Chapter 11 - Post War Developments
According to Evelyn Waugh, World War II was “like German opera, too long and too loud.” Yet the club seemed to survive it well on both counts, judging from one particular item from the annual reports. In 1939, the profit on “Bar, golf balls, cards and table tennis” amounted to £461.18s.4d and four years later, when hostilities in Europe were at their height, the same items yielded £630.19s.4d.
And one suspects that the club’s budding vaudevillians of the time would have been somewhat envious on reading in Noel Coward’s diary of September 13th 1945: “The nine o’clock news announced the discovery of the German blacklist. Among the people to be dealt with when England was invaded were Winston, Vic Oliver, Sybil Thorndyke, Rebecca West and me. What a cast!”
It was a time when Eamonn McCarron, a leading club member noted in his journals that Hitler’s fanaticism was “beyond dispute”.
It was also a time which Roder Tierney remembered in a chat with Don McManus in December 1991, when he held the distinction of being the club’s longest-serving member. Indeed, Roderick’s love affair with Killiney had begun back in 1926, when he joined the club as a 13-year-old juvenile. And he went on to grace every aspect of the affairs, serving as captain in 1972, as president of the Bridge Section and as a Trustee.
McManus described him as a gentleman and a scholar who was passionately in love with Killiney GC and the traditions it represented. And a love of music, which had brought him into the limelight as a gifted amateur with the Rathmines and Rathgar Society, was to enhance greatly, many a club function.
Roderick was a golfer of moderate skill, 16 being lowest handicap, while his best achievement as in reaching the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup.
He graced the club with elegance and purpose for 68 years, until his death in June 1994. And by way of concluding these reflections, he declared unashamedly: “I have loved Killiney Golf Club all my life.” And nobody would have doubted him.
By way of responding to the international crisis, the club’s ladies devised a fascinating and highly productive scheme, which was noted in their minutes of 1939. It read: “In view of the national situation, it was decided that some scheme should be organised in the club to help in a work of National service. So, the Committee suggested that from September until further notice, half the competition fees should be used to buy wool to provide warm garments for the seamen working around the coast.
The men, on the other hand, appeared to take a more detached view. So it was that at the annual general meeting in 1940, it was decided that the bar and card-room should be extended at a cost of not more than £400. This reflected a healthy financial situation in which 170 members were paying an annual subscription of £3.3s; 29 members subscribed £2.2s each and one member contributed £1.11s.6d (one and a half guineas).
The War years were also notable for the passing of Sam Martin “Sporty” Ashlin, who had been a founder member as an eight-handicapper and gained the unique distinction of being club Captain on three occasions. With an address at Carrigrennane, Killiney at the time of the club’s foundation, he went on to become President for a lengthy period of 20 years. So it was that in 1943, it was decided to inaugurate an annual competition in his memory and his daughter Stephanie maintained a lengthy association with the club until her death about 10 years ago.
Meanwhile, the ease with which the club coped with the effects of the War can be gauged from the fact that in January 1945, it was proposed that consideration be given to extending the course to 18 holes. This brought an immediate response from Dr Dick Belton, whose family owned large tracts of land both on the north and south side of the city.
The sub-committee, which had been formed to investigate the possibility of extending the course, reported a year later that such an undertaking was eminently feasible. Indeed, it was suggested that a golf-course architect should be employed. Then, in 1947, negotiations were opened for the purchase of Beechwood House as a new clubhouse, but the Trustees were unanimously against the project. It was revealing that no fur moves were made with regard to the expansion to 18 holes.
Meanwhile, the annual general meeting held on February 20th 1951 was notable for the calling of one minute’s silence in memory of Beamish Morrison, one of the most distinguished members in history of the club. It was also noted that Eamonn McCarron, the 1948 Captain, was unable to attend because of illness. He died three years later, on May 1st 1954.
During the first quarter-century of its existence, the club membership was almost entirely Protestant, as a reflection of the residents of the surrounding area. By the 1930s, however, it began to take in an increasing number of Catholics, many of whom had moved to Killiney and its environs from the north side of the city.
For instance, John Lyons’s father, who was an engineer by profession, took up residence in Sandycove having previously lived on Iona Road, Glasnevin. And Eamonn McCarron, a chartered accountant, whose sons John and Tom also became members of the club, had moved to the south side from Drumcondra. The pair had been friends at O’Connell Schools and later at UCD and were now at the forefront of a significant shift in the nature of the Killiney membership.
“I remember my father going to Killiney after mass on a Sunday morning,” said Tom. “It was a time when the club had about 25 to 30 caddies, who were gathered together in a dingy old shack, where they could chat among themselves about the topics of the day, including the players they were going out with. I heard my father referring to a certain occasion when a caddie was heard to remark that he was going out with the ‘Caddelick Fourball’.
Happily, there was absolutely no resistance to this sort of change; no hint of religious bias or prejudice.
As John Lyons observed: “Having started out as a club for the Protestant landed gentry, it now incorporated the professional classes of all denominations. And Catholics were welcome. Indeed, in that context, the club was essentially non-denominational.”
Of the northsiders who made the move to the other side of the city, the most influential family was unquestionably the Beltons, who, politically, were linked strongly to Fine Gael.
Until his death in 1974, Dick Belton was an extremely influential member, filling the roles of Captain, President and Trustee. All the while, he was deeply conscious of Killiney as a tightly-knit, nine-hole club which was the envy of other, larger establishments. He was involved in the purchase of land for the car park in 1961 and eight years later, represented the club in a particularly interesting deal with Dun Laoghaire Corporation. This involved the sale of land measuring two roods, 32 square perches and 23 square yards on Church Road, Ballybrack to the Corporation for £10,300, “which sum includes compensation for disturbance and course alterations.”
Meanwhile, life at Killiney was decidedly pleasant for the established members. Walk into the bar on a Sunday and one was liable to see Paul Murray and Cecil Higginbotham in a corner, drinking their gin and tonics. And Donal O’Herlihy, a former president of Old Belvedere Rugby Club and the product of a prominent Dalkey family, was among another influential member who would fill the role of captain.
The membership included Des Purcell, son of distinguished golf administrator, Pierce Purcell, who had a national competition named after him, the Pierce Purcell Shield, in recognition of his services to the game as President of the Golfing Union of Ireland and President of Portmarnock GC.
The 1960s marked the growth of the so-called Drunks and Monks Society within the club. This was a Sunday gathering which was interesting for the fact that it had no ordinary members, only officers. Though they considered themselves to be an elite group, it was permitted to invite a guest.
When a member stepped out of line, he had the opportunity of defending himself at a trial by his peers. In one such trial the judge happened to be Michael Mahon member of the famous golfing family from Rosses Point, who was secretary of Co Sligo in 1943 and later represented Royal Dublin the Senior Cup and Barton Shield.
We are informed that he cut a suitably imposing figure, sitting on a high chair at a trial which had to do with the captain’s prize of the Drunks and Monks Society that year and why the donor had seen fit to inscribe the trophy “Winner in dispute.” By all accounts, it was a tremendously funny episode.
From the end of World War II, hardly a decade elapsed that there wasn’t some mention of the club re-locating to a new site which would be capable of accommodating 18 holes. As a solicitor, George Crawford took more than a passing interest in such matters.
Here are his reflections: “I remember a time when there was land available at Cornelscourt but when we approached the developers, things became rather vague. We then learned that they then approached Dun Laoghaire GC on the same subject.
“In 1966, we had the opportunity of buying 25 acres up on Killiney Heath, above the fifth hole. In the company of the club captain, Gerry Monahan, I entered into negotiations with the owner of the property, a Mr Knapp.
“It so happened that at that time, we had a bad report on the clubhouse, which was apparently close to collapse. And while the additional land wouldn’t have given us another nine holes, it would have provided for another four or five, along with a fantastic site for a clubhouse.
“Anyway, after some negotiating, we arrived at a figure of £36,000 to buy and 25 acres and a house which was on the site. After we had shaken hands on the deal, however, I felt obliged to tell him that we were from Killiney Golf Club and that the deal would have to be put to the members. We then had a meeting of the members who, unfortunately, turned it down.
“When that land eventually got planning permission, it was sold for something in the region of £300,000. That was our last chance of extending our facilities here.
“From then on, whenever the matter was raised, the feeling was that we were better off having a nine-hole course because with a restricted membership, those people who used the place got to know one another. As Killiney is often described, we were a family and much more sociable than other clubs, where you were likely to know only the guys you played with.
“When the question of moving was raised again a few years ago, the vast majority of people were prepared to go along with the proposition, so long as the deal was right. We could provide those who were to come after us with a better course and a chance to expand the membership. But it just didn’t happen.”
Crawford concluded: “I think that chance has gone now. But we have a very valuable piece of land here if we ever wanted to sell it. In doing so, however, older members like myself would be acutely aware of losing the special quality of the place. Still with the next generation in mind, I wouldn’t vote against it.”
The coming generation was also on the minds of members, at a time when the challenge was to take the club through the latter half of the 20th century. Among them was Harry Robinson whose father, Tommy, founded the firm of solicitors, T P Robinson and Co of 94 Merrion Square West, and who became the club’s legal officer. Indeed, Tommy was vice-president of the club when his son embarked on a remarkable fourball partnership with Gerry Chadwick.
They were both 15-handicappers when the partnership got under way in 1950; both got down to single-figures during the 1970s and they remain partners after a span of more than half a century, now playing off 23.
As it happened, Tommy Robinson was in the chair for the annual general meeting of 1957 when G C McIntyre proposed that “There should be a good bogey five hole on the course”: a more skilful membership was anxious to flex its muscles. And apart from changes to the course, an upgrading of clubhouse facilities was also high on the agenda.
In January 1974, the Captain, Donal O’Herlihy, put a comprehensive plan to the members. It involved reorganising the old clubhouse and the existing, new structure. The old building would provide members’ facilities such as lounge, dining-room, men’s bar and the ladies’ lounge. The ladies’ locker-room and toilets would be transferred to the lower part of the new building while the men’s locker-room and toilets would be re-sited in a vacant area between the two buildings.
The main advantages were that the function rooms would be considerably larger, with the advantage of fine views of the course and the Dublin Mountains. As a bonus, the locker-rooms and toilets would be in different sections. The Captain concluded: “For example, the present approximate area of 1,071 square feet of the front lounge is substituted by a mixed lounge of 1,365 square feet, a dining-room of 630 square feet and a television room of 167 feet. The locker-rooms and toilets are also increased considerably in area.”
Recognising the importance of these developments, Belton began working behind the scenes. His keen political instincts had taught him that this had a far greater prospect of success than overt approaches which might be deemed inappropriate and be doomed, consequently, to failure.
“Effectively, he looked to Tom McCarron and myself as catalysts for change, which you might say was born out of adversity,” said John Lyons. “Recognising the need for continuity in pushing through these developments, coupled with an assurance that the money would be properly spent, Dick Belton, as the club President, more or less decided that I should be Captain in 1974 and that Tom McCarron should follow me. In fact, he didn’t put a tooth in it, telling me ‘Your job is to get the money.’”
So Lyons and McCarron came to represent the new generation in the club. Indeed, at the a.g.m. in February 1977, at the end of his ex officio year, McCarron urged the expansion of the age limits for juveniles, from 13 to 17 years. As he put it: “In my view, young people represent the future of the club and it is in all our interests to offer them a wider choice, from an age standpoint.”
And when applications came for full membership, both men displayed an unashamed bias towards the rugby fraternity, so enhancing a link which had been very much a part of the Killiney tradition for decades. “When I was on committee and a rugby player was proposed for membership, I supported him 100 per cent,” said Lyons, who won a Leinster Senior Cup medal with Bective Rangers. “And I didn’t care what club he came from. I would still be of that opinion, for the simple reason that I would confidently expect them to support the club, since that was part of their ethos. If you don’t support the club, the club is dead.”
On being elevated to the Captaincy, both men could rely on the friendship and support of Des Ryan who, after joining the club as an undergraduate member while studying accountancy at UCD, became one of its foremost characters. Ryan was, in fact, McCarron’s best friend during their schooldays at Glenstal and became a very useful golfer off a handicap of six or seven.
He was also a fine singer and was noted for his renditions of such favourites as “Delilah” and “She moved through the Fair.” For a period of more than 30 years, Ryan became synonymous with Killiney GC up to his premature death in 1993, aged 54.
Meanwhile, as a fellow accountant, Lyons devised a novel plan for raising the money to cover the project. And the scheme proved to be so successful that it was later copied to excellent effect by other clubs and institutions. Rather than institute a straight levy on the members, which was the established practice, he set up an arrangement with the Royal Bank in Dalkey. As he explained it: “Essentially, what I did was to go to the bank and tell them that we weren’t going to borrow money as such. Instead, there would be a levy on the members who could go to the bank in Dalkey and get a loan on whatever terms they desired, one year, five years or whatever, and the loan would be guaranteed by the club. In this way, I raised £100,000 which was huge money at the time. And we built a snooker room.”
The Club’s Suggestion Book contains this entry from 1951: “A billiard table would be of benefit to the Club and an excellent source of revenue.” Which brought the reply: “The Committee is prepared to give very serious consideration to this suggestion.”
Now, more than two decades on, that particular product of a misspent youth, finally got its wish. In the process, birth was given to countless private duels and some of the most outrageous banter in the colourful history of the club. And apart from in-house competitions, the club was soon taking part in inter-club matches, both friendly and competitive. For many, the green baize was a welcome refuge from the green sward, especially in wintertime.
Long before snooker received serious thought, members had a deep interest in bridge, as can be gleaned from the existence of a competition titled the “Inter Golf Club Bridge Trophy”, as far back as 1952. It was not until September 3rd, 1968, however, that the activity was formalised with the launch of a bridge section. Its future was entrusted to a committee comprising: D P O’Herlihy (chairman), Mrs Creswell, J F Wallis, J R Anderson (secretary) and D L Deale.
From the outset, both Duplicate and Rubber bridge were encouraged at the wishes of the members, but in time, Rubber bridge fell out of favour to such an extent that it was dropped altogether.
The first evening’s play, on September 23rd, attracted 28 players on seven tables but within 20 years, the game had grown so much in popularity that an average of 20 tables were in play.
It is also worth noting that between 1966 and 1971, Killiney reached the final of the Inter Golf Club Trophy every year and won it on four occasions, 1966, 1967, 1970 and 1971. The team at that time consisted of Matt Cullen, Jimmy Wallis, Dr Dick Belton and Des Purcell.
Meanwhile, Anderson gained a unique distinction within the section. Having started as secretary, tournament director and treasurer of the Bridge section, he was also president from 1979 to 1982. Though he later relinquished the positions of secretary and treasurer, he was considered too valuable to be lost as tournament director.
When the section grew in strength and numbers, it was deemed necessary to form a second section to cater for new members and learners. Dodie Kennedy, later assisted by Emma Kay, became tournament director of that group, which prospered under their guidance.
By 1983, the club was holding two “major” annual competitions. And a team was entered in the Inter-Golf Club Team of Four for the Molly Fox Cup, which the Killiney quartet of Aileen O’Keeffe, Valerie Hand, Ann Montwill and Terry Kirwan won in 1997.
Ronnie Kane was accorded the distinction of being club Captain for 1978 which was, of course, Killiney’s 75th jubilee. So it was that in November of that year, Ronnie wrote a letter to the members which appeared in the club Newsletter.
It read: “From my point of view, it has been a memorable experience to be Captain during this year, a fact which can be attributed to the wonderful support and spirit of all the members.
“Last year, the Committee increased the subscription from £80 to £88, which seemed to be pitched at the right level at the time.
“Your Committee now, of course, has to decide the level of subscription required for the coming year, which highlights the perennial problems of a nine-hole course.
“The Committee have given serious consideration to every possible avenue of raising revenue, for example increasing the membership, taking in outings, letting our clubhouse to outside organisations, installing slot machines etc etc.
You will see that your Committee are recommending an annual sub of £110. At first sight, this may appear to be a significant increase but when you have studied the position, I feel you will agree that this is what we require.”
With Roderick Tierney and Jack Arigho retaining splendid health despite the passing years, the quality of club entertainment remained at an admirably high level. In this context, a significant contribution was made by Bernie Lyons, who held regular rehearsals at her Sandycove home where rousing ballads to piano accompaniment, filled the night air.
In the Club’s Newsletter of April 1983, George Crawford reported: “On the social side we have had a pretty hectic winter. The highlight was our victory in the Inter-Club Talent Contest where we produced a magnificent Variety Show. Bernie Lyons and her enthusiastic performers excelled themselves and the Killiney supporters showed their appreciation by turning up in numbers and providing the usual, Killiney roar.
Indeed, Crawford also reported on “enjoyable Poker Nights, Bingo, TV Lunches and Chef’s Dinners, sometimes with and sometimes without Disco.” He went on: “The Mixed Dinner in December was, as usual, a sell-out and while the New Year’s Eve Dance was not completely full, the participants in the fancy dress all agreed that it was a great success. I hope there will be a repeat, with everybody in fancy dress next time. Gerry Chadwick and myself are available to advise as couturiers.”
Later in the Newsletter, the Lady Captain, “with words supplied by Terry Purcell” also reflected on events of the previous autumn, informing us that it was a time when: “The annual entertainment was uppermost in the minds of some, for not only had we the Christmas Dinner to do, but also the Talent Contest. Meetings were called and sometimes even attended, and, as usual, we looked to our impresario extraordinary, Bernie Lyons, for inspiration and direction. In the event she did us proud, for not only did the ‘dinner entertainment’ go down a treat, but the Killiney megastars went on to win the Talent Contest which was held before a full house at Woodbrook.
“Everyone gave of their best that night, but all were agreed that Jack Arigho was once again the ‘man of the match.”
The new course was officially opened in May 1997 and 13 months later, in June 1998, a new course record of 69 was set by Nigel Duke, who was playing off three at the time. Then, in September of that year, he went on to break his own record with a sparkling 68.
But significantly more expensive and far-reaching developments were in the pipeline. On October 19th, 2000, the property section of “The Irish Times” contained an article from Tom O’Brien, the paper’s regional development correspondent. Under the headline “Two top Dublin sports clubs plan major renovations”, it read:
“Two of Dublin’s best-known sports clubs were the subject of planning applications for multi-million pound renovations in the past few weeks. Killiney GC, on the south side of the city, and the Public Service/Telecom Sports Club at Furry Park in Cloghran, on the southside, have developed ambitious plans to upgrade and expand their services for members.
“Killiney GC have applied to Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council for permission for a £1.5million redevelopment and alterations to its existing clubhouse and outbuildings at Ballinclea Road.
“The development involves the demolition of an existing two-storey steel and brick building, which was added to the clubhouse about 20 years ago and which is now to be replaced by a building more in keeping with the character of the original house, which dates from the early 1900s.
“The new clubhouse will provide more ordered accommodation for the members, according to secretary/manager Michael Walsh. The building, which is to be basically T-shaped, will retain the facade and roof of the original two-storey clubhouse at the top of the “T”, alongside a new, two-storey extension.
“The rest of the building will incorporate re-located locker-rooms and an expanded kitchen, while there will also be room in the main house for a conference room and offices. The entrance to the building is to be relocated to the north facade and the driveway is to be realigned to reflect this.
“Various single-storey outbuildings which currently house offices, are to be demolished. They will be replaced by a series of single-story and single-storey-over-basement extensions off the existing clubhouse, with a two-storey extension off the east facade.
“Killiney GC celebrates its centenary in two years’ time (sic) and the work is expected to be completed in time for the celebrations. According to Mr Walsh, the resulting clubhouse will be easier for staff to manage; will provide extra space and better design for the members and will look more sympathetic to the period feel of the original building.”
On June 25th 2001, the club held a Special General Meeting at which the following resolutions were put before the members:
- That the Management Committee of the Club be and are hereby authorised to do all things necessary for the redevelopment of the Clubhouse at a cost of IR£1.85 million.
- That the Management Committee be and are hereby authorised to borrow up to IR£750,000 from a financial institution on terms to be specified at the meeting and that repayment of the sums borrowed be secured by a mortgage of the Club’s property.
After a thorough discussion, both resolutions were passed, almost unanimously, by the meeting.
As it embarked on the second century of its proud history, the Club would have a new home. And it was hoped that the members, with appropriate pragmatism, would empathise with the sentiments of Basil Boothroyd when he observed: “On moving house, the first candidates for the dustbin are your rose-coloured glasses with special hindsight attachment.”