A brief history of the Northern Counties Cup competition.

The Northern Counties Cup competition celebrated its centenary in the year 2000.  It is a credit to the golfers and golf administrators in the North and North East that the competition is still going just as strong today as it was 100 years ago.
Some centenary celebration photographs may be viewed
Read on for a brief history.

On the 12th September 1899 Mr M M Duncan, Honorary Secretary of Aberdeen Golf Club, wrote to all the golf clubs in the old Counties from Kincardine in the South to the Shetland Isles in the North, inviting them  to take part in a golf competition on the Balgownie Links in the summer of 1900.  The Aberdeen Club went on to suggest that the participating clubs contribute a sum of at least two guineas towards the purchase of a cup, and the clubs who contribute would then meet to decide on a course for the following year.

Eight clubs donated to the purchase of a cup - Aberdeen, Dornoch, Inverness, Moray, Nairn, Orkney, St Duthus and Victoria. All are still in existence with the exceptions of the Victoria Club and St Duthus, which is now Tain Golf Club.

The first competition was played in August, 1900 and the first winning names inscribed on the new cup were that of four scholars entered from Aberdeen University: T B Reith, K S Melvin, C I Beattie and E Leggie. After the competition the Delegates met and chose Moray Golf Club as the venue for the following year.

Mr Duncan of Aberdeen Golf Club remained the Secretary to the Delegates for the next twenty one years, after which he was presented with a silver cigar box bearing the inscription ' Presented by the Golf Clubs in the Northern Counties, comprising Aberdeen, Banff, Caithness, Inverness, Kincardine, Moray and Nairn, Orkney and Shetland, Ross and Cromarty, and Sutherland to M M Duncan, Esq, in token of their appreciation of his 22 years of secretaryship to the Delegates on the Northern Counties Cup competition and for his outstanding services to the game of golf in the North, 22nd July, 1921.'

In the second year of the competition the host club Moray's number two team lifted the Cup and the competition then moved on to Nairn, where again there was a home win. Then began a ten-year domination by Royal Dornoch, at the end of which the member clubs presented Dornoch with a replica of the cup in recognition of their ten-year success.
Two names were prominent in all but one of the ten victories, John Sutherland and Walter Matheson. Another collector of gold medals was Donald Grant who first played in 1906 as a boy of 16 for seven consecutive wins and won his 8th medal after the war with the Dornoch team of 1922 at Nairn.

Dornoch's Reign came to an end at Tain in 1913 when they were surprisingly beaten in the first round by Deeside. The Deeside team was Dr Chalmers and Alex Cooper Jnr, Alex Cooper Snr and H B Stedman.

Play was suspended during the years of the First World War and on the resumption in 1919 at Balgownie the Moray Club won for a second time. In 1920 the competition moved North again to Royal Dornoch and the name of one of England's most notable golfers of that era, Roger Wethered, went onto the Cup. In the years that followed, English and British Amateur championships were to be won by Wethered, who with his sister Joyce took their holidays each year at Dornoch. The Royal Dornoch Club have become the most successful in the competition winning on 21 occasions.

Aberdeen University won for a second time in 1933 with the help on this occasion of one of the University's finest players, R S (Dick) Walker. Walker went on to win the Northern Open championship in two successive years and twice he was Scottish Universities champion.

Mr James Hay of Royal Aberdeen became Secretary until 1946, and then Mr J Scott Maclachlan filled the position until 1965. Since then, the Secretaries have been J J M (Jimmy) Thomson (Aberdeen), Ken Murray (Dornoch), Jim Hamilton (Moray), and the present incumbent Eddie Sherwood (McDonald).

Looking over the winners' names on the cup for the past 100 years there can be seen a host of familiar and revered names from throughout the golfing North.  
From Royal Dornoch we see J S Macrae (Cairnie), James MacKay (Tite), Donald Grant and Duncan Murray (Barrel); from Royal Aberdeen, Joe Little, Ian Creswell and Hugh Adams; from Peterhead, Alan Middleton and the Livingston brothers, Bill and Hugh; from Murcar's winning teams from the past, J K Hall, Jack Booth, Jimmy Thomson, Joe Little, Hugh Stuart, Sandy Booth, Ronnie "Chanter" Grant and Harry Bannerman.
From Moray's bygone days, Hugo Ronald, Dr Jessop and George Thomson, and since the fifties Elgin have become prominent winners with players such as Wattie Wilken, Bill Reid, Ian Roger, and still competing Norman Grant and Bryce Milne who have thirteen medals between them.
From Nairn, Kenny Cameron, Ken Walker, Ronald Gordon Snr, George Wilson, and Sandy Tulloch; and from neighbouring Inverness, Ellis Fraser, George Calder, Ian MacIver, Bill Souter, Taylor Bullock, Jocky Thomson, Alistair Thomson and Fraser Urquhart.

With the number of participating clubs now up to forty each year, new names have appeared on the Cup.  Brora won for the first time in 1977, Muir of Ord in 1986, Banchory in 1989, Nigg Bay in 1991 and Newmachar in 1997.

The appeal of playing in the Northern Counties Cup has always been the event's friendly and social atmosphere. The players play not for individual vouchers and prizes but for the honour of representing their Club.

At one Delegate meeting it was proposed in the absence of John Sutherland, the noted Royal Dornoch Secretary, that the winners be given a fifteen shilling voucher to be exchanged in the Professional's shop.  It required only a few words from the pen of Sutherland to have this stopped and so prevent an action which he believed to be against all principles of the competition.
The winners collect a treasured inscribed gold medal.

Thanks to Robin Wilson of Brora Golf Club for information for this article.