The Dean and Shuttlecocks

The Dean’s Diaries

Prof David Purdie

                  St Andrew’s College
Edinburgh EH1 3TD

[The College is a research institution, specialising in the Humanities and the Physical sciences. Known to irreverent staff as MacAll Souls from its similarity to its Oxford twin, it has no undergraduates; only Postgrads and Research Fellows who complement the permanent Academic Staff.
 The Dean is assisted, and betimes thwarted, by the Bursar, the Prebendary and the Bedellus who sit on the ‘ Estaitis ‘, an ancient Scots word for Council, dating back to the Foundation by the Queen in 1562]

With most of the Staff and Fellows on vacation, the College is mercifully quiescent – only the terminally obsessed (and terminally funded) keeping the place active while the world gawps at the Olympics.  However, on that very subject there was a wonderful debate in the SCR (Senior Common Room) yesterday.
It was all about the rustication of a bunch of Chinese and Korean Badminton players who had been sacked and expelled from the Games – for trying to win! Apparently they were playing each other in a match where the Winners would have to face world-class opponents such as Indonesia – while the Losers would only get Ruritania or similar, and a sleigh-ride into the Final. Anyway, enter our Professor of Philosophy plus a gang of his fellow Platonists and Aristotelians attending a Summer Seminar here.  The issue was; given that the Strategy was to get to the Final and hence a chance of Gold, were the Tactics (throwing the game) valid?  Apparently both teams banged their serves consistently into the net, or sent the shuttlecock hurtling wide into the stands, to the evident and noisy irritation of persons who had paid good money to watch. The debate raged on splendidly for ours with the Aristotelian pragmatists saying that the players were quite right to keep ‘Eyes on the Prize’ i.e. the Gold Medal in the Final – while the Platonic idealists said that there was a higher ‘Form’ of Badminton in the ethereal empyrean spaces where throwing the game was strictly uncool.
Our Professor of Greek being present, we then got a blast of Ancient Hellenic rectitude to the effect that, stuff the Platonic ideal, the Olympic ideal was in the motto; Altior ,Citior, Fotrtior ,which sounded more like Latin to me.
‘This,’ boomed  Aeneas, meant ‘Higher, Faster and Stronger’ – and not , as in that notorious Badminton game:  Wider, Slower – and Wilier. The end of the argument was, as usual, a truce in disagreement and that the End may, or may not, have justified the Means. Anyway, the company arose in amity and departed to High Table to dine and sink their differences in industrial quantities of my best College Claret.

Incidentally, this debâcle  or perhaps shuttlecockup , shows clearly the trouble one can get into by having Pools. Eheu! Had only the Olympic Badminton event modelled itself on the Edinburgh University Golf Club’s annual match-play tournament, the McWhammel Trophy for the B——ing of Bogey, this would never have happened. Here, in the oldest academic sports competition of all, there is posted up on the left of a sheet, a list of hackers, grouped in pairs. They meet on the field of honour – usually Bruntsfield or Mortonhall – and it’s literally a knockout, with only one emerging bloodied but unbending, having literally hacked into the next round. Deliberately losing golf matches is unknown because there are no pools;  anyway, the cost of driving into a neighbouring field or, worse, into the rough at Muirfield, would be colossal. I myself was at Muirfield, scene of the 2013 Open Championship, last week. I have never seen such a hayfield as surrounds that magnificent course. It was reported that several members had lost not only their balls, but complete sets of clubs, incautiously set down in the rough – and even that two Members were still unaccounted for, a week after the last Competition.

Meanwhile, the Festival Fringe has burst upon Edinburgh; thousands of spectators attending hundreds of Venues, three of them in this College. Two of the ‘Shows’ being staged here are labelled, ominously, as ‘New Humour.’ I shall attend a performance of each to ensure that no licentious conduct, moral relativism, or grammatical depravity intrudes within upon our ancient walls.
I am also attending two performance mounted by Members of my Staff – and for the same reasons…
The Diary will report, next week, my observations thereon.

The Dean and New College

The Dean’s Diaries: 


 Prof. D.W.R. Purdie    

Office of the Dean:
St Andrew’s College,
                                                            King George IV Bridge,
Edinburgh EH1 3TD

    THE COLLEGE remains officially on vacation till the commencement of Martinmas Term on Monday 1st October but the Dons and the Research Fellows are now beginning to straggle back to Edinburgh. I went to a most interesting meeting, actually a book launch, at New College last night. This College, just down the road from us, is at the head of The Mound – properly The EarthenMound – a colossal ramp carrying a road from Princes Street up to the ridge on which the Old Town of Edinburgh stands. It was created in the early 19th century with several million tons of earth dug out in laying the foundation of the buildings of the New Town. Anyway, New College   is effectively the University’s Faculty of Divinity, its entry court featuring a gigantic statue of John Knox in bronze. Bible in hand and arm raised in declamation, the general impression as one arrives there is one of unrelieved menace. Heaven alone knows what he’s have made of the graffito recently discovered on a wall behind the College. Probably the work of a divinity undergraduate blessed, or rather cursed, with an heretical sense of humour, it featured that most intriguing of the Beatitudes from the New Testament;
Blessed are the Meek, for they shall inherit the Earth

Sprayed on the wall, in a very neat hand, was the Message:

We will inherit the Earth, so we will Right ”
                                  Signed: The Meek
(If it’s all right with you…)

New College was where the Scottish Parliament first met in 1999   after its 300 year recess, when Sheena Wellington memorably sang, at the late Donald Dewar’s request, A Man’s a Man, for a’ That, Burns’s great anthem for the Common Man. And it was a most uncommon man who gave the main speech at the book-launch there last night; Alex Salmond no less. Kim Jong Eck to the Unionist press, Alex is the latter-day Moses who will lead the Children of Caledonia out of bondage to Westminster and into the sunlit, or rather oil-lit, uplands of Independence. The book being launched is by the late SNP theoretician Stephen Maxwell and is entitled Arguing for Independence . It will, to quote Eck, raise the level of the independence debate to ‘a new intellectual level.’ It had better, for Eck’s own intellectual level last night was in serious need of elevation.  For example we were told, again, that the Battle of Culloden was a disaster for Scotland and, mirabile dictu, on a par with the closure of the Ravenscraig steelworks! Culloden was indeed a disaster, but for Prince Charlie; and it brought a closure all right; the military and indeed political closure of the Jacobite campaign to re-establish the Stuarts. It thus cleared the ground for the emerging Scottish Enlightenment and vindicated the majority of Scots present – who fought for the British Army that day.

Thinking of our revived Parliament meeting at New College, reminds me that it did so because the new Parliament House at Holyrood was yet unfinished, while going spectacularly over budget. This caused considerable amusement south of Hadrian’s Wall where they were used to tales of our canniness with the currency; e.g. accidentally dropping a 50p piece from a 12th floor flat; going down to retrieve; and being hit on the head by it, etc etc.

Anyway, during the Holyrood furore over its cost, I happened to be visiting All Souls, Oxford, our sister College. In their senior common room a newspaper was lowered to reveal one of their oldest and most aristocratic Fellows. In tones which made Prince Charles sound like a welder, he said,
“It says here in theTelegraph that you Jocks, on a budget of forty million, have gone through four hundred & fifty million, building this Parliament of yours in Edinburgh. That’s a cost overrun of 1,000 %! I say, isn’t that somewhat un-Jock-like?”   I said,
“Charles, you’re right; there’s no denying it. And what’s more, I can tell you, in strict confidence mind, that it’s even worse than you think…”
“Oh really?”
” Yes, it’s your money ! ”

Anyway, that’s quite enough of politics for now. I have to be careful here, being the Dean of a college whose Dons and Fellows represent the most extraordinary spectrum of political opinion. This ranges from the Ultraviolet of our Roosevelt Fellow, the American philosopher Dr Sam Yancey who is a doyen of the Tea Party back home. Yancey is still pondering why his Party seems to be known in Edinburgh as the ‘You’ll have had your Tea Party.’ One day I’ll tell him.
At the other end of the spectrum, deep in the Infrared, is Prof. Angus McKittrick who fascinates me by combining great personal charm with being a resolutely doctrinaire anarchist. Angus does not recognise the existence of myself as Dean, or the College, or the University, or indeed the United Kingdom. Thankfully, he appears to accept the existence of the Universe, but only on the grounds that it is essentially anarchic and has been, well, just there forever. To the bemusement of our astrophysicists, he rejects the Big Bang on the grounds that it is clearly a fiendish crypto-theist device to conceal a Creator. Last year he gave a memorable and (to me) hilarious Lecture entitled, Exploding the Big Bang in which the Bang came in for some pretty rough handling for its ‘presumption’ and its ‘scientific insolence.’

Well, it takes all types to make the world, and thank God I’m not one of them. Tomorrow sees the pre-term meeting of College Council (the Supreme Soviet to Angus) There I’ll be joined by the Bursar, Warden and the Bedellus and we’ll then be blessed by our Prebendary, the Rev. Dr Hector Stuart, DD. Hector will enjoin us to seek guidance from the Almighty, before going down to New College to wipe out the Meek…

The Dean and the Decalogue

The Dean’s Diaries:  

                                      by  Prof. D.W.R. Purdie  MD   FRCP Edin.

Office of the Dean:
St Andrew’s College,
                                                                         King George IV Bridge,
Edinburgh EH1 3TD


THE COLLEGE remains relatively peaceful as we move through our Vacation while hosting, as every Summer, a parade of lucrative Conferences and Seminars, to the financial delight of the Bursar. We are most fortunate to be just a few hundred yards from the Royal Mile at the heart of what is now one of Europe’s most popular cities for academic meetings.

However, the College’s Martinmas Term, which begins the Academic Year, starts on 1st October, when we all get back to work; that is, except my friend the deeply intellectual Prof Abraham Rabbinowitz, my Head of Semitic Studies who, as you may already have surmised, is Jewish. Abe was in this morning to tell me that 1st Oct may be the Feast of Martinmas and the first day of Term for goyim like me, but it is also the first day of Sukkot for orthodox Jews like him. Work is apparently forbidden as he and the family celebrate the first day of this ‘Feast of Tabernacles.’ These were apparently the flimsy dwellings occupied by his ancestors during the forty years when they wandered around the Sinai desert before getting fed up and heading for Tel Aviv.
Now, I’m a huge fan of Jewish humour and couldn’t resist telling him about the alternative version of Exodus. This has Moses descending, from Mt. Sinai very slowly, weighed down by two giant Tablets of granite. On these, the Decalogue, (the 10 Commandments) had been incised, presumably in Hebrew, by YHWH the tetragrammaton (from Greek τετραγράμματον, ‘four letters’), Jehovah to you.
“Hear me, O my people,” says Moses, “I bring some good news & some bad news already. Which first do you want?”
“ Oy vey, Moses! ” cries his brother Aaron, “We’ve been forty years in this sodden desert! Go on man, give us the good news…”
“Right” says Moses, looking down at the Tablets, “I’ve got him down to ten….”

Thinking of The Decalogue, antecedents for which exist in Hittite literature by the way, it features in a present I received from my opposite number at All Souls College, our academic ‘twin’. This gem is The Oxford book of Oxford, edited by the extraordinary Jan (formerly James) Morris, author of the trilogy Pax Britannica and a terrific writer. Anyway, an Oxford undergraduate is undergoing an oral theology exam:

Examiner: “ Now, how should we regard The Decalogue? ”
Undergraduate: (not at all sure what the decalogue was)   “Er…With reverence, Sir , not unmixed with awe.”
Examiner: Excellent. I quite agree.”

As is well known, there are twelve tribes of Judah which comprise the Jewish people. Legend has it, however, that there was once a thirteenth tribe, now lost. It was once thought that it might be the Falashas, a tribe in the Semien Mountains of northern Ethiopia who had been observed to be observing Jewish observances and practices. This caused considerable excitement in Tel Aviv; the Falashas were airlifted to Israel and feted as returning members of the original diaspora. Alas, when their DNA, specifically their Y chromosome polymorphic markers, were checked, it turned out that they were an African people. At some point in their remote past they had adopted circumcision, observance of Shabbat etc., possibly through contact with some wandering ancient Hebrews. Mind you, they had also clearly adopted a facility in business, their removal to   Eretz Yisrael taking them from poverty to relative affluence in a modern state.

Then there was Arthur Koestler. Back in the 70s he sensationally alleged, in The Thirteenth Tribe that the Ashkenazim (European Jews) are not descended from the Israelites of antiquity. No, they were Khazars, a Turkic people originating between the Black Sea and the Caspian. Koestler’s hypothesis was that the Khazars converted to Judaism in the 8th century and migrated westwards into Eastern Europe. This brought down on Koestler a storm of abuse from the ivory towers; anthropologists, ethnologists, philologists and several other academologists combining to rubbish the very thought that the most successful branch of Jewry might actually be…Turks!
The book, hoever, met with support here at home from Sir Fitzroy MacLean that remarkable Highland chieftain, soldier, diplomat and author of Eastern Approaches. Fitzroy thought that Koestler was right, but the irony is that Fitzroy was wrong. Wrong because, I suggest, that he himself was one of the actual thirteenth tribe – the Scots!

Scotland is one of the very few countries in Europe that never had a pogrom, England certainly did; five million Scots are in Scotland with 15 million in the diaspora; five million Jews are in Israel and 15 million elsewhere; we have the same passion for business, innovation, finance and education; only the US competes with Scotland and Israel in the number of graduates produced per head of population – and all three countries head the premier division for academic papers published. On the literary front was the national bard of Scotland not Rabbi Burns?  My own yarmulke or skull cap, a present from my friend Dr David Shapiro, has ה-13 שבט יהודה * embroidered on the margin. It all fits, as does the yarmulke, which caps it all.

Some years ago I arrived in Jerusalem to give a lecture at the Hebrew University’s Ein Kerem campus. I was met by Prof. Avi Rahamimov, then the Dean of the Medical School.
Shalom!” said he, “Come to my office at once for coffee and an argument.”
“What about?”
“Who cares! The best arguments on earth are between Scots like you – and Sabras like me. Get on with it. Say anything and I’ll profoundly disagree!”
“ Ok, you asked for it. Right; I say that Jews are smart…! ”

We have to be related; but mark you, no-one is getting a sight of, let alone getting their hands on, my Y chromosome…

* Tribe of Judah (No13) 


The Dean’s Diary

Dean’s Office:                                              St Andrews College
King Geoge IV Bridge
Edinburgh EH1 4PT      

The College  is superintended by myself as Dean, assisted by the Bursar, the Prebendary and the Bedellus, all of whom sit on the ‘Estaitis’, an ancient Scots word for Council, dating back to our Foundation in 1762. College is mercifully quiet at present, thanks to the Summer break when most of the eccentrics who teach or research here are away on leave or disrupting Conferences. That is, except those weirdest of our physicists, they of the AGL (the Anti-Gravity Lab). They have refused to leave, telling me yet again that they’re on the verge of a breakthrough… if they’d break through into a Parallel Universe I’d be frankly delighted, given the mayhem here last week.

What happened it seems, is that some idiot accidentally disarmed the lead shielding around the extremely powerful 15 Tesla Magnetic Field they use. The Field, released from the building, was now suddenly operating outside in King George IV Bridge which runs past the College. Confusingly, the Bridge is actually a major Edinburgh street. Anyway, before they tumbled to what was happening, the gigantic invisible Field, fifteen times the strength of the Earth’s own magnetic Field, ensnared an approaching Number 42 Stockbridge bus.  I happened to be looking out from my Study windows when I saw to my astonishment the bus suddenly execute a swerving left turn, crash through the front door of the College and charge into the atrium. There it demolished the Mammoth skeleton before heading determinedly in the direction of the AGL. Thank God it was a single-decker…

The highly magnetised bus passed through the canteen where it was joined by hundreds of flying knives, forks, blenders etc., also equally magnetised. Looking now like a giant porcupine, the thing finally came to rest in the women’s restroom, scattering the occupants, while powerfully attracting those wearing metallic underwear or surgical appliances. Before the Field could be switched off, it had also attracted or rather tractored into our Entrance, a garbage truck, several automobiles and the ATM machine (with contents) from the Bank across the street.

I had to explain all this to an extremely grumpy Principal &Vice-Chancellor who was staring at a bill from Lothian Buses for a new vehicle, while the Bank considers whether the abduction of its ATM – and £25,000 in notes – constitutes armed robbery. The V-C has always regarded St Andrew’s with the deepest suspicion since the Anti-Matter explosion last year, despite the fact that we are the greatest revenue-earner on the vast Edinburgh campus. He’ll get over it.

For newcomers to the Diary, I had better explain that St Andrew’s College is the only external College of Edinburgh University which is, in contrast to Oxford or Cambridge, non-collegiate in character. That said, we are often described as the ‘Northern All Souls’ because, like that splendid Oxford College, we have no undergraduates. We have only the academic staff plus Postgraduates and Research Fellows from home and abroad, to the number of about 60. I’m actually never sure of the exact number since they pop in and out of existence in a relativistic and indeed quantum mechanical way.

Right, that’s all for today. I have now to attend a meeting with the Chinese Legation here – who are apparently incensed at an article in the British Journal of Sport Archaeology by our historian Dr David Wilkie, Ph.D. According to the Chinese, their game of Chui Wan, (‘Hit ball – with Stick’ in Mandarin) is the progenitor of Golf and dates from the Ming Dynasty, long before Golf appeared at St Andrews – or anywhere else…

According to Wilkie, however, it’s the other way round. The game, says he, was actually brought to the Middle Kingdom from Scotland in 1421 by a Chinese junk squadron commanded by Admiral Zheng He. Apparently he, or rather He, came ashore at North Berwick, interrupted a   competition and made off to his Flagship with a clutch of balls, clubs and other golfing impedimenta, pursued into the surf by the furious locals.

The fact that the 10th hole at the ancient North Berwick Golf Club is actually called ‘Eastward Ho’ seems pretty conclusive – but we’ll see….

The Major’s Correspondence

Royal St. Luke’s Golf Club (est. 1603)

pulsa inveni repulsa

From:  The Secretary
Royal St Luke’s Clubhouse
Carrington Magna
Suffolk SU3 1GC

  Many and varied are the issues with which one has to deal as Secretary of a great golf Club. The vast majority of golfers have no idea of the sheer range of questions, complaints, suggestions and general idiocies which are brought up by Members and left for the Secretary to sort out. Many have nothing to do with golf and everything to do with the general lack of discipline, initiative & common sense which pervades this country in peacetime. Below are a selection of problems left, literally, at my office door by members too lazy, ignorant to fathom the answers or too frightened to come in….


My Dear Major ;

Following a major prostate operation last year, I have to wear a surgical appliance, namely an “ Alert! ” incontinence pad which incorporates a loud buzzer. When, alas, the pad becomes wet, the buzzer goes off for 60 seconds and can only be silenced by tearing off the pad and squeezing it. I have however trained Briggs, my caddy, to squeeze it into silence in situ but this involves pain and a certain amount of bellowing on my part.

Now, during a matchplay tie with Mr F.G. Hargreaves yesterday, my nervous tension triggered a repeated loss of continence. As a result the buzzer sounded on four separate occasions, each time (unfortunately) when Hargreaves was at the top of his backswing. I could see that this was causing him increasing irritation and when the thing went off again as he was addressing a left-to-right 4 footer on the 18th green, he exploded, accusing me of deliberate tactical buzzing i.e. cheating – and claimed the hole and the match. He refused to be reasonable afterwards in the Clubhouse, even pretending to be shocked when I approached him in Founder’s Room with the incontinence pad and demonstrated, using a noggin of Kummel, how the buzzing was triggered. My question is ; can a surgical appliance such as my this be considered an Outside Agency or is it an Unlawful Appurtenance ? I’m sure the R&A must have a ruling somewhere on this, given the degree of incontinence at the highest level at St Andrews.

Yours etc.,

R.A. Kingsbury.


Dear Kingsbury,

A difficult one. We can find no reference to Incontinence Pads, noisy or otherwise, in the published Decisions of the Rules of Golf Committees of the R&A /USGA. Therefore our Competitions Committee has ruled as follows ; your matchplay tie with F.G Gardiner shall be replayed ; in order to restore equity between you it is ordered that Gardiner, too, will wear an “ Alert ! ” incontinence pad which he will be permitted to trigger, without warning, an equal number of times to yourself. This will be achieved using a concealed waterbottle affixed to the inside of his trousers. In future, the Committee requests that you change to the Vibrapee appliance or, even better, to the Larkrise which emits a musical twittering identical to the song of the skylarks, which are such a joy on the links in summer. This is a sound at which no opponent could take offence, even if its source, arising from your nether regions, does appear to be somewhat singular…


Dear Major;

I see that the Club is to hold a “Burns Supper” in the Clubhouse on the 25th January chaired by Brigadier Hamish MacKenzie-Stuart . This would seem to be yet another example of cultural aggression by our Scottish members and I would like to know just what this long dead poet has to with golf. Where did he play ? Did he contribute anything to the game and why should we be subjected to an evening of screeching bagpipes, steaming haggises and endless recitations of incomprehensible “poetry” in praise of highland bogs, sheep and rodents. I suspect that this is retaliation for the recent discovery of the now famous window in Gloucester cathedral depicting golf in 1380 and the awful realisation by the shattered Jocks – that golf is actually an English game.

Yours etc.,

Henry Robinson

Dear Robinson ;

I have contacted the Brigadier to establish the relevance of Robert Burns to golf. Incidentally, I agree with you that we are essentially an English club although our founder, King James VI and I, was an emigrant from Edinburgh – and was en route to London in 1603 when he laid out our inaugural 12 holes.
Burns, the national poet of Scotland, was born in Ayrshire in 1759 and played most of his golf at Prestwick and Troon. He was later elected “poet laureate” of the R&A and won their Autumn Medal at St Andrews in 1792. Golfing references pepper his poems and songs. For example Tae a Featherie is a hymn of praise to the golfball he has been using for over a year, while the original of his great international song of parting is actually Auld Lang Syme, referring to his tall foursomes partner Andrew Syme. I actually rather enjoy his rollicking narrative poem Tam O. Shanter which describes a drunken golfer, Thomas Shanter, riding home in a thunderstorm from the AGM at Prestwick Golf Club and literally stumbling into a witches’ Sabbath midnight dance in a ruined church at Alloway. Attendance at the Burns Supper is not compulsory and the prospect of the massed pipe band of the Scots Brigade beating retreat on the clubhouse lawn is one which, as a soldier, I shall savour. Do come if you can and I fact I’ll put you down to propose a toast “ Golf – an English game ! ” and we’ll see if you get home alive – or even get to the end of the first sentence….

As ever,

RJM Warren-Dawlish. Secretary


The Major and the Balloon

The Royal & Ancient Clubhouse

The Secretary
St Andrew’s KA7 3ER
Fife, Scotland
June 22nd 2007

Dear Major Warren-Dawlish,

I write to thank you on behalf of the R&A for the most successful Open Final Qualifying event staged at Royal St Luke’s. Please convey to Admiral Boothby and his regiment of marshals, stewards and scorers our unreserved thanks for the military precision and civil efficiency of the entire operation. Would the Club be willing now to consider a formal request from the R&A to rejoin the Open Championship rota? It has now been over 20 years since St Luke’s withdrew following the riot in the tented village and I think tempers have cooled sufficiently on both sides for the matter to be revisited.

One incident from your Final Qualifying urgently needs to be cleared up. We have received a formal notice of proceedings from lawyers representing a Mr Shane Graham of the Suffolk hot-air Ballooning Club. It seems that, due to an unexpected change of wind, Mr Graham’s balloon, shaped apparently like a giant sauce bottle and emblazoned “ Ramage’s Brown Sauce ” drifted low across the course as play began on your final practice day. While Mr Graham was attempting to regain altitude by jettisoning ballast, he alleges that he became aware of a running figure below who repeatedly shouted and gesticulated up at him. This figure was tall and burly, seemed to be wearing a Panama hat and plus fours – and was carrying what Mr Graham initially believed to be a shooting stick.

The figure, still running and looking upwards, then fell head over heels through a gorse bush and into a bunker. Thereupon, alleges Mr Graham, there was a loud bang from below and his basket, balloon and bottom were peppered with buckshot. He has enclosed a photograph of his backside taken later at A&E at Suffolk Infirmary which seems, prima facie , to confirm this. Apparently the now punctured balloon leaked so much gas that its also punctured pilot had to make an emergency descent into Waveney marsh, where a hard landing in mud and razor reeds did nothing for his posterior injuries – or his temper.

We understand that repairs to the balloon (and to Mr Graham) will be expensive and that we are to be the subject of proceedings under, of all things, the Anti-Aircraft Artillery (Emergency Regulations) Act of 1940. This would be the first such action in peacetime and, as you’ll appreciate, is highly embarrassing to the R&A. I therefore asked one of our Members, Air Chief Marshal Sir Digby Gardiner, how we should respond. His opinion is that a hot air balloon – even if it is looks like a sauce bottle, a spark plug or even a giant nappy, is actually an aircraft under the terms of the Act and it is illegal to open fire on it – unless it has clearly shown “ hostile intent ”

We are thus in the difficult position of either paying compensation quietly to Mr Graham, or going to Court to show that we believed ourselves to be under attack by a flying sauce bottle. The press will have a field day.

Finally, since the description of the anti-aircraft gunner bears a remarkable similarity to yourself, perhaps you might favour us with your version of events….

Yours ever,

Charles Delacourt

Secretary, Championship Committee.

Royal St. Luke’s Golf Club (Est. 1603)

pulsa inveni repulsa

Dear Charley ,

What happened was this. I had been out on the course early with Williams, my caddy / beater, looking for snipe with my Purdey 12-bores when I saw the most extraordinary thing I’ve ever seen on a golf course. Over the hill to the landward side of the 12th rose a bloody great sauce bottle. Williams saw it first and was swearing never to touch drink again when I told him to shut up – because I could see it too. The next thing was that out of the basket below the bottle came a stream of bags of wet sand. I suppose in retrospect it was the balloonist chap tipping out the ballast, but in these circumstances one’s military training takes over. I shouted “ Take cover ! ” and released the safety catch on the shotgun. One was clearly under attack.

You can imagine the effect of 50 pound weights whistling down from 100 feet. The first one burst among the greenkeepers, the second went clean through the roof of the shelter beside the 14th green, and the next landed right in front of J.C. Materman of Sunningdale who was in the act of playing a shot. The ball went straight into the sandbag followed by his 5-iron, which broke and Materman is now in dispute with the R&A Rules Committee as to whether a wet sand bomb is, or is not, an Outside Agency. That aside, I kept pace with the thing which was now down to about 50 feet, shouting up at the chap to clear off. In response there was a deafening roar as he fired up some enormous primus stove-like flamethrower thing in the basket. At this point I fell over backwards into a bunker and the shotgun went off, just missing Williams but sending a blast of shot up into basket, balloon and driver.

He may sue us if he wishes but I will argue that the thing was clearly displaying hostile intent and I can tell you right now that we will be countersuing Ramages Sauces (which are actually rather good) for repairs to our bombed shelter. Come to think of it, Jack Materman’s a barrister and the very man to act for us. See you in court – and at Carnoustie.

Yours ever ,

RJM Warren-Dawlish



The Major and Lasers

Royal St. Luke’s Golf Club (est. 1603)

pulsa inveni repulsa


The Secretary
Royal St Luke’s Clubhouse
Carrington Magna
Suffolk SU3 1GC

Bombarded daily by members on issues ranging from Rules and etiquette to theoretical astrophysics, it was perhaps not surprising that the publication of my correspondence in these columns should add an extra – and indeed international – dimension to such queries. I seem to be becoming an amalgam of the Oracle of Delphi and Madame Strogoff, that palmist who does the pros before the Open. However, a long military and civilian life has given one a certain experience which may be of value to one’s fellow creatures as we struggle to make sense of the madness around us.


Major ;

I have finally accepted that the Universe originated in a Big Bang. Now, is it continuing to expand or does it contain sufficient mass that its gravity will eventually halt the expansion and then reverse it, leading to a Big Crunch. If so, when is this likely to happen ?

R.T. Gravell , Truro

Mr Gravell;

The Universe is almost certainly behaving as it should. Whether it ends in eerie cold void, expanding endlessly as the stars finally flicker out, or in a great crunch, this is unlikely to happen, I understand, for some 13.5 billion years. Perhaps a more immediate issue for your concern is the endless expansion of golf courses to accommodate the ridiculous increase in driving length. Now this really should lead to a seriously Big Crunch – preferably later this year. In fact, if the R&A won’t introduce the re-dimpled ( 275 yd. maximum) golf ball for the Open qualifying then I will – and you’ll hear the fallout in Truro. By the way, I think you’ll find it was a Big Bang that started the business.


Major ;

Is it possible to grow Clematis (Clematis Carcasana ) on a basically sandy soil with dung-based compost against a North-East facing wall in Suffolk ?

H. Farrer, Lowestoft.

Mr. Farrer ;




I understand that Royal St Luke’s has opened an extension to its Dormy House for the treatment of what, for want of a scientific term, may be called golf addiction. It is rumoured here in London that Dr. Karl-Heinz Kneipenhocke of Vienna is in charge and that treatment involves aversion therapy and electro-convulsive shocking. I would like to admit my husband to this facility. He has confessed his addiction and has made a Statement.

Frances C. Barrington (Mrs.)

Mrs Barrington;

We do indeed operate a rehab unit here but it is presently full and there is a 16-month waiting list. Dr Kneipenhocke will however see your husband for an initial assessment to determine if aversion therapy is required or whether he can be managed with substitution treatment. The latter involves the patient being gradually weaned off golf and onto crown-green bowling, accompanied by two burly male nurses. The process is backed up by drug therapy with Linkase, a drug which triggers palmar urticaria should a patient escape and grab hold of a golf club grip. This treatment is not available on the NHS which, I understand, only deals with darts and snooker addiction. You may be interested to know that over 90% of patients pass the Cambridge test after treatment in the Unit. This test involves their walking out past the St Luke’s clubhouse, going through the gates to the main road and standing for 30 minutes, in full view of the course, waiting for a Cambridge bus. If they can achieve this without breaking down or hurling themselves at the wrought iron railings which surround us, it’s a cure.


Dear Major ;

I understand that the PGA, astonishingly, have sanctioned the use of powerful laser rangefinders in professional tournaments under their control. I am no physicist, but the word in the clubhouse is that these contraptions are based on the death-ray now used by the military to fry enemy installations at great distances. I can remember when we simply looked at the distance to the green, gauged the windspeed and played. Then it was coloured sticks, yardages on sprinkler heads, booklets showing the distances to and from hazards – and now it’s this. Where will it all end ?

You know what happened here last year when we had that trial of lasers during three monthly medals. There was flashing all over the course, play slowed up damnably and there was that fight on the 14th green when RJ Pickett thrashed Lord Venner’s caddy for shining the red laser-spot on the ball as he addressed a putt. Such is the power of the laser gun that all sorts of chicanery are possible. Some joker managed to set fire to the backside of Henry Summers’s plus–fours last week, probably the same chap who scared the Captain witless by igniting his cigar from half a mile away.

You must have seen “Robocop” recently, Nigel Franklin’s caddy in his leathers and motorcycle helmet with tinted visor. He actually looks more and more like a mobile weatherstation. He has a helmet-mounted laser for the distances, while the revolving anemometer and weathervane on top of his head feed in the windspeed and direction. Rumour has it that his helmet visor has an ultraviolet capability allowing him, even in deep rough, to “see” his ball to which he is directed by a GPS system linked to 14 orbiting satellites, while the Stock Exchange prices endlessly roll across his head-up display. Major, please, don’t you think that it’s time that we went back to golf ?

T.R. Boyd


Dear Mr. Boyd;



RJM Warren-Dawlish