A History of the Grey Nags
At the Grey Nags Summer Presentation Lunch in June 2011 Harry Barber, one of the longest serving members of the Grey Nags presented and distributed a history of the group. With his permission, we produce an edited version here.
He began as follows . . . .
The Grey Nags
When did it all begin ?
These frequently asked questions have prompted me to gather together a collection of what I have recorded or can remember during many years as a member of the Grey Nags.
Hopefully there are some useful facts and also some tit-bits, which may add to the story of why it has all added up to a very happy experience.
Only with the very valuable help of Mrs Audrey McDonald, a member of Leamington & County Golf Club since 1955, has it been possible to answer the first question.Harry Barber – 2011
Around 1970, Cyril Gutteridge was in the practice of driving his wife to the golf club each Tuesday (Ladies day), returning some hours later to collect her after the ladies had enjoyed their morning. There being relatively few retired gentlemen, someone suggested that it would be ‘domestically’ sensible for those whose wives also played golf to get together on a Tuesday, probably occupying the 10th tee.
This arrangement then became the norm, and then developed into ‘any retired member’ turning up on a Tuesday morning, allowing the make-up of spontaneous fourballs. Stakes of half-a-crown for a win and sixpence for birdies and oozlers being the rule.(Decimal currency commenced 15 February1971)
By 1972 there were enough members to prompt permission being obtained from the Club committee for three inter-club matches and arrangements were made with Moor Hall, Ladbrook Park and Broadway. The following season a wider fixture list was allowed and this led to the feeling that the section should have a name.
Initially “Grey Nags” (a team had been seen with this name at a hockey fixture) as a title did not survive for long as “Old Grey Nags” was better suited to a design for a tie that was being prepared. Membership at this time had reached 17.
By 1976 the membership had increased to 24 and there were discussions about whether membership should be limited at this number. It was agreed that any retired club member turning up on a Tuesday would be welcome to play. It was also decided that three medal rounds should be arranged within the group so that members could retain their handicaps without entering club competitions.
In 1981 this membership limit was ended, following the general feeling that any retired club member wishing to join should be welcomed provided he was willing to fall in with the wishes and agreed conditions. At the society’s A.G.M. that year the Treasurer advised that the year end balance was £2-00!
In 1982 it was suggested that each member should pay an annual subscription so that the Treasurer should not have to finance any lunch expenses out of his own pocket! After discussion a figure of £1-00 was agreed. Membership at this time (appeared to be) 35 plus 2 non playing.
By 1983 membership had again increased, prompting the Gray Nags Captain to ask permission for both tees to be used on Tuesday mornings. It was also proposed that year that the Grey Nags should apply to be recognised as a section of the Golf Club and be officially represented at main committee meetings. The treasurer reported an end year credit of £40-79 plus 4 ties in spite of paying for the wine at the Christmas lunch. Four medal rounds per year were to be arranged to help members with their handicaps.
In 1984 it was reported that membership was now 57 including 5 ex Presidents and 5 ex Captains of the Club. The club had recently agreed to Eric Woodward’s request that the Nags be permitted to start off both tees on Grey Nags day.
In 1985 the withdrawal of the half pence coin from circulation brought great debate over important question of the stakes for Tuesday mornings. After some thought and discussion it was decided that the stakes should be 12 new pence with 2 new pence for birdies and oozlers.
At the 1986 AGM of the society it was noted that it had “now become possible to have AGM minutes typed rather that hand-written.” Decisions were made concerning the “Starter” for the weekly golf. It was agreed that Starters should be drawn from the names of all Nags, and that the Starter was permitted to arrange a ‘running mate’ in order to ensure that the Starter himself would be guaranteed to have a game.
In 1987 the annual subscription was increased from £1-00 to £2-00 and in response to the Club’s Tree Appeal a total of £170 had been subscribed. A suitable plaque was to be located in the area planted. The treasurer reported that £62-00 had been allocated to the Christmas lunches (Wine!) 20 new ties had been ordered with the amended motif excluding the word ‘Old’!
The outgoing captain in 1990 (Vic Styles) apologised to all his playing partners throughout the year because of his difficulty in hearing and hoped they would understand why he was always striding ahead of them in a quiet world of his own.
In 1991 the Grey NAGS donated £100 to the Club for a flowerbed in the car park. Due to the continued growth in membership of the society the Club Ladies Captain requested that the Grey Nags consider moving from a Tuesday morning (Ladies Day) to another day of the week. It would seem that it took some time for this proposal to become a reality, as it was not until 2003 that there is a record of the day changing from Tuesday to Thursday.
The AGM of 1995 was clearly a riotous affair – occasioned by Ex-Captain Vic Styles (mentioned above) who proposed that the weekly stakes for matches be increased from 12p and 2p to 15p and 5p. Frank Greenhill responded by expressing outrage at what amounted to a 25% and 150% increase respectively at a time when a considerable effort at both Club and National level had been aimed at limiting the increase in our cost of living and inflation. He also saddened us all by revealing the very personal details of his own depressing financial situation and the very hard work now required of his good wife in order to maintain him at anything like a dignified standard of dress and to ensure that he is adequately fed and watered. Vic had, by then, hurriedly departed and due to the increasing level of uproar and indignation at his proposal it was quite impossible for a voting procedure to take place.
Winners of the newly organised 4 ball K.O., Gordon Markham and Ron Clayton, kindly returned their prize money as a donation for a suitable trophy and subsequent to this, Eric Jones and Jim Lord made a similar donation of their prize money to provide a suitable plinth for the trophy.
Another event during this year is worthy of mention.
On 28 October the Grey Nags were invited to assemble on the old 18th green where a visiting official of the Sports Turf Research Association was to outline aspects of golf course management.
The following is a record of quick notes made during this visit.
L&C Greens have existed for up to 90 years (?) and were not built to modern specifications. They were built for a level of use that was much lower than that which applies today. A golf green is an artificial surface where grass is not allowed to grow naturally and it is likely that within 20 years L&C greens will have to be rebuilt. The current cost of rebuilding is between £20,000 and £35,000 per green but could be as low as £12,000 if much of the work is done on a DIY basis. New greens can be built and in play again between autumn and spring. (Even if not fully in play!)
L&C, in common with many other clubs, suffers from the spread of annual meadow grass, which is shallow rooted, it needs more water, it produces thatch, and it seeds at even the minimum height of cut and is very susceptible to Fusarium.
Our recent verti-draining has produced roots to a depth of five inches but only in the actual tines. The tining is at different depths up to a maximum of ten inches. Redditch GC is now replacing a minimum of five greens each year. Diseases have now appeared on golf courses that have never been seen before. (Remember the recent major event on TV that had greens with extensive brown patches.) Some diseases can spread across a green within a few days.
In 1996 a definition of our ‘hole in one’ rule was deemed appropriate and was agreed as:-
‘A paid up member achieving a hole in one at any accepted Grey Nags Day and choosing to recognise the traditional ‘drinks all round’ upon his return to the clubhouse shall receive a contribution of £25 from the Grey Nags funds. An “accepted Grey Nags day” is defined as any of our normal Tuesdays (now Thursdays) including the regular competitions except the 4 balls K.O. as this is not normally played on a Grey Nags day.
The qualification extends to those members who play 9 holes only. Matches home or away also qualify.
In the same year membership rules of the society were also discussed and agreed as follows:-
- Full membership limited to 60 years of age and wholly or partly retired.
- Apprentice membership MAY be permitted to those who are 55 years of age and FULLY retired.
- Apprentice membership attracts the same fees as full membership but does not allow entry into matches. Entry into Grey Nags competitions may be limited and, in any event, with the exception of the 4 ball K.O. apprentices are not eligible for prizes.
In the following year the members were asked to consider extending Honorary Membership to those attaining 80 years of age. (Agreed at the 1998 AGM)
In the AGM of 2002 the issue of the wearing of ties once more raised its head – as the following note illustrates! “After the discontinuation of tie fines for one year that resulted in an increase in members flouting the rule, a vote by show of hands resulted in the agreement, with only one exception, to reinstate the practice and a fine of £1-00 in future to be donated to the Captain’s charity.”
Harry Barber concluded his written history as follows:-
It is also interesting to note that our membership increased from 17 to 104 in the first 20 years and from 105 to 120 during the next 15 years.
Finally, grateful thanks to those gentlemen who laid such sound ‘Grey Nags’ foundations back in 1970 and to all those who have given of their time and expertise in consolidating the Society that we have today.
Harry Barber - February 2011.
Gray Nags 2011 Captain David Thistlethwaite thanks Harry Barber for the “History of the Nags”