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Golfing tribute to the oldest swinger in town

It is perhaps not the first place which comes to mind when you think about the home of golf.

But campaigners in Leith are hoping to highlight the area's historic links with the sport by teeing up a tribute to one of its early players.

Local residents hope to raise £150,000 for the creation of a tribute to John Rattray, an 18th century surgeon who became the signatory to the first-ever set of rules drawn up for the game, which were to form its basis for centuries to come.

Should the statue win the backing of city planners, campaigners hope to re-landscape part of Leith Links and erect it there.

A Jacobite sympathiser who tended to the wounded at the Battle of Prestonpans and was imprisoned after Culloden, Rattray was a member of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.

He also won the first competition held at Leith Links by the Gentleman Golfers of Leith in 1744.

Now local enthusiasts hope to recognise his contribution to the game by creating a lasting memorial to the man whose formalised rules were later adopted by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St Andrews.

Pat Denzler, chair of the Leith Rules Golf Society's statue committee, said Rattray was a "colourful character" who deserved to be remembered.

She said: "Rattray is very important because he was the first signatory to these rules. He's interesting because he was a surgeon but also a Jacobite sympathiser.

"We're very keen to have the statue up in time for the Open at Muirfield in 2013, but we're still trying to work through the legal process."

Born in 1707, Rattray joined Bonnie Prince Charlie's Jacobite army as a surgeon, eventually becoming surgeon-general and personal surgeon to the prince.

After the Battle of Culloden, Rattray surrendered to the Hanoverians and was imprisoned at Inverness, but was later released.

Sculptor David Annand has now produced a maquette giving an indication of how the finished statue will look, despite difficulties finding a likeness for Rattray.

Depute Lord Provost Rob Munn, a councillor for Leith, said there was a good deal of support in the area for the statue.

He said: "It would probably surprise a lot of people here that Leith is important in the history of golf, but we're quite hopeful that the statue will get the go-ahead, given the support the project has locally.

"There's an Act which lays down some stipulations on what can be built in parks in Edinburgh, but there is nothing about erecting statues in Leith Links."

Leith Rules Golf Society

Source: Chris Marshall,
Evening News, Wednesday, 26th January, 2011