This is the fourth post in a weekly series highlighting images featuring at the upcoming St Andrews Photography Festival, 1 August – 11 September 2016 [https://www.facebook.com/StAndPhotoFest].
Four gentlemen golfers in their car outside the New Club; one of the gentlemen is Willie Rusack. 1904 (GMC-F-28).
There are myriad reasons why this particular image is such a favourite among the Photographic Team of Special Collections. First among them is the simple magnificence of the captured scene: four well-to-do gentlemen in a cherished car with bags of clubs next to the 18th fairway of The Old Course captures the mood of early Edwardian gentry. Couple this with the sheer rakishness of the human subjects and a different caption could be applied: ‘Lock up your daughters, the boys are back in town.’
Yet the image tells a much broader story than that afforded by a simple snapshot of a sunny day in St Andrews: that of the transient nature of so many people in the town. Since the twelfth century at least, our town has been a destination for pilgrims – originally they were religious treks and very profitable for the town, numbered in the tens of thousands per year.
Little has changed in the intervening period: while the religious fervour and fear of purgatory died down, a new icon arose to replace the battered cathedral as a focal point – The Old Course. While the University managed to survive reformation and geographic isolation (and is now entering its seventh century), it is golf that has afforded the town its place in global consciousness.
The explosion of golf coincided with the railway revolution and St Andrews ceased to be ‘the darkest corner of the earth’ and a miserable place to be avoided (according to Dr Samuel Johnson); instead it became the home of golf and the centre of a multi-billion pound industry – something that the astute Rusack Family recognised when their hotel opened in 1887.
Golf Collections Project Cataloguer
n.b. Special mention to Eddie Martin of Special Collections for the excellent scan made of this glass plate negative – so good that even the make and size of tyre can be made out.
There will be a talk about the Golf Photographic Collection of the University of St Andrews Library at the Rusacks Hotel on 30 Aug from 4-5pm [https://www.facebook.com/events/1153833337971181/].