One Leeds GC mystery solved but another remains

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AN 18-carat gold cigar case presented to one of the founders of Leeds Golf Club more than 100 years ago is back in its possession - after some diligent detective work by secretary-manager Paul Mawman.

William Penrose-Green, Mayor of Leeds at the end of the 20th century, not only helped found the Cobble Hall club in 1896 but was also its President.

In 1911, to thank him for his service, he was presented with a gold, engraved cigar case and complementary gold matchbox case following a collection by its members.

Scroll forward more than a century, and Mr Mawman is left a message on his voice mail from a former member, Claude Sharp, saying he has something which he would like to give the club.

Intrigued, he dials the phone number only to hear the unobtainable tone.

Many an over-worked golf club secretary-manager would have let the matter lie there, but not Paul, who takes up the story.

“I checked the number and the dialling code appeared to be correct, and was for Banchory, in Aberdeen,” he says.

“I rang the local police station to ask if they knew of a Mr Claude Sharp, but because of the Data Protection Act they could not tell me.

“I decided to see if there was a golf club in Banchory, which there is, but when I rang them they said Claude Sharp was not among their members.”

At this point, the trail might have gone cold, until Banchory Golf Club played Dr Watson to Paul’s Sherlock Holmes.

“They told me there was a retirement residence down the road that had a nine-hole golf course attached to it.

“So I rang them, they said ‘Oh yes, we know Claude, he’s a wonderful gentleman,’ and gave me his number.”

It transpired that Mr Sharp, who is 95, had left all the correct digits in his voice mail message, but a few of them had been transposed.

Paul subsequently spoke to Mr Sharp, who originates from Leeds and was an eminent surgeon. So too were his father and grandfather, the latter being personal physician to Queen Victoria.

While a member of Leeds Golf Club, Mr Sharp was friends with William Penrose-Green’s daughter, Vera, and as a consequence of their 35-year friendship he was given the gold cigar and matchbox cases, which he wanted the club to have.

Paul visited Mr Sharp in Scotland to accept the donated items - and was also handed his next case.

For as well as the gifts presented to Mr Penrose-Green, Mr Sharp gave Paul a plinth and cup, the origins of which are clouded in mystery.

“It is inscribed with the letters MGC, which made me think it might be Moortown Golf Club, but it also has a date - 1901 - and Moortown wasn’t formed until 1909,” says Paul.

“Claude’s recollection of it is that it was called the Moortown Manor Cup, Moortown Manor being the name of the judge’s residence which is now on Stonegate Road. There used to be a small nine-hole golf course with it.”

So the initials do not match the name, and the plot thickens as the cup - which bears no inscription - does not fit snugly onto the base of the plinth.

“When you look at the quality of the craftsmanship from those days, this makes me think that it is not the original cup which sat on the plinth,” says Paul. “Also it’s not hallmarked in any way whereas the plinth is.”

The ‘Moortown Manor Cup’ has been given to the club by Mr Sharp on the understanding that it is played for annually some time around the Christmas and New Year period as he recalls this is when members of Leeds’s high society would assemble to contest the competition.

Paul was also handed a golf bag containing a set of hickory-shafted clubs which used to belong to Mr Sharp’s father.

“Not only did young Claude have to carry the clubs, but he also had to carry around the course a bag of wet sand which, in those days, was used to make a tee,” smiles Paul.

One request the club is loathe to meet is that each player in the resurrected Moortown Manor Cup tee off at the first hole using one of the hickory-shafted clubs, for fear they might be damaged.

“What we will do is have the clubs standing at the first tee, and each contestant will have their picture taken holding the set,” said Paul.

In the meanwhile, Paul is on the trail of the cigar case makers in the hope of learning more about its creation.

He would also like readers who may have any clues as to the Moortown Manor Cup’s origins - its plinth contains shields bearing initials, presumably of its winners - to contact the club.

“We believe the clubhouse engraved on the case is ours as it was at the time and the crest is the Penrose-Green family crest because it is not the club’s,” he says. “We don’t have a crest as such because we use the Leeds city crest. We are the only golf club allowed to use it, an honour granted us by the Mayor of the time – William Penrose-Green.

“I have checked the goldsmiths, Pearce & Sons Ltd of Leeds, York and Leicester. They do not exist in either Leeds or York, but they do in Leicester and I am hoping they might have archives which will tell us more about the cases.”

In the meanwhile, if you do have any clues as to the Moortown Manor Cup’s origins, please email Paul – secretary@leedsgolfclub.co.uk.

For more pictures, see the separate story on the Golf page.

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