Michael Alexander chats to the founder of a charity which is using the legacy of golfing pioneers Young Tommy and Old Tom Morris of St Andrews to educate, empower and inspire youngsters today.
William Lumsden will never forget August 15 2013.
It was the day he injured his arm quite badly at the Bathgate steelworks where he worked and, facing a lengthy lay-off, he purchased a copy of Kevin Cook’s book ‘Tommy’s Honour’ from a local charity shop.
The book is the story of the famous father and son of golf, Tom and Tommy Morris of St Andrews who, in the late 1800’s, re-wrote the game of golf: technique, green-keeping, course design… much of which is still used today.
William, 49, had always been a keen golfer and was qualified to teach children the game.
However, the book brought to life William’s hometown of Whitburn’s link to the Morris family of St Andrews, through the marriage of four-times Open champion winner Tommy Morris and Margaret Drinnen on November 25 1874.
Having lived in the town of Whitburn all his life, William’s initial thought was “why was I not told of this growing up as a young boy”?
The answer lay in the fact that although a golfing celebrity the length of Britain, in 1874 and in the coal town within the parish of Whitburn he was just plain T Morris Jnr of St Andrews, golf ball maker.
Intrigued by Whitburn’s link to golfing history he read more on the famous family and after a chance knock at the door of the apartment above the Tom Morris Shop near St Andrews’ Old Course 18th green, he came face-to-face with Old Tom Morris’ great, great grand-daughter Sheila Walker, who invited him in.
William made another visit to St Andrews in June last year when he was invited to the premiere of the film Tommy’s Honour at the NPH Cinema.
And it was during this visit, after “blagging” his way in to the film’s after-show party, and inspired to set up his own charitable trust, that he secured the support of the film’s producer Jim Kreutzer and was given permission to use the name Tommy’s Honour Education Trust.
Now, William has organised an 85-mile charity walk from Whitburn to St Andrews between September 23 and 27 to raise awareness of the trust which, he hopes, will help raise the life aspirations of young people in and around West Lothian and elsewhere.
Significantly the start date will be the 150th anniversary of the day a young 17-year old Tommy Morris arrived at Prestwick with his father Tom and would win the first of his four Open Championships.
He is still the youngest winner of the Open Championship till this day. His father Tom finished in second place – a feat not likely to be repeated.
“The main purpose of the charity walk is to raise awareness of the Tommy’s Honour Education Trust and the trust’s mission which is to honour golf’s founding father and son, Tom and Tommy Morris of St Andrews, by using the legacy of their life-skills and pioneering spirit to educate, empower and inspire the next generation of children,” explains William.
“Having spoken to primary school teachers in my local area, they can teach about Robert Burns, they can teach about John Logie Baird and stuff like that – but they can’t teach about Tom and Tommy Morris because they don’t know about the link.
“But these men fall into the same category of Scottish pioneers. They are innovators, but the kids have missed out on learning about them because the teachers don’t know this.
“We feel passionately about the history and heritage. It’s using the game of golf to get into schools and playgrounds and using examples of the legacy from Tom and Tommy Morris where they displayed their life skills.
“So when young Tommy Morris walked into the R&A building and said ‘I’m going to be a golfer’, what we are saying to the children is ’what did it take for young Tommy Morris to do that’?
“If 99% say they want to be a caddie and 1% say they want to be a golfer, what does it take to be that 1%?
“It was confidence. And portraying your life skills through the legacy of Tom and Tommy Morris to inspire young people that they can do whatever they want to be not just in golf but in life in general.”