Walk around any town or city in Scotland and sooner rather than later you are likely to come across a sports club. Scotland is full of bowling greens, tennis courts and other sports venues often tucked away in otherwise residential areas. Similarly most community notice boards will have details of judo, karate, table tennis and badminton clubs that meet up in the local church hall or similar venue.
These clubs demonstrate the deep affinity that Scots have for sport. Many of these clubs were set up in the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries and so celebrated their centenaries fairly recently and as part of the celebrations a club history was often published. As well as the story of the club these histories collectively tell us about the development of sport and communities in Scotland.
The National Library of Scotland actively collect these histories and we have hundreds in the collections ranging across golf, shinty, athletics, bowling, cricket, boating, swimming, curling, rugby, football and almost any other sport you care to mention that is played in Scotland. If your uncle or aunt was a leading light in Unst Boating & Swimming Club or ran cross-country races with Edinburgh Southern Harriers their sporting achievements are likely to be recorded in the club history held by the Library.
Amongst the many club histories that we have are the following
Gullane Ladies’ Golf Club: the first hundred years. NLS shelfmark H4.204.0252
The cover of this book is an attractive oil painting of Miss Dorothy Stiles wearing a hat with a ribbon and with a golf bag slung over her shoulder. Painted in 1916 when Miss Stiles was 21 she was then honorary secretary of the Club and would later be Captain. The book tells the history of the Club and includes a lengthy section of biographies and portraits of honorary and notable members. These include Mildred ‘Babe’ Styles an American who caused a sensation when she won the British Ladies’ Championship at Gullane in 1947 wearing trousers which were not then considered suitable dress for ladies playing golf. A later and local member is Jayne Smith nee Ford who joined the Club as a junior in 1980. Jayne won the Scottish Ladies’ Championship in 1999 and also represented Scotland at many internationals. She said that competition was so strong at the Club with so many low handicap lady players that she found it easier to win the Scottish championship than the Club’s own championship.
Scotland’s first karate club / Dr Clive Layton. NLS shelfmark PB8.209.966/15
The title of this book begs the question where was Scotland’s first karate club? According to this book it was near Saltcoats on the North Ayrshire coast and it was established in 1961. This book tells the story of the club and of how Shotokan karate became established in Britain. It also has lots of photographs of club members wearing their Karategi, the formal Japanese name for Karate uniforms. The author is a respected expert on the history of karate in Britain.
Cathcart Bowling Club: a history 1889-1939. NLS shelfmark NE.13.e.27
Bowling clubs with their perfect greens and club houses are a common site throughout Scotland. We have many bowling club histories in the collections. This book sums up the early history of the Club and of Cathcart in a couple of sentences. “Fifty years ago Cathcart was not quite discovered, but a few villas had sprung up. Among those who had then made Cathcart their residence were several very enthusiastic and able bowlers, and it is therefore quite a natural sequence that a Bowling Green should have been thought of”.
You can also find histories of clubs for swimming in Edinburgh; football in Shetland, hockey in Dundee, curling at Airthrey and yachting in East Lothian and almost all possible variants of this list. We have many club histories but our collections are incomplete. Club histories are often only available locally or to club members so we don’t find out about them. We are keen to add any club histories we don’t have to the collections. If you know of any please get in touch with the Library.