Bertha Thompson is the most notable lady golfer in the history of the Beverley and East Riding Golf Club. Her parents were captain and ladies captain of the golf club in its very early years. Bertha was the winner of the British Ladies Open Championship in 1905. She was lady captain of the Beverley Golf Club in 1902 and the first unmarried lady captain. This is her story and that of her family.
Bertha Mildred Thompson was born in Terrington, Yorkshire in 1876; she was the daughter of George Arthur Thompson and Dora Cayley. Terrington is a village to the north of York and is about 3 miles west of Castle Howard. Bertha came to live in Beverley at the Register House in the middle of the town with her parents when her father was appointed Registrar of Deeds for the East Riding.
Bertha must have played golf at Beverley from its earliest days. The ladies section was established in 1895 and her mother was its third captain. Bertha’s sister Lilian also took up golf and took part with Bertha in the first recorded ladies’ event in 1897. Later in 1897, Bertha led the Beverley club to victory over the first recorded club match against Scarborough Ladies. In 1901 Bertha now 24 years old and with no defined occupation was to be found at the Rectory, Mavis Enderby, a tiny hamlet in Lincolnshire between Horncastle and Skegness. She was staying at the home of her aunt, her father’s sister, Isabel Maude, who in 1882 had married a clergyman, George Ward and were childless. It’s possible that Bertha was there for the golf as the village is less than 10 miles from Seacroft Golf Club, Skegness that opened in 1895. Mavis Enderby is an odd name for a village and so appears in a variety of contexts. It is the name of a character in Bridget Jones’s Diary. It is defined in Douglas Adams and John Lloyd’s book The Meaning of Liff as “The almost-completely-forgotten girlfriend from your distant past for whom your wife has a completely irrational jealousy and hatred”.
Yorkshire Ladies Golf Association
There were 47 members in the first year (1900). At the AGM in November it was resolved to buy by subscription a County Challenge Bowl to be competed for by the County members with a handicap limit of 18. The first Challenge Bowl Meeting was held at Ilkley in 1901. The entrance fee was 1/-.(£0.05p) Miss Bertha Thompson (Beverley) beat Miss Jackson also from Beverley by 4/3. In the following year she became lady captain of the club.
In 1902 the Yorkshire Union agreed to run a County Championship for the ladies prior to their own Championship. They offered a beautiful trophy of value 25 guineas. The format was to be 18 holes stroke-play followed by match-play for the ladies with the four lowest scores. The entrance was 2/6d. (£0.121 p). Eighteen ladies entered and the winner was Miss B. Thompson (Beverley) who overcame Miss H. Firth (Headingley) by 3&1.
The British Ladies Championship
In the year 1905, the Ladies’ British Open Championship was held at Cromer, by invitation of the committee, the competitors and LGU officers being made honorary members for the occasion. A strong team of lady golfers came over from the United States for the event, including the sisters Margaret and Harriet Curtis. In the final, Miss Bertha Thompson (Beverley and East Riding) played Miss M. E. Stuart (Royal Portrush). Miss Stuart was bunkered at the 16th and failed to get out after four shots, resulting in a win for Miss Thompson by 3 and 2.
The winner the previous year had been Lottie Dod who’d also won a grand slam singles tennis title at Wimbledon. In the following year Bertha lost by 4 and 3 to Mrs W (Alice) Kennion when the championship was played at Burnham and Berrow Golf Club in Somerset. Both the courses were links type courses. The four semi-finalists of 1906 are pictured below (left to right they are Mrs Kennin, Miss Dorothy Campbell, Mrs Simster and Miss Bertha Thompson); the photo is featured in a book “100 Years of Golf”:
Copy right PA Photos; an original may be purchased at http://www.mediastorehouse.com/pictures_1380148/golf-burnham.html
Bertha returned to Portrush in the Coronation Year of 1911 only to be beaten in the quarter final by Miss Violet Hezlet, a local player from a notable family of golfing women. Bertha had narrowly escaped defeat in the third round when she managed to win by one hole having been six down at the tenth against a Canadian opponent, Miss Pooley from British Columbia. Miss Hezlet was beaten in the final this year by Miss Dorothy Campbell who was based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Miss Campbell was the first and only person to hold the British, American and Canadian championships at the same time. Although a Canadian she was born in North Berwick Scotland where she learned her golf and emigrated to Canada in 1911.
Violet Hezlet’s sister was May Hezlet the author of an extremely influential book in 1904 on ladies golf which Bertha would no doubt have read. Alistair Cooke the late BBC correspondent recalls seeing the book thus:
“I came, the other day, on a publication called Ladies Golf, published in 1904. The frontispiece photograph is of the very fetching author, a former champ – Miss May Hezlet. You might think she was got up for a wedding in the Winter Palace at St Petersburg – a wide, cavalier fur hat, a gorgeous, all-embracing fur collar and a smashing long three quarter coat barely covering her sweeping voluminous gown. It is the preferred costume for a lady golfer. And inside there’s a big piece about summer costume – a huge, billowing skirt, great, fluffy, leg of mutton sleeves on a high-necked blouse. How any woman became a champion of anything, except tiddlywinks, is not explained.”
In 1909, Bertha took part in an international golf tournament between the 4 home countries, representing England. The tournament was reported in the Illustrated London News. The match was played at Birkdale and Scotland was victorious.
Bertha became a member at Scarborough GC (later Ganton) and Woodhall Spa – she played off scratch at all 3. She continued to enter the British Championship until WW1 and represented England in International matches from 1902 to 1911. She married in 1914 and was Lady Captain of Ganton GC in 1933 as Mrs M E Carrick. In 1936 she still held a handicap of 12.
In the 1911 census, Bertha was a visitor at Clevedon School, Ben Rhydding Drive, Ilkley. The school closed in 2005 when it was owned and run by the Licensed Victuallers Association. It is not apparent why she was there – was it to play golf at the nearby site of her winning achievement in the 1902 Yorkshire Ladies Championship? Or was she giving tuition to the pupils of the school? Unlikely since the oldest child would have been 11 years. The school in 1911 was run by two partners Sydney Kennington and Ernest William Stokoe, a bachelor. Sydney was born in Odsall, Nottinghamshire in about 1873 and died in 1943 in Lancing in Sussex at the age of 71. Sydney moved to the school between about 1907 and 1910 with his new wife Frances Maude Grant. They were married in 1905 in Tonbridge where their first child was born. Frances was born 1883 in Kent. Sydney had played cricket for Tonbridge School in 1891 without much success it would appear since he scored 4 and 0 in the two matches for which records exist.