Keeping Up Appearances-How a Visit from a British Prime Minister Encouraged the Development of the Grand Falls Golf Club

In August of 1934 the current British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald visited Grand Falls and stayed at the Grand Falls House. While in town he played what is described as “some very rough golf on land which had been part of the Company Farm” with (Not Sir yet)  Vincent Jones, General manager of the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company. The St. John’s Daily News reported that the former PM had actually played 3 rounds of golf during his weeks stay at Grand Falls House. (http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~cannf/grandfalls_newspaper1934.htm)

Ramsay MacDonald Golfing.JPG
Ramsay MacDonald enjoying a round of golf (not in Grand Falls)

The old company farm at Rushy Pond had reportedly been used by company big wigs as a makeshift Golf course for a number of years. I have read or seen something that included a reference to it being used for golf while there were still dairy cows roaming the fields. The website for the Club states that “some local golf enthusiasts started a six hole golf course here in 1924” which means that for at least a couple of years grazing bovines were an extra hazard that had to be dealt with.  After the farm burned down in 1926 the future of the land was up in the air.“At the time it was still undecided whether the place should be made into a proper golf course or developed for agriculture. “ [i]

After leaving Newfoundland, Prime Minister MacDonald gave an interview with a paper in Halifax. In the interview he noted that he had played gold at Grand Falls on a course that had no greens. This statement found its way back to Lord Rothermere in London. Out of what was likely embarrassment the press baron gave the orders that the old farm at Rushy pond should have greens and “all other necessary improvements-including a club house.”

Ramsay Maconald at left 1934 visit to Newfoundland.jpg
 British Prime Minster Ramsay MacDonald seated at left during his visit to Newfoundland in 1934.

Within the next few years 9 proper holes, greens and a club house were built.  Less than ten years after the former British Prime Minister played a rough game of golf in the wilderness near Rushy Pond Bob Hope reportedly played the course, which he reported to have been the windiest course he had ever played. He obviously never played a  round in St. John’s.

As an interesting side note. At the same time Member of the British Public Schools Exploring Society were on an expedition in the vicinity of Great Rattling Brook and Gander Lake. Among them was Roald Dahl, Author of such classics as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, the Fantastic Mr. Fox  and the Big Friendly Giant. During their visit to the area this groups had a soccer match with the Grand Falls team, which was attended by the former Labor Prime Minister. MacDonald as a champion of Labor in Great Britain also met with Alphonsus Duggan and Banks Scott from the International Union of Pulp, Sulphite and Paper Mill Workers. ( http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~cannf/grandfalls_newspaper1934.htm) Ironically only a short distance from the Golf Course at Rushy Pond loggers and drivers, who would not be represented by a Union until over a year later, were cutting and driving for the some of the lowest wages they had ever earned (it was the middle of the Great Depression).

[i] Unpublished typescript History of Grand Falls and the AND Company. Archives and Special Collections MUN.

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