In the early 1800s with its racecourse and increasing patronage of some of the finest Edinburgh Golf Societies, Musselburgh Links was becoming a very busy place.
Around this time in 1822 George Forman, a young man from nearby Prestonpans saw an opportunity and purchased a piece of land at the eastern edge of the Links; on this land the shrewd Mr Forman built this public house. At the time there was little or no housing in this part of Musselburgh, George intended to make his living providing refreshments to those enjoying the Links. His business instinct proved to be sound and his Inn thrived, becoming a popular haunt of the gentleman golfer, caddy and the professional of the day and famous for the window through which it served the needs of those using the Links.
In 1826 George married Marion Bowman and it is this Mrs Forman from which the pub eventually took its name. The 1841 census shows that after fifteen years of marriage the Forman's had eight children, four boys and four girls; the youngest being one year old and the eldest fourteen. Sadly just two years later in 1843 aged 41 George died and for the next forty years the widowed Marion ran the pub with the help of her family. It is at this point the people of Musselburgh would have started to call the Inn Mrs Forman's; before George's death it probably would have been known simply as Forman's.
In the book Reminiscences of the Old Bruntsfield Links Golf Club 1866 to 1874, the author George Lorimer, founder of the Caledonian Brewery in Edinburgh recalls one of his regular trips to Musselburgh Links, giving us an amusing insight to this Inn and its Landlady in the mid 1800s; he writes:
There was no clubhouse then at Musselburgh, most of us renting boxes from John Gourlay, at that time tenant of the grandstand. Any refreshments we required we got at Mrs. Forman's at the east end of the links. A very worthy woman was Mrs. Forman, and a great favourite. There was no fault to be found either with her whisky or her bottled beer and stout any more than with her bread and cheese, while the freshness of her eggs was the subject of universal encomium.
Apropos of this, an amusing story was told to three of us by the late Sir David Wedderburn; we had taken him in to make up a match, he happening to be alone when lunching in her house one day.
He and another, both old Loretto boys, had been there not very long before, and, in passing out, his partner, who by the way sat for a Scottish constituency, rather startled the old lady by a personal compliment which was quite unintentional.
As all familiar with the place will remember, there was frequently hanging from the kitchen rafters some one or other article required for culinary purposes. On this occasion an immense bunch of leeks was dangling down; Mrs. Forman was standing in the kitchen as they passed out, and he had intended to say:
"What beautiful eggs you've got, Mrs. Forman".
But just then he caught sight of the leeks, and in some mysterious way the initial letter forced its way into service, and so he came out with:
"What beautiful legs you've got, Mrs. Forman".
In 1888 aged 83 Marion Forman died and was buried alongside her husband in nearby Tranent Cemetery. In her Will she instructed her executors to divide her estate between her children with some provisos; she left instructions that her unmarried daughters were to receive extra payments and that the married daughters were to maintain control of their own inheritance and that it was not to be used to pay their husband's debts. She also stipulated that if anyone disputed her Will they were to receive nothing; as a result the Inn remained in the Forman family into the next century.
Nearly every Open Championship venue has at least one iconic building; usually rather grand and inaccessible to all but the most fortunate of golfers and you could be forgiven for thinking The Old Golf Course on Musselburgh Links is missing that special place. But thanks to George and Marion Forman, Musselburgh has its historic golf building (all be it very modest).
Welcome to Mrs Forman's Inn and Musselburgh Links, 'The Cradle of Golf'.
Our offers include 2 courses for £11.79. Call to book, on 0131 665 0430