The inter-office matches were the highlight of the society’s golfing year, with a three-way competition between London, Manchester and Scotland. In those days there was no question of flying to Scotland. The team travelled by train to Edinburgh, with much team talk and tactics being discussed in the buffet during the long journey. Sometimes there was not a drop of scotch left on the train.
The inter-office matches had started with a casual inquiry from Manchester who were running a golfing section in connection with their sports club. Could they get together with London? So it was arranged in 1950 for Manchester to send down a team of 12, and the match took place at Coombe Wood.
It was such a successful get-together that Arthur Fuller announced that he would put up a cup for an annual competition, with four places available for members of the management in both teams, because business pressures might mean they would not be able to play in local competitions throughout the year to qualify. These then became the unwritten terms and conditions of the Arthur Fuller Cup.
The following year The Arthur Fuller Cup competition was played for the first time at Mere in Cheshire, and London won, the beginning of a long and successful competition.
Before that first match, Jerry Mellor, captain at the time, and secretary Jack Whitbourn sought an interview with the managing director, William McWhirter, to put him in the picture, expand on the value of good relations, and then suggest some financial assistance to make possible the first competition at Mere.
He authorised a generous allowance. On top of this, a levy was imposed on each player to give him a sense of independence and preclude anyone who might seek a free ride. This has remained throughout the years, and still operates today.
The Manchester golfers adopted the title, Northcliffe Golfing Society, and, for the next three or four years, venues alternated between courses near London and Manchester. The first official match in London was played at Walton Heath.
When the Scottish Daily Mail started up in Edinburgh, its team was included in the Arthur Fuller Cup competition, but they did not adopt the Northcliffe title. The matches took on an international flavour, and there was always a bit of needle, which was not the intention in the first place.
The first tripartite match was played at Barnton. To the Scotsmen, golf was a kind of war. So, it is that no surprise that Edinburgh’s name was repeated on the Arthur Fuller cup year after year for a long time. In Scotland the matches were played at Barnton, Dalmahoy and Gullane, while Mere,Wilmslow, Willingdon, Sandiways, Southport, Delamere and St Annes were some of the courses chosen by Manchester. In London, Walton Heath, Wentworth, The Addington, Thorndon Park and North Foreland hosted other battles.
Arthur Fuller attended all the matches and, playing off 11, could always be relied upon to win a few points. In London, visitors were met at King’s Cross and taken by taxi to the Regent and Strand Palace Hotels.
The following morning a coach took the teams to the match. As traffic became heavier, the police complained that the London’s rush hour was being brought to a standstill by the loading and waiting for latecomers. After this, hotels were chosen nearer the golf courses.
A ritual was established by Arthur Fuller of filling the cup with champagne and he picked up the bill.
Captain at this time was Tom King, an engineer’s assistant, and his election to the captaincy was a token of the society’s regard for him; he was a good golfer with a single figure handicap at Northwood Golf Club in Middlesex. How coincidental that years later another Northwood member, Garth Burden, should take over the role of captain.
During Tom King’s reign Arthur Fuller died, and not long afterwards Stuart McLean, another past captain, also died. This was an end to an era.