Born: Scotland c. 1873? (1868) – 1916
Married Isobel (Isabella) c. 1893 a native of County Antrim and had two daughters Lily c. 1894 and May c.1897. Religion – Church of Ireland. Profession – Golf Club Maker. They lived at Number 10 Main Street Portrush with three boarders and one servant. [Source: Census 1911].
John’s great granddaughter corrected the details from the census advising us the he was born on 11th December 1868 and grew up in the Bruntsfield area of Edinburgh. There’s was a golfing family as John’s brother Alexander who was a clubmaker from 1892-1912 and also has an association with Royal Portrush Golf Club although linked more with Gullane Golf Club where according to Pete Georgiady book The Compendium of British Club Makers the press described a set of clubs he made for Mr. Balfour as “the finest set of golf clubs ever made”. Also another brother, Adam, was also involved but died at a young age.
A founding member of the Irish Professional Golfers’ Association (June 1911) and appointed as one of the four professionals (Tom Hood, Alex Robertson and James McKenna) to take part in a joint committee for the purpose of drafting their constitution and a framework for the benevolent fund.
An extract from “Golf” 1896 was reprinted in J.L. Bamford’s centenary book, Royal Portrush Golf Club – A History which showed an ad for John Aitken’s clubs.
The centenary book also tells the story of the “Portrush Lily”, a gutta percha golf ball which is housed in their museum. The ball was made by Aitken c. 1895 and he named it after his daughter who was probably only a year or two old at the time.
In Jeffrey B. Ellis’s seminal work, “The Clubmaker’s Art”, John Aitken is attributed with developing a club called “The Bap” when he quotes from an article in the magazine Golf date 27 December 1895.
Scottish and English Golfers who were present at Portrush, at the big Autumn tournament held there, could not help noticing the broad-headed driver clubs sent out by John Aitken, the club-maker attached to the Royal County Club at Portrush. ….The club is known as “The Bap” the name given in the Scots tongue to the round breakfast roll. The head, which is made of the finest Irish beech, is three inches broad, with a face of 1 1/4 inches in depth.
The Autumn meeting referred to above was the first professional golf tournament staged in Ireland on the 12-14 September 1895.
John Aitken remained as a club and ball maker at Royal Portrush golf club until 1911 when his role was taken over by Melville Brown. He died on 27th September 1916 and is buried in Ballywillan Old Graveyard, Portrush. His wife, Isabella, and two daughters (Lily and Mai) are buried nearby in Ballywillan New Graveyard.