Shaw’s Silver Quaich

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October 2015

Martin Pool, NWHP co-founder and newly elected Region 8 GCS Director, says he purchased this quaich from an antique dealer in Scotland. “It was presented to Robert B. Shaw as a trophy in 1864. A quaich is a small drinking vessel and the story told to me by the dealer was that it was traditional in Scotland, that after a round of golf, the winner of the competition had the honor of having the first drink out of the quaich whereupon it was passed around to others.”

“Far and Sure” is engraved on a banner on one handle, with thistles and crossed clubs on the other.

An inscription of the bottom of the bowl reads:

Presented by H. F. McLean, Esqr, W.S.
For competition & gained by Robert B. Shaw 1864

Pool explains that “W.S.” was an abbreviation of “Writer to the Signet,” meaning McLean was an officer of the court, more specifically, a solicitor entitled to supervise use of the King’s Signet, the private seal of the early Kings of Scots. Pool wondered who Shaw was and the nature of the contest he won. “The first clue was the sterling hallmark on the bottom of the quaich which turned out to be an Edinburgh mark from 1863/64,” he says. “Four golf clubs were active in and around Edinburgh at the time, but which one? By chance I came upon this line from a poem A Hundred Golfers from the book Golf: a Royal and Ancient Game, by Robert Clark, published 1875. The poem was penned in 1862, the right timeframe, and reads in part:

The Burgess are auldest of a’, of a’ –
Wi’ Robertson, Martin, an’ Shaw, an’ Shaw –

“Could this be my Shaw? Were there two Shaws? Certainly ‘the Burgess’ in the poem referred to the Edinburgh Burgess Golfing Society (now the Royal Burgess Golfing Society). Was it in fact the ‘auldest’ golfing society? Further research revealed that the Society, dating to 1735, was located in Edinburgh. As to it being the oldest, they appear to have as strong a claim as any.”

Pool emailed the Royal Burgess Golfing Society and was rewarded with the answers. A reference in their club book, The Chronicle of The Royal Burgess Golfing Society of Edinburgh, showed that Robert B. Shaw was the winner of the Spring Competition in 1867 and 1868. Shaw also was Secretary of the Club in 1864. H. F. McLean was the Captain of the Club in 1859.

“At the time, the Burgess played their golf on Bruntsfield Links in Edinburgh,” Pool says. “It is likely that the competition for this quaich was held there. It remains a mystery what the competition was as it is not mentioned in The Chronicle.”

Digging a little further, Pool found Mr. Shaw in The New Edinburgh, Leith, and County Business Directory, 1867-68, which lists a Robert B. Shaw as Assistant Clerk in the Office of the Bills and Sequestrations of the New Register House, residing in 52 Gilmore Place. This address still exists today, a drive and a long spoon shot from Bruntsfield Links!”

The mystery solved and a little more substance added to the next drink from the old silver quaich.