The Links area as we know it now is the last of what was the Burgh Muir – an area of rough grazing land and woodland which stretched from the city walls south to Blackford Hill.
In times gone by it was a place for drovers to graze their cattle and sheep before they went off to market – the nearby Warrender estates being an early home for the Highland Show. It was also the site of several quarry pits meeting the demand for building material as the city began its sprawl southward – a pit called Hunter’s Hollow can still clearly be seen near the Cycle Co-operative shop.
As its name suggests the area became and remains associated with the game of golf with the golfers gaining rights over other who wanted to graze or quarry – even horses were banned in case they ruined the turf! There are even claims (disputed by other parts of the city) that the game was first played here. One claim that does appear to hold sway is that it sites the oldest golf clubhouse in the world at the Golf Tavern which since the 1700s has been a place where the members of golfing societies met to quench their thirst.
Golf is, of course, still enjoyed here on the 36 holes of the Bruntsfield Short Hole Golf Club that run around the hollows of the north west part of the links. But what created these hollows? Were they sunk by the quarrymen or were they, as it has been suggested, dug to receive the victims of a great plague? The Burgh Muir is known to have been used as an early example of a quarantine area in attempts to protect the city.
Whatever lies beneath our feet today, the Links remains a much valued place to meet, to stroll, to exercise and to enjoy the green space around us.
Once again we are grateful to Peter Stubbs for access to his website archive EdinPhoto in order to provide the image below of what was then Boroughmuir School. The building overlooks Bruntsfield Links and we can see some golfers in the foreground. The building changed ownership several times – James Gillespie occupied it both as a hospital and a school. Was it perhaps the inspiration for the Marcia Blane School for Girls?
If the photo does prompt any reminiscences of Edinburgh Peter would be delighted to hear from you. His e-mail address is email@example.com. There are many more images on his website www.edinphoto.org.uk for you to enjoy.
We must also thank one of our readers, Mrs Sheila Gray, who kindly loaned us the photograph (right) of her great grandfather, Mr John Jeffrey, together with an accompanying press article, extracts of which are included on the next page to illustrate something of Mr Jeffrey’s remarkable story together with life around the Links.
Mr John Jeffrey, ‘The Father’ of Bruntsfield Links, died this week in his 96th year. He had been in a weak state of health for some years but up to the last he took a keen interest in the game of golf and Bruntsfield Links. He attributed his great age and his general state of health to the game, which he was wont to say was the best medicine he ever took. He was in middle – age before he began the game, though he soon became very proficient in it. At that time there were seven holes on Bruntsfield Links, and they required both ‘far and sure’ play.
Mr Jeffrey may be described as a ‘pawky’ player. He excelled in the short game, which was his special study but from the tee he drove a long ball and always kept the line. In this way he was able to play much stronger players than himself, and often came off victorious when victory was least expected. He always had a fondness for the round of short holes near Wright’s Houses. Night after night in the summer he could be seen there playing matches with such enthusiasts as the late Mr Francis Taylor and the late Mr James Marr. He followed the trade of a tanner during the day and only devoted his evenings to Bruntsfield Links, and he never dreamt of playing by lamp light.
By a curious coincidence he and the late Mr John Doleman were born within a few days of each other and it was their habit for many years to have a match on the birthday of one or the other. Mr Doleman could withi Mr Doleman could play the long game better than Mr Jeffrey, but the latter had the advantage in the short and won most of the birthday matches. It was a great sight to see the two old men at their game, and they generally had a big crowd following them.
When in 1906 the Bruntsfield Veteran Club was founded, the members elected Mr Jeffrey as their first captain, and he did not a little to strengthen the foundations of thus flourishing club. The title ‘The Father’ of Bruntsfield Links now falls to Mr Adam Walker who is in his 94th year. Coming to Edinburgh from Jedburgh he learned the game of Bruntsfield more than 70 years ago and is still able to play.
Mr John Jeffrey Born 1825, Died 1921.