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Hong Kong Golf Club

The Fanlingerer is a good-tempered friendly animal originally found in large numbers swinging head down in the vicinity of the drink-holes in the New Territories of Hong Kong. Elderly specimens, mostly domesticated, can now be found ambling round the Links of many lands, lingering at times to greet each other with the old traditional cry “Festina Lente, Mo Kam Fai”.

The Fanlingerers was a charitable golf association of members and friends of the Royal Hong Kong Golf Club founded in St. Andrews in 1951 by the late Bob Young and his colleague Alex Mackenzie for the purpose of raising funds for the Scottish War Blinded through golf and good fellowship and in memory of happy days in Hong Kong and Fanling.

Bob was Captain of the Royal Hong Kong Golf Club in 1940 and his successor in 1941 was Alex who was subsequently blinded in the defence of Hong Kong while leading a patrol of the 2nd Battalion The Royal Scots against a Japanese occupied police post. He was an all round sportsman and after rehabilitation at the Scottish National Institution for War Blinded at Lindburn served for twenty years as Highlands Appeals Officer for that institution. He was elected first Taipan of the Fanlingerers in 1952 and it was a tribute to him and to those who suffered a similar affliction that the association was founded.

Membership originally consisted of Members of the Royal Hong Kong Golf Club of all nationalities, but it was subsequently established that the only qualifications required were to have played at least one round of golf at Fanling, contributed to the Society funds and purchased a tie. There was no requirement to be a member of the Club or indeed of any other Golf Club, nor to have been permanently resident in or posted to Hong Kong nor even a golfer at all; and there was no annual subscription.

With the 1939/45 War a still not too distant memory, with the rapid development of Hong Kong – then still a Crown Colony – as a successful and prosperous city state attracting expatriates to both expanding existing ’Hongs’ and newly established companies plus a steady stream of members of all the armed forces passing through the Hong Kong Garrison, membership grew rapidly and seems to have peaked at about 1600 by the nineties, located all over the world.

For such a large membership, the golf programme was very limited – one day at Fanling, one day at Kilspindie in Scotland, one day at Pulborough in England and latterly one day in Australia.

Up until the mid-eighties a sum in excess of £200,000 had been raised for the Scottish War Blinded at Lindburn. In 1987, however, that institution advised the Society that, while being enormously grateful for the substantial contributions made by the Fanlingerers over many years, the current situation with an ever decreasing number of war casualties no longer justified soliciting further donations from the Fanlingerers and other such charitable organisations and suggested that they might wish to consider placing their donations elsewhere.

At that stage, therefore, it could be reasonably claimed that the principal and original objective of the Society had been fully achieved. But a critical point had also been reached. After prolonged discussion, which included debate on whether it might be possible to agree some form of amalgamation with or affiliation to the China Golfing Society, its sister society with a substantially common membership, but with the same close association with Fanling and Hong Kong, it was finally decided that the Fanlingerers would not be disbanded but carry on regardless and that the same golf programme would be continued in support of other worthy charities with connections to Hong Kong – initially the Cheshire Homes and latterly the Gurkha Welfare Trust; the former benefitting to the extent of some £65,000 and the latter from the final disposal of funds.

Gradually, however, the interest in the attendance at both Golf Occasions in the UK where the bulk of the original membership had retired, declined and the exclusive day at Pulborough which has traditionally included a match against the China Golfing Society members present, became a joint event for the two Societies, before it too withered and died. For a while Scotland – perhaps due to the historical preponderance of hardy expatriate Scotsmen in Hong Kong – fared rather better with between 20 and 30 gradually ageing golfers turning up at Kilspindie and latterly Luffness well into the new millennium. Even so declining interest, increasing age, failing health, the cost of golf and a total absence of new members joining, eventually forced a further re-evaluation of the Society and what it stood for.

An exercise had recently been undertaken to up date and replenish the list of members and attempts were made to contact the some 1600 names on the books. About 800 replied with their current whereabouts while some 750 remained silent. The Taipan then wrote to the 800 contactable names setting out the situation as seen by a small evaluation committee with possible options for going ahead and trying to resuscitate the Society, but concluding with the recommendation that the Falingerers should be wound up and its funds disposed of appropriately. 66 members replied in writing or verbally and all of them were in favour of the recommendation. These figures spoke loudly for themselves.

Thus decisions were taken:

  1. To wind up the Society on 7th June 2006
  2. To hold a final Fanlingerers day at Luffness New Golf Club on the same date.
  3. To accept the generous offer of the Captain and Committee of the China Golfing Society to enrol any Fanlingerer not already a member of that Society without cost on application.
  4. To present two trophies to the China Golfing society for contest as Fanlingerers Trophies at one fixture in England ?? and one in Scotland.
  5. To dispose of the remaining assets to the winners of the various contests on the final Golf day.
  6. To return the original Tai Po Belle to the Hong Kong Golf Club for the annual Fanlingerers day.
  7. To donate all remaining funds to the Gurkha Welfare Trust ( the sum of £3458.99 donated.

The permanent association with the China Golfing Society was very much appreciated and it was particularly satisfying to discover that the very first Taipan of the Falingerers - the afore-mentioned Alex Mackenzie – had been offered and gratefully accepted Honorary Life Membership of the China Golfing Society in 1956

Many worthy Clubs, Societies and Associations have been established over the years as the need and desire for them was perceived at the time. As their purposes were served, as the world and circumstances changed, they quietly disappeared and their members looked in other directions or joined other organisations. The Fanglingerers was one of the best.

Festina Lente – Mo Kam Fai.

Footnote – It should be noted that although wound up in the UK the Fanlingerers still flourish in Hong Kong and Australia with at least one meeting per year in each Territory.