Thursday, August 17, 2006

Finding Stanley Thompson….

The famous Banff model

Between the 1940’s and the 1970’s many amateur historians or collectors removed drawings and plans from clubs, particularly when the club showed no interest in preserving and keeping the documents. Sometimes they had the club’s blessing, sometimes they did not. Often they would take it home before it got tossed away. Other materials were archived and forgotten.

Finding Stanley Thompson’s missing documents has been my personal Holy Grail for well over 10 years. I share this obsession with other people including Bill Newton of the Stanley Thompson Society. Bill provided me with a window to what is lost, “When I was about nine or ten and on a visit to Uncle Stan at Dormie House, I remember his sand table where he sculpted holes, the large map of Canada with red pins marking his projects, and a paper mache model of a golf course. Many years later, I realized that it was of Banff. And years after that, I became haunted with the notion of it all lost along with other items. Consequently, I formed the Society with preservation as a primary objective.”

Big Baby at Jasper around opening

A year ago I was given a number of Stanley Thompson letters from a gentleman acting as an intermediary for a collector. I received the documents, digitally scanned them for distribution, and presented the originals to Karen Hewsen, the librarian and archivist at the RCGA, for preservation. It is my opinion that, if we are to understand the history of golf architecture, these historical pieces belong in public archives and not in private collections. Clubs and collectors may prefer to keep their originals, but with the current digital scanning technology, even a scan made available to the RCGA’s archives would help. The part that still haunts me is his collection he has all Stanley’s drawings including the water color and I dearly would like that to be available to the public again. Right now he won’t part with any of it.

Karen Hewson has speculated that the whole collection is sitting lost in the National Archives in a box waiting to some day be catalogued. I was hoping she was right, but Geoff Cornish had said in an interview done recently that they left everything behind when they moved to Dormie House. I fear that the models are most likely long gone because of this, but it has surfaced recently that the gentleman who owned/bought the office building did indeed go through his things and keep a few items. I understand John Smith from the Thompson Society has reportedly talked to him about acquiring the items. I would love to find out what he has even if there is no way for any of us to acquire the records – just so we know what is still around.

Routing plan for Highland Links

I’m very dependent on finding these items to do an accurate restoration work. It was photos donated by Paul MacNaughton to St. George’s Golf & Country Club that were instrumental in the accuracy of the bunker restoration work that I completed for St. George’s in 2002. The information in those photos contributed directly to the success of the project, giving important insights and valuable data that we otherwise would not have had. Craig Moore has just recently found a 1955 aerial of the Cutten Club that will make our restoration efforts far more accurate. Imagine a window into the course only two years after his death.

There is so much missing from his field note books (like Sunningdale’s) to his models (like Banff’s); is it in a dusty box or on the wall of a collector’s house. I sit and wonder.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ian congratulations on your work. For some reason, I decided to google myself and discovered your site. My father, Robert Ernest (Ernie) Macnaughton, saved the many photographs of St. George's for over sixty years. He is the one who deserves the credit for their existence. I only made them available.


Paul Macnaughton

P.S. note the small "n" in's a life long battle