The word Caddie derives from the French word ‘le cadet’,
meaning ‘the boy’ or the youngest of the family. The word
‘cadet’ appears in
English from 1610 and the word ‘caddie’ or ‘cadie’ appears shortly after
that in 1634. Adopting French terms was not unusual for the Scots.
For example they adopted the term “Gardez-vous!” as ‘gardyloo’.
appears to be the origin of the speculative theory, promoted
by some, that
French military 'cadets' carried the clubs for the golfing royalty in France
and this practice came to Scotland
when Queen Mary Stuart returned
in 1561. Of course the military term 'cadet' has the
same origin, as these 'cadets' were often the younger sons of the aristocracy.
Caddy, Cadie or Caddie
became used for a general-purpose porter or errand boy in Scottish towns
in the18th Century, particularly used for
delivering water in the days before modern utilities. The Shorter Oxford
Dictionary records this use from 1730. Caddies are often mentioned carrying
golf clubs, but it was not until 1857 that the Dictionary ascribes the use
mainly to those carrying golf clubs. In the early days there were no bags
and the clubs were carried in bundle, which can be clearly seen in
paintings of the time.
The first named caddie was Andrew
Dickson, who would become an Edinburgh clubmaker, who caddied for the Duke of York
as a boy
in 1681 in the Duke's
golf match on Leith Links.
No certain etymology for the
“Fore!” has ever been agreed. The Shorter Oxford Dictionary records its
first use in 1878 as a warning cry to people in front of a golf stroke and,
like most people, believes it is an abbreviation of the word ‘before’.
There is an earlier reference in 1857 in a glossary of golfing terms. Its
origin appears to be bound up with that of the word Caddie.
Currently there are three serious explanations for the origins of term FORE!
Because golf balls were expensive, golfers employed ‘Forecaddies’ to
stand where the ball might land and reduce the number of lost balls, as is
done in tournaments today. In 1875, Robert
that Andrew Dickson performing this role for the Duke of York in 1681 and
describes it as “what is now commonly called a fore-caddie”.
It is probable that golfers called to their
“Forecaddie!”, who would always
be some distance ahead to draw attention to the fact the ball was coming and, in
time, this was shortened to “Fore!” The almost
contemporaneous appearance of the terms caddie, fore-caddie and fore!
theory over the others.
A second explanation derives from the military battle craft of musket
days, when rank after rank would fire fusillades, some over the heads of
those in front. It was speculated that the term Fore! might have been used
to warn those in front to keep their heads down. Modern historians pour cold
water on this theory, partly because it is difficult to relate it to a
Scottish golf connection and partly because the relevant military terms used
do not appear to be connected. However, this theory may in fact be a
misunderstanding of the theory below.
There is a third explanation, which appears
utterly implausible, but
which is an outside possibility. It derives from a story told by
John Knox (1505?-1572) the ‘hellfire’ protestant reformer. He tells the
tale, as only ‘hellfire’ preachers can, of someone arriving at the East Port
(east gate) of Leith. This story was noticed by Dr Neilson and
subsequently reported by
Robert Browning in his book 'History of Golf’
|‘One among many comes to the East Port of Leith, where lay two great pieces
of ordnance, and where their enemies were known to be, and cried to his
fellows that were at the gate making defence: "Ware Before!" and so fires
one great piece, and thereafter the other.'
could be derived from an artillery term warning gunners to stand clear.
This last explanation means, firstly, that the term “Ware Before!” (“Beware
Before!”) was foreshortened to “Fore!” (rather than “Ware!”) and, secondly,
it must have been sufficiently well known to be used by golfers.
Frankly, I had always thought only the ‘Forecaddie’ explanation was
plausible, until a construction company dug up a body next door to where I
work in Leith. It turned out the body was two thousand years old, but, more
importantly, it was lying next to the last and only known remnant of
Ramsay’s Fort, shown here in the picture. This was part of the great
fortifications that ringed Leith, including the aforementioned East Gate,
which were built by the French to withstand the Siege of Leith by the
English in 1560. The English did not take the fort, but the fortifications
were destroyed not long afterwards as part of the uneasy peace with England.
However, there are still two
hillocks on Leith Links, allegedly gun embankments called ‘Lady Fife’s Brae’ and ‘Giant’s Brae’
built by Sir William Pelham,
Captain of the English Pioneers, in 1560.
Giants Brae can be seen in the background of
shown on the history of Leith Links.
The pictured remains of Ramsay’s Fort have mostly been recovered
but the builders left a small pit so that top of part of
the wall can be seen in the car park of new flats on Tower Street.
Click picture for
The years that John Knox could have been in Leith to hear of the story of
the guns overlaps only this fort. Given the somewhat contrary nature of his
views, he was often either in exile, or a prisoner or latterly at Berwick
during his adult life.
In researching the history and layout of Ramsay’s Fort, it became clear that
the East Gate directly overlooked the Links where golfers were playing, as
best they could, among all the military preparations and sieges that went on
in the middle of the 16th Century.
The plan here is an 1830 depiction of the 1560 fortifications, but
mirrors earlier plans.
(Click picture for
larger image.) The last parts of the walls disappeared in early Victorian
times, when Leith Assembly rooms were built. Ramsay’s Fort was a
bastion on the right side of the river mouth. Most of the rest of the walls
were earthen works.
This shows the gunners and the golfers would have got to know each well as
they each practiced their arts at Leith Links. Today the north links is
built up, and only a small part of the south links remains
The noise of the gunnery practice would be remembered, if heard. It is
possible the gunners used the term to warn the golfers, when they were
practicing firing and the golfers then began to use it among themselves. The
golf players at Leith Links were influential people in political and golfing
terms. If they used the term, others would follow. However the fort was
destroyed after only a short number of years, so it could be the gunnery cry
lived on only in the memory of the golfers, which might explain why they
foreshortened the term to “Fore!” as a misremembering of the term.
It is one of many uncertainties in golf history, with which we must learn to
Website with more details of the Siege of Leith.
Top of page