The Author penned a fairly lengthy speech to make at his own book launch, but others conspired to fill the allotted time (given that the bookworm hordes were gathering, desperate to get their hands on the first editions), and as a consequence he had to make do with a reading from ‘The Boys Champion’. Fortunately, he did make an electronic copy, and it is reproduced here in full. Enjoy!
(For a PDF version, click here)
Frank Crowe Book Launch 18/11/19
Frank’s introductory speech (the one that got away)
Ladies and Gentleman
Many thanks for joining us today to launch what my publicist has called the book of the year. I am so glad that you have all fallen for the hype!
I am not saying it is great but since we are told we all have a book in us I am proud the venture has got this far.
Fulsome thanks go to Alastair Allanach who challenged me to write a golf story then once I’d produced a few became my project manager and editor. This really is the difficult bit and took much time and effort on Alastair’s part to spot the numerous dyslexic typos I sprinkled about the text to keep him awake.
He suggested the stories be less golf techy so they could be understood by a wider audience then he came up with a great idea linking the stories with a few common characters.
What a wonderful idea but difficult to keep the common features consistent. Recently I found out his idea was not an original one but dated back to at least Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes with Mrs Hudson, Inspector Lestrade, The Baker Street Irregulars and of course his cleverer Big Brother, Mycroft.
Worse was to follow, although Alastair said there was no market for golf stories and I would have to go it alone I happened to be driving up North the other week to see my latest grandchild when I heard an Arts programme on Radio Scotland hosted by the intrepid Janice Forsyth. One of the items was about 150 years of the People’s Friend. I remember as a boy my Granny used to avidly read the Francis Gay column every week.
Anyway a student was doing a Ph. D on the history of the People’s Friend from a social anthropological perspective but the current editor was more down to earth and said she wanted to uphold the magazine’s original aim to provide readable material for the newly literate masses both men and women.
Indeed she concluded by saying she was happy to consider stories from both men and women-if only I had known! I may yet try to interest them in the “Golfing Romance” story.
All you need to know is that we did it the hard way but the easiest bit was bashing out the first few stories which had been swimming about my head for over 20 years. Alastair’s encouragement came at a time when things were quiet at work about 2 Christmases ago.
“Close Encounters” involves a couple of rounds of golf with the strange-looking man 2nd left on the cover. The narrator, Jock in the middle of the motley crew, could be said to be my alter ego-we have little in common for one thing he is a better golfer than I ever was but as you will find out not as lucky in love!
In that regard thanks go to Rob Anderson for the illustrations who helped bring the stories and characters to life. I am sure those of you who have difficulty with the reading will appreciate all the cartoons, drawings and photographs sprinkled throughout the text.
“The Boys’ Champion” was born out of my keen following of the Scottish Boys’ Championship held each Easter back in the day at Dunbar. I was quite good at golf by 13, due to the lessons I received each summer at Balwearie Golf Club, but didn’t get the same chance when we moved to Edinburgh and as I describe in the non-fiction section I often played on my own and far from being “A good walk Spoiled” I could let my imagination run riot between shots before approaching the ball, selecting a club, visualising the perfect trajectory to the green and the flag, entering the zone and perfectly executing another turf before ball duff shot or a high soaring slice into thick rough etc.
When I wrote the “30’s Man” about the hon Ruraidh Morrison, a club member who looked like the Duke of Windsor, circa 1938, who dressed and lived accordingly, I think Alastair was captivated.
I don’t know how I came up with this character and can only think my starting point was my good friend Sheriff Nigel Morrison who doesn’t play golf but lives in New Town style in India Street, permanently clothed in a 3 piece suit, tie and cufflinks, but secretly wished he had been part of the Scottish Enlightenment and could have dressed as they did.
Alastair perhaps sensing my limited golfing abilities suggested I write a story about something I knew well such as a story about a court case with a golfing dimension. It would have been too easy with a slice like mine to have written about Jock hitting another golfer with his ball and getting sued or one about Club rules-but that would have been too close to home he said looking on the direction of the Royal Burgess!
[See Yuill Irvine v The Royal Burgess Golfing Society 2004 Scottish Civil Law Reports 386]
To develop the eponymous character I wrote a follow up to the “30’s Man” but stopped halfway through to write “A Golfing Life” about Jock’s father-the longest of the stories.
By then I had enough for a small book but wrote a few autobiographical items about my obsession for golf clubs as the key to improving my game. All I will say is that this tale is set against a 20 year period when I took very few golf lessons.
Never take a golf tip from a duffer but I offer you a proven way to cure your slice for £2 49-don’t tell your club pro however!
Much of the golf I have written about draws on 40 happy years living in Edinburgh. The idea of Silverfield was that it was loosely based upon where I played most of my golf-Silverknowes and Murrayfield but in truth most of the golf described appears to take place at Murrayfield, but I shall say no more.
My final rant is just that. Even if I have played over 50 years of indifferent golf I have had much enjoyment from the game and the people I have met on the course. As the popularity of the game appears to wane I suggest ways of tackling the time involved and the culture which often dissuade young people, especially women from enjoying the game. It is pleasing to see how Bruntsfield has recently developed their fine course and Mortonhall too. We are well endowed with great courses within a 25 mile radius of here and that includes some quirky holes at Silverknowes, that fine parkland links down the hill there by the Forth and of course the Braids.
I also have a bit to say about some of the friends, characters and playing partners who have helped me brave the elements and try to find that freshly sliced ball.
I am grateful to Gary Player writing a Foreword to this book. We have much in common-we played golf and won a few cups, ( see my meagre haul at page 263) we both did a few press ups (!) and crucially were both law graduates for Dundee University.
Thanks to Alastair for organising that one. Mr Player was invited to join us today but wisely has chosen to stay in the sunshine- I think he was somewhat disconcerted when he say the way my jersey hung over my svelte frame as depicted on page 264!
That photo and many others were taken by my old friend Ian Cowie who for many years was a BBC cameraman but needed all his camera gear and a fish eye lens @ 1/10.00th of a second to capture my backswing on page 174. Surely my position at the top of my swing isn’t as ugly as that!
Much of the book has been drawn from my tortured imagination but as I re-read the final proofs I realise my old next door neighbour from Kirkcaldy, Derek Small was, subliminally, an inspiration. He turned pro after a stellar amateur career, played on the European Tour and was club professional at Dunbar and Gifford; back in the day also taught at Sandy Lane in the Bahamas. If only I had not had such a misspent youth studying Pliny and horse racing form!
When on the topic of golf professionals honourable mention must go to Colin Brooks. As long time pro at Braid Hills Golf Centre he gave me a free golf lesson one snowy day that was so good, I never went back! I would also like to mention the guys from Golf Clubs 4 Cash as they helped me cure my golf club buying habit by relieving me of many treasured items which had been in the attic too long. Some they bought from me for more than I paid for them!
I can only dream that in times to come tourists will flock to George IV Bridge, not as part of the JK Rowling Heritage tour to take a photograph outside the Elephant House café, the supposed birth place of Harry Potter, but to the Outsider Restaurant, a few doors up where this book was conceived with Alastair over a few working lunches at the owner’s special table. I am pleased that Javier, the manager, is here today to represent the team.
Gary Player has given to many charitable causes and was pleased to note that all of the proceeds from this edition would go to charity. Linda Bendle and I are both committed to community justice and the reform of offenders particularly those who have succumbed to drink or drug abuse.
Linda and Jordan Butler are here today to highlight the work they are doing in Heavy Sound to interest teenagers in music who are in danger of falling into a life of crime or gang violence. You may have heard of the buses they are fitting out to offer recording and other services to young people so that they may direct their energies into something useful and character building. Their website says “The Heavy Sound Community Action Bus is a Partnership between Heavy Sound, The Scottish Prison Service and the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit, supported by STV Children’s Appeal and Edinburgh Kilt Walk to turn an out-of-service single decker into a mobile community outreach unit”.
The book is free as a gift to you for coming to this launch but if you wish to make a contribution of £10-15 all of this will go to the charity to further their works.
Finally I would like to thank my good friend and golf partner Moly McMillan and his wife Fran who have travelled up from Devon for this launch. Moly was kind enough to write a foreword based up his first- hand experience of my limited golfing skills. He has kindly agreed to MC to today and do a Q and A with me before I read a wee bit from the book hopefully to whet your appetite or at least spare you bother of reading that page! Fran will help with handing out copies of the books and collecting any donations you wish to make.