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Brief History of the Society

The Society had its inception in the desire of Captains and Past Captains of the Clubs on Merseyside to meet in competition once a year and afterwards at dinner in order to continue the happy associations formed during their periods of office. The first meeting held on 17 June 1908 was at the instigation of the Woolton Golf Club which invited Captains and Past Captains from local Clubs to participate. The clubs represented were Birkdale, Bromborough, Chester, Formby, Freshfield, Hesketh, Heswall, Leasowe, New Brighton, Ormskirk, Royal Liverpool, Southport & Ainsdale, Wallasey, West Derby, West Lancashire and Woolton.

After the first World War the competition was revived and in the following years the honour of entertaining the Captains was held by the various Clubs in succession. In 1924 Mr Harry Hayco, an ex-Captain of the Huyton Club, presented a handsome trophy in the form of a silver cigar and cigarette box to be held by the Club of the winner of the Annual Competition. In 1939 the late Lord Leverhulme, then our Patron, presented a large silver salver which is now awarded to the Club returning the best aggregate of three individual returns at the competition.

Mr J F Clegg of Woolton was officially appointed Secretary in 1930 in order to give continuity to the series, and in the year 1938 the movement had progressed sufficiently for an advisory committee to recommend the formation of an organisation along the lines of of the Society of London Golf Captains (which was started in 1911), and the holding of an Annual Dinner apart from the competition.

The first of these Annual Dinners was held in the Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool on 23rd January 1939, when Mr Roland Marshall of the Royal Liverpool Club presided over an attendance of 56, and resolutions establishing the Society were duly passed. Mr J F Clegg was appointed the first Captain.

The outbreak of the second World War stopped the Society's activities until 1948, when the competition was revived at the Southport & Ainsdale Club and Mr Fred J Lees of the Prenton Club, who had for nine years held the dual position of Secretary and Treasurer, was made Captain. His place was taken by Mr G O Papworth, a Past Captain of the West Derby Club. The Annual Dinners were resumed in 1949 and have since become a colourful feature in the social life of Merseyside. In 1950 the Earl of Derby accepted our invitation to become the Patron of the Society in succession to the late Lord Leverhulme, a position he held until his death in November 1994.

An inter-Society match with the London Captains took place at the Formby Club in 1952 whilst their Autumn Competition was staged in our locality. A well-attended dinner followed, and the liaison proved so enjoyable that the encounters have continued intermittently. In similar manner we entertained the newly formed Manchester Society at Royal Birkdale in 1956 - since when this has become a keenly-fought annual contest for the Norman Stewart Shield, presented by the then Captain of the Society, Mr D Norman Stewart of the Royal Birkdale Club.

In 1966 a friendly association was formed with the Edinburgh & Lothians Captains' Society and occasional matches are played as opportunity offers itself during the Society's visits to Scotland for Autumn Meetings, and representatives exchange visits at the time of each Annual Dinner.

Mr William Lodge of the Bidston Club was elected Captain of the Society in 1958 after serving 6 years as Honorary Secretary and Treasurer. He was succeeded by Mr J Stanway Johnson of the Childwall Club who served (apart from his year of Captaincy in 1962/63) in these offices with distinction until 1993. On his retirement, Mr Stanway Johnson was presented with a specially commissioned plate and elected Honorary Life President, a position he held until his death in 1997. Mr J A B Johnson, although not a member of the Society, was appointed Honorary Secretary and Treasurer to succeed his father until his own retirement in 2003, after which he was elected an Honorary Member in 2004. Mr Eddy Hampson of the Bidston Club served as Honorary Secretary and Treasurer from 2003 to 2008 and was succeeded by Mr Peter Hurst of the Widnes Club.

In April 1994 Mr Stanway Johnson presented the President's Trophy in the form of a glass claret jug to be awarded as team prize at the Society's Autumn Meetings. In 1998 the Trophy was renamed the Jack Stanway Johnson Trophy.

The Autumn Meetings have become an increasingly  attractive feature of the Society's activities, being held initially at two year intervals from 1952 with a visit to the London area, but since 1965 these have continued on an annual basis with visits to various locations in the United Kingdom and Eire.

In 1978 Mr Ben Spaven of the Grange Park Club, a Past Captain of the Society, feeling that Captains of Clubs were progressively being appointed at an earlier age, donated a silver salver for competition amongst Society Members of of 65 years of age or more, the winner scoring the largest number of points (under the Stableford scoring system) at the Annual Competition.

In the year 1987 the Society mourned the loss of its Captain, Dr John Benstead of the Royal Birkdale Club. His widow Dr Nancy Benstead generously presented a Silver Salver to the Society. Designated as the John Benstead Trophy, the salver is presented to the player who has the highest number of Stableford points over the three rounds of golf at each Autumn Meeting.

In September 1998 the Society was presented with a Dublin Crystal Vase. Initially it was known as the 'Bord Failte Trophy' (played for as a 'best over 65 years of age' prize at the Autumn Meetings), but in 2003 the Trophy was renamed 'The Tom Wolfenden Trophy' in recognition of the outstanding service to the Society of its 1989 Captain.

Several Members have distinguished themselves in the wider sphere of golf outside the Society, details of which are included in the brief histories of the 27 constituent Clubs on this website and within the Society's Centenary Booklet "A Celebration of 100 Years 1908-2008". The author of the book, Geoffrey R Leece of the Huyton & Prescot Club, was elected an Honorary Life Member of the Society in 2008, and in the following year a similar tribute for services to the Society was paid to Mr Dennis Boardman of the Ashton-in-Makerfield Club. In April 2010 the Society was saddened at the death of John Wild, 65 years after his first reported death "killed in action" at Arnhem whilst serving as a glider pilot in the British Forces. However, he survived as a prisoner of war to become Captain of the Wigan Club, followed by further high office as Society Captain and Life Member, President of the Lancashire Union of Golf Clubs and President of the English Golf Union. His after dinner speeches entertained many hundreds of audiences and his death marked the end of an era of public speaking for which he had become renowned throughout the golfing world.

For many years the 1969 Captains played for a unique silver trophy which had been found for them by Bill Wilding, the Jeweller Captain of Southport & Ainsdale. It has a golfer climbing on one side of the cup, the devil climbing on the opposite side with the stem being a bag of clubs and the lid a golf green complete with hole and ball. The inscription around the ball was a mystery until Fred Aspden of Bromborough identified the words "Well could I curse away a winter's night though standing naked on a mountain top" as a Shakespearian quotation from Henry VI part 2. In 1983 the 1969 Captains unanimously agreed that on their demise as a Society their special trophy would be passed to the Senior Society with no restrictions as to its future use. Peter Wilson and Geoffrey Leece fulfilled this promise in 2009 by presenting the trophy to the Society and it is now competed for at the Annual Competition by the Past Captains of the Society and the reigning Club Captains of the year.

At the end of 2013 the Society lost two of its strongest supporters of Junior Golf with the deaths of Peter Dutton (Prenton) and Stuart Cookson (Heswall). Both had served as President of the Cheshire Union of Golf Clubs and of the English Golf Union, and Peter had also been Captain of the Society in 1972/73. 'Pop-up Pete', as he was affectionately known, was welcomed at numerous national golf matches and dinners in his later years.

Other now departed Union Presidents are Fred Caroe (Heswall), who had been President of Cheshire and Harold Winstanley (Ashton-in-Makerfield) who had served as Lancashire President. Harold was Captain of the Society in 1985/86 and returned to his official duties in the subsequent year following the death of his successor, John Benstead.

In June 2015 the Society was pleased to nominate for Honorary Membership Mr E Frank Smith of Gathurst. Frank was elected Captain of his club in 1966 and after enjoying golfing success at both his club and within the Society, became Captain of the Society in 1997 and has been Finance Chairman since 2004.

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