Library gifted to R&A

Ex-Rangers chief helps build world’s largest golf book collection

Collector: Alastair Johnston (pic: R&A/Alastair Johnston)

Former Rangers chairman Alastair Johnston has helped establish the world’s largest collection of golf books by gifting his extensive library to the R&A in St Andrews.

A renowned book collector, Mr Johnston has amassed nearly 30,000 volumes since 1969, with the earliest one dating back to 1566.

His library features works by many of golf’s most prominent writers, players, historians, architects and biographers and he currently adds up to 800 new items to the collection each year.

Distinguished individual titles include ‘The Goff, An Heroi-Comical Poem in Three Cantos’, which was the first book devoted purely to golf and written by Thomas Mathison in 1743; and ‘Chronicles of Golf: 1457-1857’ which Johnston wrote with his father James F Johnston and is widely recognised as the seminal early history of the sport.

The library will remain at Mr Johnston’s home in Cleveland, Ohio while plans are made for its relocation to St Andrews, where it will be managed by the Museum and Heritage department of The R&A.

It will follow a planned redevelopment of the museum galleries ahead of the 150th Open over the famous Fife links in 2021.

The new library will be named the Alastair J Johnston Library and Martin Slumbers, chief executive of The R&A, said: “We are very grateful to Alastair for this generous gift.

“We are excited to continue his vision and support his desire to display this collection in its entirety in Scotland. I can think of no more appropriate place than St Andrews to create the world’s most comprehensive library of golf books.

“We are committed to nurturing the world-class status of the library and ensuring that Alastair’s legacy is maintained for the enjoyment of those who love this great sport.”

Mr Johnston, vice-chairman of IMG, said: “I am honoured that The R&A has accepted so gracefully the donation of my golf library.

“The commitment it is making to locate it in St Andrews, in the epicentre of the historical roots of the game of golf and provide future guardianship of so much that has been printed about it over the last 400 years or so, is very much appreciated.”

Mr Johnston succeeded David Murray as Rangers chairman in 2009 before being removed by Craig Whyte in 2011. He returned as a director in June 2017 following the departure of John Gilligan from the plc board.

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