• The Establishing of Winterfield Golf Course - 1934 and 1935
  • In early March 1934 Andrew Dishington was appointed Head Green Keeper at Winterfield then owned by Winterfield Golf Course Limited. Designed by James Braid the lay-out, still at an embryonic stage, was intended to provide an interesting challenge for both scratch players and long-handicapped men. There were few hazards so as to encourage each division of player. It was initially intended to permit play on Sundays with a view, to be open for season ticket holders, in the spring of 1935.

    On March 14th 1934 at a meeting in the Council Chambers chaired by Provost Sinton under discussion were communications from the Ratepayers Association and owning company. Winterfield Golf Course Limited pointed out that construction of the course had long passed the phase where any changes in layout would ruin the whole course. When open for play not only the butts but ground from Belhaven Beach to Dunbar would be open to golfers, visitors and townspeople alike. They also hoped that the development would be a definite asset to the town.

    The first Annual General Meeting of the Company chaired by Alan Cunningham was held, on Saturday the 21st April 1934, at the Craig-en-Gelt Hotel. The Chairman stated that a great deal of progress had been made on the establishment of the new course and he paid warm tributes both to the staff and seeds men Messrs Roughhead and Park from Haddington. Seconded by J.B.Stark the motion report and accounts were approved. Auditors C.P.R. MacPherson was re-appointed. Sir William Keith (whose mother Margaret, nee Drysdale, had St. Margaret’s built in 1909) enquired as to public access to the golf course and was told that apart from the right-of-way the area was private ground.

    On August the 7th 1934 Winterfield was thrown open for share-holders and their nominees. With recent heavy rain the course, although ‘bunker less’, was in remarkably good condition.

    The new golf course, official yardage 5500, was finally opened for play on the 30th March 1935. Season tickets were priced at 2 guineas and the first member was Mr J.W. Telfer.

    The official opening, by Provost A. Sinton, was on Wednesday (p.m) the 17th April of April 1935. Mr Sinton said it gave him great pleasure to be present and he was many who had cherished the idea, and been an enthusiastic supporter of, a golf course at the West-end of the town. The Provost also stated that the course, laid out to the plans of Braid, its directors and shareholders owed a debt of Mr St. Clair Cunningham for his enthusiastic work in connection with the golf course. He also frankly admitted that when Dunbar Town Council bought the public park it was the aim of many of them to buy Winterfield Mains and turn it into a municipal golf course but the Council took ‘cold feet’ and ‘the best laid schemes of men gang aft agley’.

    Following the opening ceremony an exhibition match took place between Andrew Dishington and Mr Denholm (a late replacement for Jack White), with a crowd of over one hundred spectators, Mr J.B.Johnstone (Bank Agent) officiating. Denholm was round in 75 (out in 39) with Dishington’s score being 78 (out in 38). The game was even after the outward half but the visitor started back much better. Both players had 5’s at the Wilkie Haugh (16th bogey 3) but with the home player driving out of bounds at the last that was the ‘end’ of the match.

    The Re-opening of Winterfield Golf Course - 1948

    Official Opening by Provost - (Haddingtonshire Courier 25th June 1948)
    The new municipal golf course at Winterfield Dunbar was officially opened by Provost A.J. Manderson on Wednesday afternoon, in presence of a large attendance of the public, including members and officials of Dunbar Town Council.

    Provost Manderson in declaring the course open for play said it was over 12 years since the Town Council first thought of a municipal golf course. Today, it was an accomplished fact, for Winterfield Mains, which included the former golf course, camping site and various buildings, was purchased by the Local Authority last year. The Town Council made the purchase in order to make available for all time the excellent facilities for recreation and sport which Winterfield afforded so perfectly. They took the view that the ground ought to be owned by the community for the enjoyment of residents and visitors. Under the Physical Training and Recreation (Scotland) Act 1937, the Town Council obtained a 50 per cent grant towards the initial cost of purchase and the cost of development of the land for public recreational facilities. It was of interest to note that this was the first occasion on which a Government grant had been obtained for a municipal golf course. Since the information became public other burghs similar to Dunbar had taken a great interest in the matter, so that they could say that Dunbar Town Council had in this respect created a precedent and had concluded a most satisfactory bargain. Provost Manderson paid tribute to the Town Clerk (Mr S.W. Brown) and stated that had it not been for him, they would not have been aware of the Act and it was due to his untiring efforts that they had secured the grant.

    Original Scheme Modified
    Continuing Provost Manderson said many would recall that in May of last year when the Town Council purchased the ground, Winterfield Mains could be described only as a wilderness, following upon its requisition by the military during the war. He felt that great credit was due to the Burgh Surveyor (Mr D.W. Murdoch) and his enthusiastic subordinates, who had expended a great deal of energy and initiative in having the golf course laid out in so short a time. The Secretary of State for Scotland had issued an instruction that 60 acres of the golf course must be cultivated, but the Town Council were eventually successful in reducing the area to be cultivated to 12 acres. This area from the west of the access road to St. Margaret’s would not be available to golfers this season or perhaps next, and the Town Council had to modify their original scheme accordingly. However, there was no doubt, that in due time, the 12 acres would be incorporated in the golf course, and he was sure that the extended facilities would be appreciated by all golfers. Provost Manderson said it was the intention of the Town Council to make all the sporting and recreational facilities available at Winterfield to the public at reasonable prices. It was neither the intention nor the policy of the Local Authority to make a profit at the expense of the ratepayers. Indeed, it might well be that these facilities would show a deficit in the annual accounts. This deficit, if it did arise would have to be met in the usual way by putting something on the rates, but the members of the Town Council were convinced that the benefits to be derived by the community both young and old would be more than ample compensation for a few coppers on the rates.

    On the call of Baillie Wm. Chapman Provost Manderson was cordially thanked for performing the opening ceremony. Provost Manderson then drove the first ball and later took part in a foursome’s match, his partner being Councillor A.D. Hunter and they played Councillor S. Maitland and the Burgh Surveyor.

    The course is of 18 holes and is 5000 yards in length. It is in excellent playing order, particularly as regards the fairways. The greens and tees will however require some further attention before they are up to the standard desired by the Town Council.

    A Former Member's Historical Perspective
    When one approaches Winterfield Golf Course, on a summers day, from a westerly direction what a marvelous vista enfolds. St. Margarets, the present clubhouse, stands out like a monolithic sentinel mistress of all she surveys. Twin-blue backdrops, an azure sky and cerulean sea, shimmering sands and verdant fairways create a picturesque setting by which even confirmed cynics and stoics have been heard to be impressed.

    Dunbar town council aquired the 70+ acres of Winterfield in 1935 and a municipal golf course run by the burgh was founded. The first greenkeeper-cum-”professional” was Henry Anderson from Gullane, but he soon went to pastures new and the incumbent of the position was Andrew Dishington – later to make his name at Dunbar Golf Course.

    The physical boundaries of the golf course were much the same as the present. The public park on its Eastern periphery, North and Back Roads to the South, Belhaven bay to the West and the esplanade wall, affording bield and providing the Northern boundary. Oddly enough the sea to the North of the Promenade was called the German Ocean (not the North Sea) during the mid-eighteenth century maybe as a strange foretaste of possible future events.

    Originally the layout of the “parkland” holes – today’s opening half – were quite different focusing on the old clubrooms, now part of the town’s rugby clubhouse, with the 1st hole running from a point behind the 7th tee to a green near the now 2nd. Subsequent holes on the front nine run in a direction counter to the present with a couple of pitch-and-putt par threes thrown in. The configuration of the, now inward half, the links area of the course in the thirties was not dissimilar to today’s excepting the 10th, 17th and 18th, which by more recent acquisition of extra ground were extended.

    When the golf course reopened in 1946 the course, or the upper half of it was radically transformed – gone were some acreage of the public park to the playing fields association for rugby and hockey pitches, and the layout as we know today was created. The hole sequence was different prior to the acquisition of St. Margaret’s (opened as clubhouse in 1973) the 7th was still the 1st and today’s 6th the eighteenth. Some minor hole sequence was affected during the seventies. Today’s 16th was temporarily the 1st but with the opening of the professionals shop in 1978 the “Wilkie” became the 1st Hole.

    Winterfield golf course was requisitioned during the second world war years and was closed between late 1939 and 46. Searchlights, troop barracking, look-out posts and many hundreds of anti tank blocks were emplaced.

    Winterfield Golf and Sports Club has had many creditable members, these include John Huggan Jnr – course record holder with a 61 – now a journalist and budding co-author with David Leadbetter, Stephen Easingwood, Raymond Russell and John Grant all good amateur golfers.

    Members play annually for an host of trophies ranging from the prestigious club championship played first in 1961 – when Jimmy “Hooky” Cameron defeated Bob “Trunk” Smith in the final – to more ephemeral monthly medals. Major amateur open competitions are played over Winterfield. Firstly the Craig-en-Gelt instituted in the early 30's, and coincidentally presented to the club by a Mrs Emily Craig is open to members and bona fide visitors. Secondly the St. Margaret’s Rosebowl (handicap) and Fiona Smeed Salver (scratch) played for first in 1973 to mark the opening of the new clubhouse and possibly, if not probably, the best sponsored amateur tournament in the Lothians. Thirdly the Belhaven Brewery Trophy(ies) generously donated in 1991 by the local brewery with complimentary “pie and pint” plus extravagant prizes to the fortunate few who play.

    Another highly prized item of silverware is the Wingate Cup an handicap matchplay competition. It was presented by general Sir Francis Reginald Wingate, governor general of the Sudan, Dunbar’s most famous adopted son who took a keen and active interest in golf. Under his aegis one of his protegees, a certain Mr Hastie a native of Dunbar, became professional at Gezira Club in central Cairo.

    The weather is particularly clement in East Lothian, Dunbar’s annual rainfall is 24 ins. (60cm) and the towns proud boast is that of sunshine capital of Scotland. However when the bar breeze blows and the prevalent south westerlies often do this, quite often Winterfield becomes a true test of Golf. In mitigation the trees at Belhaven School and the Promenade wall do offer some protection. The golf course has seldom, if ever, been closed because of frost/snow. Therefore one is guaranteed a feast of golf all year round.

    All in all if one enjoys a test of golf on a course steeped in history with both parkland and links style holes – more a walk than an hike – with excellent services in the bar, dining room and professional’s shop – Winterfield Golf Club merits more than a cursory glance.

    Mark Beattie



    St Clair Cunningham of West Barns

    The very idea of an open-handed courteous gentleman, ever ready unostentatiously to do well to those around him’.

    It would be easy to assume that the story of St Clair Cunningham is too good to be true and you would be right! St Clair was ‘a bit of a lad’ who had an eye for the women and enjoyed life to the full, a trait he passed down the line to his sons Norman and Hugh. He was also a man of routine, fastidious and punctilious. He always carried a large pocket watch and demanded absolute punctuality from everybody, a trait which drove the family demented.

    He knew all the train times from Dunbar Station and if a train left Dunbar Station ahead of its scheduled departure time, he would contact the Stationmaster.

    On one occasion St Clair arrived at Dunbar Station to find the train to Edinburgh had left a few minutes early. He created such a fuss that a special train was brought into service to run him to Edinburgh.

    Certain elements of the Usher family considered him to be a spendthrift especially with his wife’s money.

    East Lothian Club

    St Clair Cunningham first met Andrew Usher in the late 1870’s through their passion for golf and probably also through the family firm which supplied grain to many of the Edinburgh brewers and distillers. They were both members of the Old East Lothian Club originally known as the farmer’s club!

    The club was made up of farmers of the district and their Edinburgh friends. It appeared that the farmers raised Barley for the Edinburgh members who mostly were brewers and distillers! An early example of effective networking!

    Golf Background

    St Clair Cunningham was a member of many other golf clubs including The Honourable Company, Archerfield, The North Berwick New Club, Dunbar, East Linton and a founder member of the Luffness New Club.

    In 1881 and again in 1887, he won the scratch medal of the Archerfield Club, and in 1885 was a member of the quartet who won the Earl of Wemyss Challenge Cup, the premier trophy in East Lothian at the time, for that club. In 1893, he took over from Mr J A Begbie of Queenstonbank as secretary of the old established East Lothian Golf Club; an office he remained in until his death; the duties of which he discharged with great acceptance to the members. He won the scratch medal of the East Lothian club in 1886 and was elected its president in 1891, an office held previously by his father-in-law Andrew Usher.

    Hedderwick Hill Golf Course

    St Clair Cunningham was not only a keen and very capable golfer, but one who was ever desirous to advance the best interests of the game. One of the greatest benefits conferred on the district was the extensive improvement he effected on Hedderwick Links. Although golf at West Barns links was mentioned as early as 1794, there is no evidence that a golf course existed in a formal sense until St Clair Cunningham took a lease on the Hedderwick Hill farm and estate and laid out his own sporting 18 hole course (initially 9 holes). The committee of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, looking for suitable ground for their own private golf course, following their decision to remove from Musselburgh Links due to the chronic overcrowding, visited the site in 1890. They reported favourably on the ground, estimating it would give a course of about three miles and only finally rejecting it on the grounds of the lack of a railhead close by. This may have been when St Clair first became interested in the estate at Hedderwick Hill as he was a member of the Honourable Company and would have been aware of the visit and resulting feedback.

    Early maps of the area show the ground as ‘linky pasture’, an ideal natural terrain, which would not require a great deal of work to transform into a golf course.

    The course was situated on the ground, shown on modern maps as Hedderwick Hill Plantation, which is now part of the John Muir Country Park. The 18 holes were laid out on the west side of the links with many of the holes looking out over Tyninghame Bay. There was a little hexagonal starters hut located in the south east corner of the

    Links at the edge of a wood and adjacent to an area called Barnyard Park. Close by was the Hedderwick Burn known to the golfers as the ‘skittery burn’? A picture appears of a sporting course with a number of feature holes highlighting the round. The 1st tee was found sheltering at the corner of a Pine wood beside the starters hut with the player required to hit over a dyke onto rising ground with a further dyke up the right hand side. Part of the course was dominated by ‘Young’s Knowes’, a large formation of sand dunes as high as 70ft in places, much larger than those which remain today as much of the sand was excavated over the years and sent to a glassmaker in Fife. After the first hole the course continued on rising ground ‘cratered at the top’ and then zigzagged over ideal seaside turf interspersed with bent grass, bracken, hollows and tufts. A major challenge came at the 6th hole where the player stood on the tee facing a formidable bunker on rising ground surrounded by bent grass. The natural hazard which was close to the top of Young’s Knowes was likened to ‘Pandy’ (or pandemonium bunker) on the old Musselburgh Links. According to the Scotsman’s correspondent ‘a well struck ball over the guiding post should reach the green’, with a three being quite possible. Eventually the face of this enormous bunker was lined with railway sleepers more than likely to prevent deterioration due to the traffic attempting to remove from the hazard. Our correspondent ventured that a scratch player should reach the turn in 36 strokes. Midway through the second nine the player approached the ‘island hole’, a most spectacular challenge with the green located on a small island on the Hedderwick Sands with a few inches of water around the island at high tide. Although only a ‘half iron’ the green was reputed to be only 12ft in diameter requiring a very accurate shot to get home. A good drive was required to get back to the mainland on the next hole. The final challenge for the player was to come at the 18th hole. Although not a particularly long hole there was always much excitement due to the skittery burn running up the right hand side of the hole with bracken covered slopes at the burns edge. The 18th tee was located on the highest point of Young’s Knowes known as Ferny Hill to the locals. From this promontory the player could see all the hazards in front of him with the burn on the right and the wood beyond the green also out of bounds, nevertheless a well struck and accurate shot could get home and provide an exhilarating finish to the round.

    In the unselfish spirit which always characterised him, St Clair Cunningham gave permission to the fledgling East Linton Club to hold their competitions there, and, indeed welcomed all golfers in the district to a day on the green, which permission was largely taken advantage of. The members of the Dunbar and Berwickshire Yeomanry enjoyed this among the other privileges received at his hands and it was highly prized. To his own East Lothian club he gave an invitation to hold an annual meeting at Hedderwick, and enjoy hospitality for the day, this always being looked forward to as the brightest and happiest outing of the year.

    The Cunningham’s welcomed many famous guests including the top golfers of the day to Hedderwick and entertained on a lavish scale with a visitors book that reads like ‘who’s who’ of that era. Apart from contributions from the local clubs towards the wages of the keeper of the green and for purchasing new equipment, no charge was ever made to the golfers who played on the links. It was not unusual for the Cunningham’s to bring in the local hoteliers to provide the catering for their guests such was the scale of their entertaining.

    Other Cunningham Properties

    In March 1905 the Cunningham’s purchased the lands of Winterfield (with the trustee’s approval) for £8750. Further purchases took place including Rosebank House and grounds (opposite Seafield), a majority shareholding in the old Assembly Rooms in Dunbar and part of the lands at Tynefield to the west of Hedderwick Hill. This meant that the Cunningham’s controlled virtually all the coastal land from Tynefield in the West to Winterfield in the East. At this time St Clair became interested in the Salmon Fishing Coastal Netting Industry as he now had substantial fishing of his own.

    Death of St Clair Cunningham

    On the 5th November 1905, to avoid an early start on the Saturday, St Clair Cunningham drove over to Gullane from Hedderwick Hill on the Friday night. According to the minutes of the East Lothian Golf Club ‘he started about 4 o’clock but had not gone far before the most damnable storm of wind and snow and sleet and hail and rain arose that it had ever been his experience to face. The darkness was awful and even with a very fast horse it took him over two hours to reach Gullane, absolutely soaked and benumbed, with water sloshing about in the dog-cart more like a boat at sea, and clubs and kit-bag all to pulp. However, a warm welcome, a fine fire and a hot toddy soon put all right. At the Spring Meeting of the East Lothian Golf Club on Saturday 31st March 1906 he was not so fortunate. St Clair Cunningham caught a chill and this time it developed into Pneumonia resulting in his death two weeks later at March Hall House.

    His death caused a profound shock in the district and was widely deplored. Ninety carriages and many hundreds on foot followed his funeral cortege to his last resting place in the Grange cemetery in Edinburgh.

    St Clair Cunningham left personal estate valued at £37,897 (including £31,343 stock he held in J & J Cunningham Ltd).

    Post St Clair Cunningham Years

    Due to the generosity of Mrs St Clair Cunningham and her family, the links at Hedderwick continued as a private golf course, finally closing in 1937

    and shortly afterwards becoming a military training ground.

    The family generosity continued with Alan Cunningham gifting a bowling green to the village of West Barns in 1913.

    Mrs Cunningham and her family continued to welcome golfing guests to Hedderwick and now that her sons were of age the social scene continued even after an enforced break for World War 1.

    In 1932 Alan Cunningham brought the first Combine Harvester in the county to Hedderwick Hill farm. There is a counter claim that Balfour of Whittinghame had the first one but the Cunningham family insist he was second!

    Problems had been encountered at Winterfield Farm with tenant farmers and this led to a change of use for the land. In Dunbar a joint venture had been formed, eventually becoming The Winterfield Golf Course Company Ltd in 1933 with the chairman being Alan Cunningham. Alan was also one of the ‘Marriage Contract Trustees’ for the Cunningham estate and this led to negotiations to convert Winterfield Farm to a golf course. The trustees agreed to a 10 year lease of all the land to the North of Back Road at an annual rent of £250 (more than the farm rent) with the option to purchase at a price of £8000. This would prove to be the eventual death knell of Hedderwick Hill golf course. Winterfield Golf Course opened in March 1935.

    There was an alternative development proposed at the time to sell off the complete farm in large plots for the building of villas. This proposal was not popular with the hotels and guest houses on the West side of Dunbar. For many years they had cast envious looks at the likes of the Bellevue, Roxburghe Marine, Hillside and St George hotels which attracted many guests playing the Dunbar East Links. The Bayswell and Craig-en-Gelt hotels saw the building of a golf course on the west side of Dunbar as a great potential business asset. Much lobbying was done to ensure the golf course became a reality.

    Hedderwick Hill House was requisitioned in 1938 by the army although Mrs St Clair Cunningham was allowed to stay on. She remained in the house until her death in March 1951.

    In 1955 the Cunningham family finally left Hedderwick Hill.

    The house was taken over by the Cockburn family (well known wine merchants from Edinburgh) who stayed for a few years but the house was deteriorating rapidly due mainly to rising damp from the extensive basement and the decision was taken to demolish it.

    The house was finally demolished in 1961 by Brands of Dundee with a little help from the explosive experts in the Territorial Army. The vast majority of the stonework lies in the basement of the house although some of the more decorative parts can be seen adorning some of the local buildings.

    Researched and written by Jim Forson - 2007