Introduction: By Gary
Golf Historian, PGA Master Professional
Memoirs of the Legendary Iron Man of
St. Andrews is an extraordinary
historical novel that ventures a guess as to the identity of
a real-life historical figure known to golf collectors as the
Ringmaker. Certified by scholars as the maker of
very distinguishable hand-forged circa 1800 golfclubs, the actual
name of this ancient blacksmith is not known. His work, however,
is easily recognized by an ornamental ring cut around the top
of the clubs hosel, subsequently collectors and museum
curators worldwide simply refer to him as The Ringmaker.
the club pictured here, six other examples of his work are currently
known to exist. One of the six other
early irons that share this distinctive ring was formerly the
property of Perth Golf Club in Scotland. It is nearly identical
to the one pictured here and in the year 2000 it sold at a Phillip
auction in England for just under $40,000.
of the six irons is quite similar, except that its hosel is pinned
heel to toe instead of front to back. A third Ringmaker
iron, property of the Royal Musselburg Golf Club, is one of the
earliest putting irons known. Another of the six is a cleek or
driving-iron. The fifth and sixth Ringmaker irons,
formerly owned by the Woking Golf Club in Surrey, England, were
sold in London at Sothebys golf auction in July 1996.
the writing of this book, the author shows us a sure grasp of
the material and manages to pull the innumerable and far-flung
threads neatly together. At times while reading, I found myself
pondering if perhaps the memoirs chronicled within this manuscript
might be more genuine than not.
the categorization historical novel implies, The
Memoirs of the Legendary Iron Man of St. Andrews is classified
as a work of fiction, but speaking as a golf historian I can
attest that as a whole, the historical accuracy of this extraordinary
book is uncanny. For instance, the second chapter of this book
makes mention of a chance meeting between the famed author, Sir
Walter Scott and a very young Iron Man on the sixth birthday
of his best chum, wee Tom Morris.
by the implications of this revelation I spent a significant
amount of time researching the facts and found that Sir Walter
Scott did indeed make three known visits to St Andrews, once
in 1793, again in 1823 and a third in 1827. Whats more,
to my astonishment Scotts own journal for Saturday, June
16th, 1827, (Tom Morris sixth birthday) records his third
known visit to St. Andrews in great detail, identically paralleling
the facts entailed within this book.
are certainly many other instances of factual details within
the provocative memoirs that appear seemingly impossible to contrive,
such as Chapter Twelves detailed description of the inner
sanctum of the ultra-private Old Union Parlor in 1846 St. Andrews.
Equally as fascinating, the tragic and powerful story of the
British and Chinese Opium Wars of Queen Victorias era also
comes to life through the frequently macabre and deeply unsettling
conversations that take place within the Old Union Parlor.
regard to the state of the two early 19th century golf courses
depicted within this meticulously presented novel, the author
paints an historically accurate picture capturing the imagination
of the reader and carries it through the great fields of heather
and gorse that make up the Old Course at St. Andrews in 1854,
as well as Prestwicks original 12 hole layout.
summation, I find myself compelled to say that I have learned
much from this book. And I feel it is also safe to say that most
golf academics, after reading it will be left wondering just
how much of it, if any, might be less-than-factual. All I can
suggest is that you read it yourself, and see if you, too, do
not find it to be food for frantic conjecture, for tantalizing
suspicions, and for a great hope.
- Dr. Gary Wiren
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