Famous Musselburgh boozer Mrs Forman’s is brought back from the brink after public campaign
By Michael McEwan
PLANS to demolish the world’s oldest golf pub and replace it with new housing have been withdrawn following a public outcry.
Mrs Forman’s, which lies adjacent to the fourth hole at Musselburgh Links, was sold by its owners, Punch Taverns, to an Edinburgh-based property firm last year. New plans for the site were submitted to East Lothian Council in October, which would have seen the pub knocked down to make way for new housing.
These, however, were met with incredulity by local golf historians, who piled pressure on the architects behind the proposals, EMA Architecture and Design Limited, to reconsider. They subsequently agreed and, at the time of going to print, were understood to have submitted a new planning application which would retain the former pub but see it converted into a private house.
The building has been a permanent fixture on the site since 1822. It was originally known as Blucher Hall and was owned by George Forman. His wife, Marion, took over the running of it when George died and it became known as Mrs Forman’s thereafter. She ran the pub until her death in 1881.
It has catered to many of the game’s greats down the years, including the likes of Harry Vardon, James Braid and Ben Sayers. It was also involved in a controversial incident in 1870 during a high stakes ‘money match’ between Old Tom Morris from St Andrews and Musselurgh man Willie Park Snr.
A partisan crowd interfered with Old Tom’s play, causing officials to halt the match during the refreshment break in Mrs Forman’s. Park refused to accept that the umpire had the power to do that and went back to complete the match. The following day, when Old Tom walked the course and was declared the winner, Park arrested the stakes. In the end, the match was declared void.
Reacting to the initial news of plans to demolish the pub, Neil Laird of scottishgolfhistory.org said: “It came as a shock. It would have been a big loss to Musselburgh.
“Doubtless you can make more money from top-end housing, but that’s not to say the pub was not viable at a lower cost level.”
Laird added that the council should have investigated the possibility of a heritage group taking it over. “It would pay its way and still contribute to the local economy,” he said. “The National Trust own two pubs in London and Belfast, The George and The Crown. This pub is just as historic as they are.”
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