Chapter 9 – Our Ladies
It is nice to point out that, where accusations of male chauvinism are made in these enlightened times, very significant progress has been achieved since skirts were first seen billowing on Killiney Hill.
An advertisement in “The Irish Golfer” of October 1903 anticipated the needs of the enthusiastic golfer during the impending winter months. The company of J W Elvery, with branches in Sackville St and Nassau St in Dublin, Patrick St in Cork and Conduit St in London, were offering “Ladies’ Showerproof Jackets and Ulsters at prices of 16s 6d, 26s 6d and 35 shillings.
It is to be hoped that such attire was not necessary when the same company presented prizes for the Killiney ladies on May 27th of the following year. In the event, the competition was won by Miss B Dillon who, playing off 21 handicap, had a net 78. This was three strokes clear of second-placed Miss S M Pim who had an 81 playing off 25.
This would have been more of a social gathering than an official competition insofar as the Lady Associates Branch in the club was not launched until 1905, when Miss K Martin was the inaugural captain and Miss Lane, from Stonehurst, Killiney, was the honorary secretary.
By 1907, the Lady Associates were staging no fewer than 12 competitions, half of which had prizes presented from within their own ranks, though Messrs Elvery generously remained on board. A particularly interesting prizewinner that year was the gifted Florence Walker Leigh, who partnered a Miss de Moleyns to victory in the premier foursomes event of the year.
Walker Leigh was a golfing pioneer insofar as she became the first Southern player to capture the Irish Close Championship, having been runner-up in 1901 and 1904. She was also runner-up to compatriot Rhona Adair in the British Championship at Royal Portrush in 1903 and would go on to be runner-up once more in the Irish Close in 1911.
“Irish Life” informed us in its January issue of 1914 that “Miss Wright, the new captain of Killiney Ladies Club, is a good player and should make a capital leader.” Since then, women have succeeded in becoming not only admirably proficient at the game: they have found that it greatly enhances their general well-being.
Two Killiney women who lived through this protracted period of perceived liberation were the Chapman sisters. And before they died at a grand old age, their experiences were recorded by T Purcell in a charming interview in June 1984. This is what she wrote:
“On Friday April 13th (nothing superstitious about this particular interviewer!) 1984, together with the Lady Captain, Alison Carter, I had lunch with Miss Chapman, known to all as “Chappie” and with her sister, Mrs Eileen Parker. Both ladies are past associates of Killiney GC and are in their 97th and 93rd years respectively.
“Miss Chapman was born in January 1888 in England, the daughter of an English army officer and his Irish wife.
She joined Killiney in 1932, for an outlay of four guineas, two guineas entrance fee and two guineas subscription.
“Her initial impression was of a small, friendly club and she proceeded to take lessons from the professional, Tom Gaffney who, she recalled, spoke with a lisp and advised her to ‘have a twing at the daithies.’ His fee for this advice and instruction was two shillings and six pence (about 16 cent) per hour.
“She remembers the course then as being almost all rough, with very small greens which were cut with a hand mower. A golf ball was an expensive item at two shillings and those lost in the rough were usually bought back from the caddie, later. Caddies charged ninepence (about five cent) per round, inclusive of holding the flag! Sheep grazed on the course, greens and all, and Chappie remembers that sometime after the sheep finally disappeared, a gentleman at the members’ AGM moved that they (the sheep) be brought back and that the lady associates be banished.
“Despite this, relations were quite good between the members and associates, as reflected in the mix foursomes competitions.
“Chappie travelled to golf on her bicycle and the only car she remembers in the ladies section was driven by a Mrs Riddock. She, apparently, was a person of interest, being a so-called ‘leathermaker’ who so loved the material that while playing golf on cold days, she wore leather underwear which creaked. Ladies in those days wore skirts for golf and Mrs Parker, Chappie’s sister, thinks that she was the first lady to play in trousers, in 1946.
“Perhaps her best-remembered year was 1948, when she was Lady Captain. Her male counterpart that year was E T McCarron and affairs of the club went very well. For the Lady Captain’s Prize, which was won by a Mrs Edwards, Chappie presented a ‘fully-fitted picnic basket’ costing £5 10s, which was very well received.
“Both Chappie and Mrs Parker have very strong views on the present controversy regarding the position of women in golf clubs. Both feel that women should have more say in the running of their club and should have equal playing time as the men.”
Nine years after that piece was written, Chappie, at a sprightly 94, had afternoon tea “with associates of yesteryear” as guests of the Lady Captain on the occasion of the Lady Captain’s Prize, which was won by Valerie Hand. As a sad addendum, it was noted in 1988 that both Chappie and Mrs Parker had since died.
By 1971, equality was still some way off, but the Lady Captain that year, Maura Brennan, seemed reasonably satisfied with the lot of herself and 150 lady associate colleagues. Being so bold as to air her views in the national press, she said: “I have been a member of Killiney for more than 12 years. My husband taught me and now I’m down to 16 handicap and I love it.”
She went on: “During the dark, winter evenings when there’s no golf, we have dinner dances about once a month. And we show films, which are very popular. And, of course, there is a thriving bridge club here to which both men and women belong.
We were informed that the Lady Captain’s prize that year was a very acceptable Salton Hot Tray and was won by 17-handicapper Nuala Jordan with a fine score of 70.
Killiney’s most successful woman golfer was Florence “Froggie” Kennedy who joined the club in 1962 having previously distinguished herself in other sports. Splendid sporting instincts allowed her to reduce her handicap to single figures within only two years and she went on to win two lady captain’s prizes, in 1963 and in 1979.
A significant breakthrough in what proved to be numerous competitive successes occurred in 1965 when she partnered the Killiney professional, Danny O’Brien, to victory in the Leinster Professionals and Ladies Alliance Mixed Foursomes at Milltown.
Representative honours came to her in 1967 and 1968 when she played on the Leinster team, which shared the title with Ulster at Lahinch and then went on to take the championship outright.
Meanwhile, given her prominence earlier in the decade, it was hardly surprising that the Leinster Ladies Alliance, confined to handicaps of nine and lower, should have chosen her as their captain for 1969.
As it happened, Froggie didn’t play in the same Leinster team as Co Louth’s Moira Earner, who played in 1964, 1965, 1966, 1970 and 1973, but not in 1967 or 1968. The pair got together, however, to win the Alliance Foursomes in 1970, when they beat the formidable partnership of Ita Butler (Elm Park) and Barbara Hyland (Bray) by one hole in the final.
Then, a year later and playing off two, which meant that she and Mrs Earner were conceding six strokes, they won the Dun Laoghaire Open Matchplay Cup, beating Irish Junior Internationals Mary Walsh (New Ross) and Frances Smyth (Milltown) by 2 and 1 in the decider. Her alternate-shot expertise allowed her to triumph with yet another partner in 1973, this time Woodbrook’s Mary Anderson, in the Alliance Foursomes.
In 1975, Froggie reached the semi-finals of the Leinster Scratch Cup Singles, before losing to the holder, Milltown international Josephine Mark, on the 18th. This was an occasion when she raised quite a few eyebrows by leading the 36-hole qualifying stage by two strokes, after rounds of 79 and 73 for an aggregate of 153 at Newlands.
And three years later, she regained the Alliance Foursomes, this time in partnership with Milltown’s Catherine Hickey. It was an outstanding achievement insofar as the pair gained a crushing, 5 and 4 victory over no less a partnership than Mary McKenna (Donabate) and Doreen Brennan (Delgany) in the final.
In 1970, a Killiney team comprising Froggie, Nessa Baker, Angela Blair White, Betty Maguire and Audrey Hunter, reached the semi-finals of the ILGU Senior Scratch Cup (handicap scratch to nine) at Royal Dublin, before losing to Milltown. Meanwhile, a measure of Froggie’s consistency was that she was twice winner of the Alliance Points Cup, which is now the Golfer of the Year award.
From the club’s perspective, however, her most telling achievements were in the Townsend Cup success of 1966. “For somebody who took up the game late in life, Froggie was a magnificent player,” said Eileen Tierney.
Pauline Martin recalled: “We were all terrified of Froggie. She used to give out socks to us because we didn’t practice enough. But it was impossible not to admire her dedication to the game and for that alone, she deserved to be honoured by Leinster.”
Eilis Buckley and her daughter Niamh gained the remarkable distinction in 1991 of becoming the mother and offspring with what was believed to be the lowest combined handicaps in these islands.
Remarkably, both women had their handicaps reduced to four, in different countries on the same day, Niamh at Diss GC in Norfolk and Eilis at Killiney. To achieve this, they faced the forbidding target of completing a level-par round, which they did.
Eilis has been a single-figure golfer for 25 successive years and among the numerous successes were victory in the Leinster Alliance Cup at Grange in 1988, when she was partnered by Pauline Martin. Particularly memorable, however, was a remarkable, 71 gross around Killiney on August 29th, 1991. Had it been a strokes rather than a Stableford competition, she would have gained the distinction of becoming the only woman to break par (gross) in the history of the club.
Eileen Tierney, a native of Athy, joined the club as an 18-handicapper in 1948, having previously been a member of Carlow GC. She had been married that year to Roderick, who was already a member of Killiney where he would go on to become one of its most distinguished members.
“My husband’s father, my husband himself, my daughter and our grandchildren have all been members of Killiney GC,” she said with obvious pride. “Which may explain why I have always thought of it as being a very family orientated club”.
Having started off 18, Eileen got down to 10 at one stage and was playing off 14 when she won the Lady Captain’s Prize (Mrs D Richardson) in 1965. Now 84, she gave up the game about five years ago at a time when she noted that increasing emphasis was being placed on the dreaded time-sheet. “My breathing just couldn’t cope with playing anymore,” she said. “I’ve always had lung trouble.”
She expressed delight at the fact that the club remained in its present location; despite talk over the years about a possible move elsewhere.
A measure of how important clubhouse activities became in the life of Killiney is the fact that Eileen seems to retain more vivid memories of the various entertainments than of club and ball.
“I remember Vera Owens, who had a lovely voice. We would go to Foxrock, Carrickmines, Dun Laoghaire and various other clubs, mainly on the south side. There were competitions which Killiney usually won”.
On joining Killiney, Eileen (nee Minch) was surprised to find herself among kindred spirits, from the world of rugby. Two uncles, Berchmans “Berkey” Minch of Bective Rangers, was capped five times from 1912 to 1914 and Noel Purcell (Lansdowne) who gained five caps in 1921, both played for Ireland. So it was a pleasant surprise to discover such legendary figures as Jack Arigho, Dr Paul Murray and Jammie Clinch as members of the club.
While the majority of club golfers have to be satisfied with making up the numbers in a captain’s prize, Emer Kirwan has enjoyed extravagant success in this most difficult of competitions. Indeed she surpassed even her own wildest dreams, by completing the rare double of Lady Captain’s prizes in two different clubs in the same year.
A native of Birr, Co Offaly, Emer worked for the Ulster Bank which she represented at golf. And from the time of her arrival at Killiney in 1993, it was noted that she had been in winning form. So, even off a handicap of nine, it wasn’t a major shock when she captured the Lady Captain’s (Margaret Clarke) Prize with 38 and 36 Stableford points.
By way of a marvellous bonus, however, she went back to her native Birr and lo and behold, topped the field once more, this time in the Lady Captain’s Prize presented by Mary Darcy. Her winning score at Birr was three-over-par gross 73, 64 net.
Pauline Martin joined Killiney GC in 1964, protesting all the while that she had absolutely no interest in golf. It seems that her father, Cyril, who was a six-handicap member of the club, was anxious that his daughter would have another sport to turn to when she stopped playing hockey with Railway Union.
“With a battered old set of clubs and a pair of golf shoes belonging to my mother, off I went,” recalled Pauline. “That was a time when you didn’t need three cards for a handicap and as things turned out, my first competition was the 1964 Lady Captain’s Prize. And I won it.
“To the best of my recollection, I had a 74 on the first day and as the last finisher on the second day, I did a 64. Needless to remark, the idea of winning the captain’s prize in my first competition didn’t meet with universal approval. Anyway, it got me off on the right road and I got hooked on the game from then on.
“I became so committed to the game that I played in everything and got down to four”.
“I was working in the Royal Bank of Ireland at the time and I had a Lambretta scooter. A friend of mine and myself would leap up on the scooter every Thursday with two bags of clubs and caddie-cars miraculously attached somewhere behind. And we overcame all sorts of adversity, including punctures, in pursuit of golf. It was great fun.”
The perennial problem of the associate member, however, forced Pauline into what proved to be a difficult and painful decision. Because she wasn’t getting enough weekend golf at Killiney, she decided to join Woodbrook in 1970, at a time when women were afforded generous playing facilities at week- ends.
Her progress was such that she was capped by Leinster in 1975, as a Woodbrook member. But she was a dual Killiney/Woodbrook member when accorded the honour of being non-playing captain of Leinster, in succession to Moira Cassidy.
By that stage, the banks had amalgamated into two main groups and she had gone to work with AIB in Ballybrack in 1983, where she gained the distinction of becoming Ireland’s first woman branch manager. “That was when the thought crossed my mind as to whether Killiney would take me back,” she said. “And it is greatly to their credit that they did.”
As it happened, Pauline celebrated her return to Killiney by setting a record of 73, one over par, for the new course in a medal competition on August 9th, 1990. The round started quite unremarkably, with bogeys at the opening two holes and another one at the short fifth.
From there on, however, she covered the remaining 13 holes in one under par.
Four years on, as captain of Leinster at Royal Co Down in the 1994 Interprovincial Championship, Pauline led her side to victory. And she also guided them to a retention of the trophy at Headfort the following year, albeit on a countback after a tie.
Suggestion Book: 1974, “If is suggested that in making the draws, the committee adhere to GMT or the BBC or Radio Eireann and NOT to the clock in the Ladies Room, which is, to put it mildly, erratic.”
The donor of the Brady Cup Mrs Brady (nee Tallon) was a long-time member and was lady captain in 1938. When, in 1957, the club decided to have a lady president, Mrs Brady was elected. She presented the perpetual trophy in July of that year to be played for by matchplay (handicaps 19 and over) on an annual basis.
On her death in 1964, it was decided that the office of Lady President should be discontinued.
Killiney made history in 1966 by becoming the first nine-hole club to capture the Townsend Cup. And victory was both sweet and decisive, given that they defeated Dun Laoghaire by 4-1 in the final, with one match unfinished.
Initially, the event was confined to the bigger clubs of which Co Louth, spearheaded by the great Philomena Garvey, captured it for six years in a row, from 1952 to 1957. Then came four victories by Milltown, three by Dun Laoghaire, two from Grange and one from Elm Park.
Against that background, it was hardly surprising that Killiney’s breakthrough created quite a stir. After leading 3-0 from the first leg, they went on to secure victory at Dun Laoghaire with the pairings of: Mrs F Kennedy and Mrs M Fleming; Mrs V Egan and Mrs N Baker; Mrs B Jordan and Miss P Martin.
According to newspaper reports, the final was staged in arctic conditions and with Dun Laoghaire’s first and third pairings more or less in command, interest centred on the middle match in which Vi Egan and Nessa Baker were opposed by Vera Fitzgerald and Hilda Morrison.
The “Irish Independent” reported: “The Killiney pair were two down after three and did not get on terms until the 10th. However, Mrs Egan and Mrs Baker had a great run around the loop and won three of the next five holes to be dormie playing the 16th. There was another swing here, for the Killiney pair played the hole badly and lost it. Then, at the 17th, Miss Fitzgerald missed a two-foot putt to prolong the struggle, giving the Killiney pair the match.
Final: First leg (at Killiney), Mrs F Kennedy and Mrs M Fleming bt Miss P James and Miss V Fitzgerald at 22nd; Mrs V Egan and Mrs N Baker bt Mrs H Morrison and Miss E Moody 1 hole; Mrs B Jordan and Miss P Martin bt Mrs M Browne and Mrs M Hutchinson 6 and 4. Second leg (at Dun Laoghaire), Mrs F Kennedy and Mrs M Fleming v Miss P James and Mrs M Donegan (called in after 14 holes); Mrs V Egan and Mrs N Baker bt Miss V Fitzgerald and Mrs H Morrison 2 and 1; Mrs B Jordan and Miss P Martin lost to Mrs M Brown and Mrs M Hutchinson 5 and 3.
As a postscript to this splendid achievement, a diarist in one of our national papers carried this decidedly colourful item the following day: “The rejoicing at Killiney Golf Club last night must surely be remembered this morning, for the host club won the Townsend Cup final. A painted moon hung in an expansive sky and we were linked with the stars by the chains of ESB lamps which led up from the valley beneath us to the invisible horizons, all full of hangovers.”
Pauline Martin has less poetic memories of the aftermath to a marvellous occasion. “I’ll always remember that night, coming back to the club,” she said. “We were there until four in the morning. Nessa Baker was playing the piano and Vi Egan was singing her party piece ‘I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree.’”
A year later, Killiney were attempting to retain the trophy.
They had five of the 1966 team in action, the only change in personnel being Angela Blair White for Vi Egan. But there partnership changes, notably at the top of the order where Froggie Kennedy was now paired with Nessa Baker instead of May Fleming. And there appeared to be a particularly strong partner- ship, given that Pauline Martin and Nuala Jordan had captured the Castle Foursomes Cup in the meantime.
As it happened, the first leg of the final, at home to Milltown, delivered a disappointing outcome from a Killiney perspective. The indications were that Killiney would be taking a 2-1 lead into the second leg but the partnership of May Fleming and Angela Blair White were shocked when one of their opponents, Mary Cunningham, sank a raker of a putt on the final green. This gave the Milltown pair an improbable halved match and left the teams deadlocked at 1 1/2 points each.
The second leg, against a Milltown side which included Catherine Hickey and mother and daughter, Anne and Daphne Tunney, was similarly close. After the top match was halved and Pauline Martin and Nuala Jordan had won in the anchor position, everything hinged on the middle pairing. But this time, May Fleming and Angela Blair White could have no excuses in that they lost by 4 and 2.
It meant that the teams were still tied after six matches but Milltown, who were conceding a total of seven strokes, secured victory on a count of match points.
When Killiney reached the Townsend Cup final again in 1973, it turned out to be a bitter disappointment. They faced a decidedly uphill battle after losing all three matches away to Howth. This, was Howth’s first appearance in the competition and as things turned out, the best Killiney could manage was a 2-1 win on home terrain which meant victory for the north Dublin club by the comfortable margin of 4-2.
Enduring skills were very much in evidence as Killiney maintained a remarkable prominence in this demanding event. They reached the final again in 1974 only to lose on this occasion to neighbours, Delgany. Froggie Kennedy and Pat Waldron once again formed the top partnership, but the remaining quartets were reshuffled. With the splitting up of the middle partnership from 1973, Audrey Hunter was now teamed with Muriel Duke, while Nessa Baker moved into the third pairing as a partner for Angela Blair White.
As things transpired, however, Pat Waldron, runner-up in the Connacht Junior Championship of 1971 and 1972 and the Lady Captain of 1976, was the only survivor from that particular line-up when the trophy was eventually captured for a second time in 1977. Under the leadership of May Fleming, who, incidentally, had been a member of the club’s successful 3rd Team back in 1950, the triumphant line-up, in partnerships, was: Betty Crighton and Maeve O’Reilly; Betty Maguire and Hilary Kavanagh; Eilish Buckley and Pat Waldron.
Timing, as we know, is critical in all things, especially golf. In this respect, the Townsend team of 1977 couldn’t be faulted in that they captured the trophy on Thursday, November 24th, the eve of the Lady Captain’s (Oonagh Medcalf O’Neill) dinner. So, there was a rather special dimension to the annual wining and dining.
As had happened in 1974, Delgany provided the opposition, except that on this occasion they caused quite a surprise by reaching the final. On November 8th, a few weeks after the sudden death of Bing Crosby at a golf club in Madrid, Killiney disposed of a formidable Sutton line-up by 3 1/2 to 2 1/2, while Delgany raised quite a few eyebrows in the other semi-final by beating Donabate by two points, after the sides had been tied 3-3.
Victory in the final, by the comfortable margin of 4-2, was rendered all the sweeter for those who recalled the disappointment of 1974. As usual, the club celebrated in style. Apart from the congratulations of the Lady Captain’s dinner, there was a separate, celebratory function at which Oonagh Medcalf O’Neill and the club Captain, Lynn Quigley, expressed the gratitude of the general body of members and associates to May Fleming and her splendid players.
In the meantime, some of the usual suspects were in the Killiney team which reached the semi-finals of the 1970 Senior Cup at Royal Dublin, where they lost to Milltown. The team was: Froggie Kennedy, Nessa Baker, Angela Blair White, Betty Maguire, Audrey Hunter.
Three years later, Pat Waldron (17) was runner-up to Josephine Mark in the final of the Duggan Scratch Cup (handicaps 10 to 18) at Milltown. Then, in 1975 when she had come down to 14, Pat lost in the semi-finals at Newlands. The semi-final stage was reached once more in 1977 by Betty Crighton (12) at Elm Park. Also that year, Betty Crighton partnered Betty Maguire to runner-up place in the Dun Laoghaire Open Foursomes, having lost to Milltown international Susan Gorman and her partner, Mrs B Perston of City of Derry.