it would be an interesting experiment to see what would happen if we did block the storm drainpipe with seaweed. We then set about stacking dry seaweed and wet sand between the mouth of the pipe and the link fence. All went well and there was a build up of water under pressure but with diligence and hard work, we finally managed to reduce the water leaving the pipe to a trickle.
We then stood back to admire our work and just then there was a strange noise from the fairway and we looked up to see that a section of its grassy surface had pealed back like a banana skin and water and sand was now pouring across the fairway towards the sea. We then scrambled to remove our seaweed blocking the mouth of the pipe to allow the water to flow again and then ran like mad men back to our campsite.
We heard nothing more about this incident, even though George and I made clandestine enquiries among Embo people who had connections with green keepers at the golf course. We finally accepted that the course management must have assumed that the bursting of the storm drain was due to “natural causes”. So, within a few days we were back crab fishing in that area but steering well clear of that troublesome storm drain. However, about a week later a number of we Embo boys were back playing in the sandbanks bordering the golf course. While there, we all started to play war games and each of us began to dig out our own war trenches directly into the sandbanks. Of course, in that year we were very much aware of the battles that had been fought in November 1951 in the Korean War, and the brave part that Scottish regiments like the King’s Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB) had played there. Moreover, we also knew that John Ross, of the Embo Post Office, had been in many of these KOSB battles. So back to our battle...I was always competitive and was then eager to have the “biggest and the best” trench. However, catastrophe struck when my trench collapsed on me leaving only my bare feet sticking out in the air. I was panic struck. But, there was nothing I could do to rescue myself as my arms and legs were pinned down by the sand. All I could do to indicate my plight was frantically wiggle my feet and toes in the hope that someone would see them!
Finally, after what seemed like ages my young brother George pulled me from the sand, but only after much difficulty. When I finally managed to catch my breath and then get the sand out of my eyes, nose and mouth and looked around, I saw that all the other “brave soldiers” were running as fast as their legs could carry them past “Hill 60” towards Embo. No doubt, they did not want a case of battlefield “collateral damage” to be pinned on them! (Most Embo children of my age knew that Hill 60 was so named after a very famous hill near the town of Ypres in Flanders where in WW1 a bloody battle was fought between German and British forces). The trench story does not end there because to this very day George claims that after he rescued me I physically attacked him in a fury because of the long time he took to pull me out of the sand. However, that was not really a problem for him because he then was a good bit taller than I was...but not stronger!
Note: The crabs that we harvested as described are known in English as Brown or Edible crabs (Scientific name: Cancer Pagurus) and even in those far off days we understood the importance of sustainability in that we only took crabs that had a carapace wider than six inches. We also never harvested egg carrying or “berried” females or any crabs that had a soft carapace. However, on reflection, perhaps it was not really sustainability that guided us, but the belief that any crab less than six inches in width had so little meat it was not worth the boiling. Moreover, as for the soft carapace and the females carrying eggs…the very thought of eating these put the “graan of food” on us.

Added by Kenneth Mackay on 14 December 2015
I suspect that the green we see in this photograph is the either the fifth or sixth of the Dornoch Championship course. The first promontory that we can see is capped by the rock that we knew in Embo as “Creag Liath”, which the golf club seems to have anglicised as “Craigliath”. The Embo pier and its breakwater tip the second and last promontory that can be seen. The large sandy area at the edge of the sea to the left of the Embo pier is the site of our Hill 60, also sometimes called “Bonfire Hill”. I clearly remember the large bonfire that was lit on this hill on the 8 May 1945 by Embo residents to celebrate the end of WW2 in Europe.
The buildings in the distance are indeed the lower and front part of Embo. I see that it is said that this photograph was taken in 1950. I doubt this because if the view of Embo in the far distance is studied it can be seen that there are a whole series of similar looking structures just to the right of a large white house, alongside with what appears to be the roof a largish building attached to it. I think that the white building is the original Boston House and the building attached to it is an early version of the present day Grannies complex. The series of similar looking structures I believe must be the caravans of the complex.
My family stayed in Boston House in the summer of 1956 when it was still owned by Kate Mackay (Kate aig Adam) and still known as Boston House. It must have been after that summer that Jock MacIntosh of Embo Farm bought Boston House and developed the Grannies caravan complex. This was after Kate Mackay died in Boston, Mass, USA where she was then staying with her several siblings who had emigrated there after WW1. When Kate Mackay died my father William Alexander Mackay, (Willie M) was given first option to buy Boston House but declined because by then he already owned a family home in Glasgow. Kate Mackay was my father’s first cousin and they were very close and warm friends. If my memory serves me right, the price of the house was then set at £650.00.

Added by Kenneth Mackay on 15 December 2015
I would suggest that from the golfers attire the date should be a lot later than that published and the green is the seventeenth taken from the path leading to the eighteenth tee.

[Thank you for the additional information and suggestion for revised date. Both have been added to the museum catalogue record with amendment of the Image Library description above. Administrator]
Added by Dan Murray on 26 December 2015
Please add your comments about this picture using the form below.


Your Name

Your email address - this will be shown on the page and will allow the system to notify you of further comments added to this picture.


Opening of Royal Dornoch Clubhouse 1909Visit of the PM Harold MacMillan at RDGC Sep 1958PM Harold MacMillan at RDGC September 1958Plaque commemorating 400 years of golf in DornochNew PictureHeritage members learn of golf course designerDHS talk 'John Sutherland'Timecapsule buried to mark Dornoch Golf anniversarPostcard of the Royal Dornoch Golf Club clubhouseMr and Mrs MacDonald