Through marriage, the Craigies became the Halkett Craigies, and by 1832, Charles Halkett Craigie was not only laird of 'Hall Hill and Dumbarnie' but also Captain of St Andrews Golf Club. At this time golf was also played on Dumbarnie Links and a sporting club known as 'The Hercules Club' was formed in 1837. On 9 November 1837, the Fife Herald records that the club would meet three times per year - playing twice at Dumbarnie Links and once at Earlsferry. To was also noted that not only did Halkett Craigie allow members the priviledge of playing on the links but he also provided a golf house, a garden and 'every facility afforded for practising' to the 47 members of the club. The Caledonian Mercury of 9 August 1838 states that "The Hercules Club met on Dumbarnie Links on Saturday...to play for the Hume medal, when, after a keen competition, it was won by Charles Halkett Craigie Esq.".
In 1841, the Fife Herald of 19 August noted that the Hercules Club had competed for the 'MacDuff medal' on Dumbarnie Links. But the summer of 1845 saw an event on a much larger scale, with the promotion of the 'Colinsburgh Gymnastic Games and Golf Meeting' in the same paper. This event took place on Dumbarnie Links - see details below.
"The day being fine, a vast assemblage of people were on the ground, to the number of six or eight thousand, and the tents pitched for refreshments, with the numerous equipages, gave the scene an altogether a very imposing and gay appearance. An excellent band, provided by the committee, was also in attendance, playing some beautiful airs as a prelude to the various competitions which took place. The place chosen for the purpose is particularly well adapted for such as thing, the games being conducted on the low ground between two low conical hills, the spectators covering the rising ground on both sides of the circle formed for the exhibition."
6,000 to 8,000 people on Dumbarnie Links! I think that is incredible and wish I could have seen such a spectacle. This event pre-dates the arrival of the railway so it can't have been easy for attendees to get to such as rural spot but such was the draw of these sporting games and the lure of the prizes at stake - people came from far and wide. The above description also helps us pinpoint the precise location of the games. The map and image below of the two 'low conical hills' in question (centre of map) are provided by 'Forgotten Greens'. The detailed page on Dumbarnie Links on that site can be viewed here.
“A meeting of the Hercules golf club will be held at the golf-house, Dumbarnie, on Saturday the 17th inst. at 12 o’clock, noon, for the purpose of electing new members and any other business that may be brought before the meeting. Immediately thereafter, the medal belonging to the club will be played for.”
By 1872, however, the links were being used for an altogether different purpose. The Fife Rifle Volunteers and Light Horse set up a training encampment at Dumbarnie Links. Numbering several hundred men, the group endured severe thunderstorms and rain coming down in 'bucketfuls' while under canvas - thankfully, the sandy soil drained quickly! Trains stopped at the encampment for its duration and a public holiday was even called on the last Friday to enable locals to visit and see the volunteers turn out.