THIS week, Chris Atkinson, from the West Linton Historical Association, looks back at the life of Robert Millar...

In 1863 a talented young man came to West Linton to take up a teaching post.

He was a graduate of St. Andrews University and his name was Robert Millar. As an undergraduate he took up golf and after playing on the Old Course was hooked for life. In the vacation he played at home over the parks at Duddingston.

On moving to West Linton, where there was no golf course, he was branded as being somewhat eccentric by his daily habit of hitting golf balls around village parks in all weathers before school.

Being dressed in a black frock coat, waistcoat, choker, tie and black hat as well as sporting a full beard, the bespectacled teacher was a distinctive figure in the village.

His ability as a schoolmaster was unquestioned and eventually he aroused the interest of his pupils into a passion for golf which ultimately led to the founding of a golf club.

This however took many years as there was little interest from others in the village when he arrived. With the coming of the railway to West Linton in 1864 it was fast becoming a popular holiday resort for walkers, cyclists and anglers and Millar could see that the added attraction of a golf course could only add to the prosperity of the village.

With this end in view he determined to gather the support of those with local influence which he succeeded in doing to the extent that when he heard that the tenant of North Slipperfield, Mr Kerr, might be interested in renting a ‘most suitable piece of land’ for a golf course he was prompted to issue a circular calling on all parties interested in forming a golf club to attend a meeting in the public school on June 7, 1890.

Under Millar’s guidance, the meeting elected the local minister as Captain, the banker as Treasurer and he, himself, as the first Honorary Secretary of the club. After a favourable rental agreement with Mr Kerr of £5 per annum Millar, the only golfer amongst them, set out with a former pupil, T.C.Baillie, to construct his golf course.

With trowels they cut out the nine holes and marked the teeing areas with logs of wood. The area known as North Slipperfield Moor, a heather clad grouse moor upon which in earlier times, Charles X, the exiled King of France came to shoot, was that on which the first course was laid out.

The original fairways were narrow affairs cut by a local contractor with a horse-drawn mower leaving in wet weather deep hoofprints. The main problem that faced the first golfers was not these but the lethal central bog, and advice to all who played was, ‘keep to the right lest you end in a veritable slough of despond’.

Under Robert Millar’s enthusiastic leadership, the club slowly grew and prospered.

A clubhouse was built and changing rooms for lady members erected so that from humble beginnings the club we see today is a proud memorial to the efforts of the eccentric schoolmaster.