The Portraits

Old Tom MorrisTom Morris Sr, 1903 by Sir George Reid


Old Tom (1821-1908) was reported to have said on seeing this portrait for the first time, “you’ve got the checks on my bunnet a’ wrang”.  Morris was born in St Andrews in 1821.  Apprenticed to Allan Robertson, he worked with him for 11 years. He established his own club and ball making business before moving to Prestwick, where he was employed as custodian of Prestwick Links.  Morris remained there for fourteen years.  He returned to St Andrews in 1864 and worked for The Royal and Ancient Golf Club as Keeper of the Links, a position he held for forty years.  Tom Morris won The Open Championship four times, in 1861, 1862, 1864 and 1867.  Until the emergence of his son Tommy, he was the best golfer of his day.  He died in 1908.

The portrait of Old Tom, which was painted by Sir George Reid (1841-1913), was commissioned in the autumn of 1902 and delivered to the Club the following spring.  Reid was President of the Royal Scottish Academy from 1891-1902 and was knighted in 1891.  He was paid £250 for the painting of Old Tom.


Sir Hugh Lyon PlayfairSir Hugh Lyon Playfair, 1851 by James Wilson


Playfair (1785-1861) was one of the most prominent figures in St Andrews during the 19th century.  Following a career in the Honourable East India Company’s Bengal Army, he returned home to St Andrews in 1832.  In 1835 he founded the Union Club and set up the Union Parlour as a clubhouse facility for golfers.  His efforts, in turn, led to the construction of The Royal and Ancient Clubhouse.  As Provost of St Andrews from 1842-1861 he was largely responsible for transforming the centre of St Andrews into a ‘modern’ town.  He oversaw many improvements to the area around the links.  In 1856, Playfair served as Captain of the Club and also received his knighthood.

The painting was purchased by the Union Club in 1851 for the sum of 20 guineas.  It was purchased on the condition that it would remain the property of the Union Club and that it would hang in their principal hall for all time.  The painting moved to the Clubhouse in 1854 and continues to hang in the big room.


John Whyte MelvilleJohn Whyte Melville, 1874 by Sir Francis Grant


Grant was President of the Royal Academy when he agreed to paint a portrait of his old friend, John Whyte Melville.  It was originally meant to be a three-quarter length portrait, costing the fairly expensive sum of 300 guineas, but Grant produced this magnificent full length portrait for the same price.  It was commissioned in 1874 by the Club and completed that same year, although the subscription fund was not closed until 1878. 

Known as the ‘father of the Club’, John Whyte Melville was a member for 67 years.  He has an enduring place in the Club’s history, having twice accepted the position of Captain, first in 1823 and again in 1883.  He died before he could take office the second time and it was left vacant in his memory.

Whyte Melville acted as Deputy for the Prince of Wales during the latter’s Captaincy in 1863.  Unable to attend the Autumn Meeting, Whyte Melville “struck off the first ball, thereby entitling His Royal Highness to the honour of gaining the Silver Club and the Royal Adelaide Medal”.

An enthusiastic, if not terribly proficient golfer, Whyte Melville was renowned for his waggle on the tee.  His son, George, was also a member and he in turn captained the Club in 1851.

Sir Francis Grant PRA, RSA (1803-1878) was born Edinburgh. A painter of portraits, sporting and equestrian subjects, he was the son of Francis Grant, Laird of Kilgraston and brother of General Sir James Hope Grant.  He originally trained for the Bar but had a passion for art and took up professional portraiture in 1834 after exhausting a patrimony of around £10,000.  By 1837 he was a leading London portraitist. His subjects included Queen Victoria, Sir Walter Scott, Benjamin Disraeli and Sir Edwin Landseer.  Grant was elected President of the Royal Academy in 1866.


Major George Whyte MelvilleMajor George Whyte Melville by Sir Francis Grant


George was the son of John Whyte Melville. He obtained a commission as a major in the Turkish Irregular Cavalry in the Crimea when war broke out in 1854.  He was also a well known Victorian author, writing twenty-four books; some were historical, while others gave an insight into society in the third quarter of the 19th century from the perspective of an English gentleman.  George captained the Club in 1851.  He died after falling from his horse whilst hunting on 5 December 1878.  The Fountain in Market Street, St Andrews, was erected in his memory.  It was completed under public subscription in October 1880.  George was buried in Tetbury and his resting place is marked in elaborate Victorian style, with two stone crosses.  A memorial was also erected in the Guards’ Chapel in London. 

The painting was first offered to the Club in 1911 for £50 and it was agreed that “the matter be postponed for further enquiries”.  There is no more mention of it until 1 March 1927, when a letter from Mr Harry G. Shields was submitted to the Committee of Management, offering the portrait to the Club as a gift.  It was duly accepted.


Allan RobertsonAllan Robertson (artist unknown)


Allan Robertson was born in 1815, and not only was he the leading player of his generation, he can be credited as being the first great professional.  He was also a renowned maker of feather balls, having learned the trade from his father and uncles. 

Robertson was responsible for the conversion of the Old Course to double greens in the winter of 1856-57.  He was held in very high regard by the Club members and was responsible for setting their handicaps for the Spring and Autumn Medal competitions throughout the 1850s.  

Robertson was such an outstanding golfer that in 1842 he was not allowed to play in a tournament.  According to a local newspaper, “Allan Robertson was prohibited by his brethren from competing for these stakes on account of his superior play, it being their impression that they would have no chance in any contest in which Allan took part”.

In 1858 Robertson went round the Old Course in 79, which included a 3 at the 18th; it was the first recorded round under 80.  His death from jaundice the following year, aged only forty-four, was much lamented.

The portrait was donated to the Club in 1905 by member, Patrick Murray.


Frederick Guthrie TaitFrederick Guthrie Tait, 1901 by John Henry Lorimer


Freddie Tait (1870-1900) was a leading amateur player.  He won the Amateur Championship in 1896 and 1898 and was runner-up in 1899.  He competed in The Open Championship on eight occasions, finishing third in 1896 and 1897.

Tait joined the Club in 1890 and won fifteen club medals between 1893 and 1899.  He was known for his chivalry on the course and was recognised as a hero in his day.  A lieutenant in the Black Watch, Tait was killed on 6 February 1900 at Koodoosberg Drift in the Boer War.  When he was found on the battlefield, there was a letter from home in his pocket with a paw mark of his terrier ‘Nails’, who is shown in the portrait.

Following Tait’s untimely death, Lorimer was commissioned by the Club to paint his portrait. The artist, whose brother was the renowned architect, Sir Robert Lorimer, worked from photographs.  He was paid £400 for the portrait, but the Club members were initially not happy with it and in October 1901 it was returned to the artist for unspecified ‘alterations’.



The Prince of WalesEdward, Prince of Wales by Sir William Orpen


Edward, Prince of Wales (1894-1972), later King Edward VIII, became Captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club in 1922.  A keen golfer, the twenty-eight year old Prince played with a 15 handicap.  

Around 6,000 people turned up to watch him drive into office on 27 September 1922.  When he competed in the Club’s medal competition later in the day, crowds of around 10,000 turned out to watch him play. During his stay, Edward also received an honorary degree from the University of St Andrews as well as the Freedom of St Andrews from the Town Council.  To mark his year as Captain, he gifted a Silver Club to the R&A.  This club is currently in use for the hanging of the balls presented by the Captain each year.

The R&A decided to honour their royal Captain by commissioning a portrait of him. Sir William Orpen (1878-1931) agreed to undertake the commission.  Born in Ireland, Orpen was a prominent artist and prolific portraitist, although he is perhaps best known as an official war artist.  He went to France in 1917 as a major in the Royal Army Service Corps.  He was also the official artist present at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.  Orpen received a KBE in 1918 for his work as a war artist and was elected to the Royal Academy the following year.

The financial arrangement between Orpen and the Club was quite unusual.  The artist agreed that his fee would be whatever sum was raised by the members, although he hoped it would be in the region of £1,000.  The club sought to raise the money through members’ subscriptions.  Appeals for funds were made in 1924 and 1925, by which time the portrait, commissioned in 1922, was still not complete.

Correspondence between the Club, the artist and the Prince of Wales’ secretary, suggests the portrait was delayed because of the difficulty in arranging sittings with the Prince.  There was further delay in 1927 when Orpen wrote to the Club saying he was dissatisfied with the portrait.  The artist offered either to refund £500, half of the commission fee, or be given the opportunity to modify the painting until he was satisfied with it.  He was asked to continue working on the portrait and by September 1927 it was complete.

The portrait shows the Prince of Wales dressed in fashionable golfing attire. Although the club had requested that the Prince pose in the traditional Captain’s red coat, his preference was to be shown wearing a knitted sweater and plus-fours. Apparently, the Prince’s response on seeing the painting was, ‘it’s a very nice picture of a pair of shoes’.

Willie Park SeniorWillie Park Sr by John AT Bonnar, 1890          


A leading player of his era, Willie Park Sr (1834-1903) was the winner of the first Open Championship in 1860, famously beating the favourite, Tom Morris Sr.  He went on to win it again in 1863, 1866 and 1875.

Edinburgh-based artist, John AT Bonnar, worked in both oil and watercolour and painted historical and figurative subjects.  His portrait of Willie Park stands 2.7m high x 1.78m wide.







The Great Triumvirate - Taylor, Braid and VardonThe Triumvirate by Clement Flower, 1913


JH Taylor, James Braid and Harry Vardon were three of the greatest players of their generation – and arguably of all time.  From 1894-1914 they secured sixteen Open Championship victories between them; Taylor and Braid won five times each and Vardon an unequalled six times.

The artist, Clement Flower, is known to have worked between 1899 and 1913.  He exhibited at the Royal Academy and was a scratch golfer.

The painting was offered to the Club in October 1964 for the sum of £100 and was finally purchased in November 1965.