Born Bantry 30 April 1874 and Died 4 May 1956 (82 years old)
Major Francis Lionel Hewson (b. 15 Dec 1846 in Nailsea, Somerset) married Jane Anne Emily Thomas (born in Tenby, Pembroke, Wales) on 25 Apr 1871 in Bishops Cannings, Wiltshire. Lionel was their only son together as Jane died in 1878 after which he remarried Laura Constance Hewson.
Educated at Ardvreck School in Perthshire and United Services College Westward Ho! (1889-1892), a public boarding school for the sons of military officers. Despite the golfing heritage of Westward Ho! as one of the oldest courses in England his exposure to golf didn’t happen until much later in his mid-twenties after spending a good deal of time in military service.
Between 1892-1895 he served in the Cape Mounted Rifles as a volunteer in the Pondoland Annexation Expedition. He next served through the South African War (Boer War) with S.A.L.H. (South African Light Horse), Roberts’ Horse, Kitchener’s Horse, and Lord Longford’s Irish Horse (Squadron Leader) and as a Captain in the 29th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry in South Africa. Hewson was an Honorary Captain in the Army, in the South Irish Horse (1903-1909), and temporary Captain attached to the Royal Munster Fusiliers 1914-17. During the South African campaign he did suffer injuries which were to impede his speech. In 1904, as a 2nd Lieutenant he was with his regiment when it provided an escort for King Edward VII on his visit to Waterford; it would appear that he achieved this rank in June 1903.
Member of the Victorian Order
Hewson was golf correspondent for the Irish Times, Irish Field, Irish Independent and editor/publisher of the periodical Irish Golf; he was considered the foremost golf expert in Ireland and one of the great personalities of the game. Lionel Hewson was elected its first Captain of the Dun Laoghaire Golf Club in 1910. Later, in 1912 he was founder and editor of the social and personal periodical Irish Life, then under the proprietorship of Major Durnham Mathews, and remained so until the outbreak of the Great War during which it flourished under his wing. Hewson was attributed with having designed the following courses:
- Course name Year (est.)
- Ballybunion Golf Club 1906
- Ardee Golf Club 1913
- Enniscorthy Golf Club 1913*
- Limerick Golf Club 1919
- Tralee Golf Club 1920
- Ballinasloe Golf Club 1924
- Dungarvan Golf Club 1920s**
- Warrenpoint Golf Club 1925
- Portumna Golf Club 1926
- Tullamore Golf Club 1926
- Baltinglass Golf Club 1928
- Thurles Golf Club 1932
- BarleyCove, Schull Co. Cork 1937
- Nenagh Golf Club 1938
As course designer, Lionel Hewson, would lay out the Tralee Golf Course at Oakpark and was unsettled by men watching him from the fences. Soon after, in 1921, Major McKinnon of the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary was shot dead whilst playing golf on the course. This was the only murder of someone playing golf during the entire War of Independence in Ireland and possibly the only murder of this type ever.
He wrote to Limerick G.C. volunteering his services as an architect when they were increasing their nine-holes to fourteen in 1926 but Lionel concluded that eighteen holes could be achieved on the land available and spent a couple of days laying out the course. His plans were accepted and his £12 fee was duly accepted and paid. However it soon became apparent that the course was being overcrowded under the new layout and the committee were receiving complaints. Alexander MacKenzie the famous golf architect was invited to suggest a layout the following year.
Hewson recounted a number of amusing anecdotes of his golfing life including his early years as a impressionable journalist he was assigned to an Amateur Championship but didn’t know how to relay a full stop on his reports – “A fattish man in a white mackintosh put his hand on my shoulder and said: ‘Write full stop in full; it will cost no more and there won’t be any mistakes. My name is (Lord) Northcliffe and I know something about it.’ ” In another incident he recalls dining with the Duke of Connaught (then Commander of the Forces in Ireland) with six others from his last regiment where he was pointed out as a golfer and a match arranged for the next day. The next day he met HRH at the first tee and both proceeded to make the green in two strokes with L.H. stone dead and H.R.H. at the outer edge at which point HRH brought his own rules to bear: “I never allow putting in my games, but each player counts two strokes, so that is a half” said the Duke.
There is little doubt that Hewson’s contribution to Irish golf was immeasurable and his articles for the Irish Times, Irish Field and Irish Independent have, together with his foundation of the Irish Golf magazine and stewardship of the Irish Life periodical have left a substantial body of material covering much of the first half of the twentieth century of golf in Ireland. Hewson edited the first few years of the Irish Golfers’ Guides, which were published by the Irish Field, from 1909 onwards and the Irish Golf Directory together with the Irish Golf magazine from 1924.
Much of what is known about him was penned by himself in his own magazine (‘Irish Golf’) of which he was immensely proud. Presumably one of his earliest ventures into the game was his part in the founding of the Kenmare Golf Club in 1903 together with a group of enthusiasts having rented the land from Lord Lansdowne for the nominal sum of one schilling per annum. By 1907 his funds appeared to have dried up and he entered the world of journalism, with a little encouragement from Sir John Arnott; a military man whose family had started the Arnott department store. On his death in 1940, Hewson wrote “he started me off in the Irish Field and then gave me the job of writing golf for the Irish Times.” In 1910 he was afforded the honour of becoming Kingstown Golf Club’s first captain upon its formation. While working as a journalist some members may have questioned his amateur status as a golfer; however, no one ever questioned his commitment to the vow of poverty as he claims to have skipped a few meals to allow him to meet the three guinea obligation for putting up his prize during his captaincy.
In 1910 Hewson founded the I.G.Z. (I.G. Zingari), which was so named as a play on the Italian I Zingari meaning “Gypsies” but in this case it was a reference to the golfing gypsies. This would have taken him to many courses across Ireland as well as bringing him into contact with such golfing luminaries as: ” “Guppy” Cairnes, Lionel Munn, Henry Boyd, Vernon Macan, Francis Jameson, Charles Hezlet, J.D. McCormack, which he clearly enjoyed. Hewson would arrange inter-team competitions for the IGZ and in 1912 they travelled to Lytham and St. Anne’s Club and Formby and almost ended Hoylake’s undefeated run, which included the legendary John Ball jnr., unbeaten record. Later in 1924 matches were arranged for Sunningdale, Walton Heath and St. George’s Hill and the IGZ continued to field a very strong team.
Hewson had a deep abiding love for anything to do with Portmarnock although it wasn’t beyond him to point out it faults including the number and positioning on the bunkering around the course. His duty as a military man saw him take charge of organising a corps of mounted soldiers, for active duty in WWI, at the request of Colonel Moore Inspector-General of the National Volunteers, the name given to the Irish Volunteers who sided with John Redmond, the Irish Parliamentary Leader, in deciding what their role should be in WWI.
In one of his later articles he pleaded with Portmarnock not to change the course and remembered Harry Vardon’s first visit and rough crossing from Baldoyle while lamenting the passing of Portmarnock’s Hollow of Sin at the eighth. Lionel Hewson gra for golf remained even in his advancing years advancing the idea of setting up a Seniors’ Golfing Society and urging Portmarnock not to succumb to the pressure of changing his beloved course.
After the Great War he went to live in Connemara for a number of years to indulge his passion for fishing. Such was Hewson’s passion for fishing he was the contributor to the Irish section of the ‘Angler’s Diary’. Then came, what Hewson refers to as the “Bad Times” presumably the War of Independence and the unwanted attention from the Black and Tans in the Galway area. He fled to take up residence in Maggie’s Cottage near the first green of Portmarnock. Maggie’s Cottage was Portmarnock’s original clubhouse which had been rented from Margaret Leonard who was one of the cottage farmers who lived on the peninsula at the time. Hewson later moved to Gathorne, Portmarnock where he would reside until be passed away on 1956.
At the height of the "Black and Tans" troubles I had occasion to flee Connemara hurriedly and where did I head for, Portmarnock, where I have been ever since. L.H. 
While back at Portmarnock he promptly received notice from Godfrey Power not to use the links or the motor boat without which you were exiled from the mainland. By this stage it had be nearly seven years since he had swung a golf club. Fortunately Guppy Cairnes came to his rescue on both counts and always praised Portmarnock for their encouragement in his writing pursuits.
Source: Portmarnock A Closer Look
When in South Africa, Hewson’s Cape Mounted Rifles was were assigned to East Griqualand and then to Pondoland, a small tribal region of South Africa bordering the Indian Ocean, which was annexed to the Cape colonial government in 1894. While stationed there at Bizana Hewson recalls setting up a locaI newspaper:
“the Bizana Herald, a manuscript production full of squadron gossip and libellous innuendo appeared and went from hut to hut as there was only one copy. It did not suffer from legal libel actions but the editor had sometimes to meet other “behind the stables” where the “damages” were sometimes heavy”.
After this his next venture into publishing was for the South Irish Horse Magazine. However in 1924 Hewson started the Irish Golf magazine with £20 of capital and with a more sizable circulation. This had been at the back of Hewson’s mind for awhile despite the failure of a number of golf journals in the past and his looked like it would suffer the same fate if it wasn’t for Arthur Pollexfen Jackson stepping in with a loan of a few hundred the venture would have died a quick death instead it flourished until World War II when the magazine would again experience lean times; despite this the magazine rolled out every month even during the war years. Hewson recalled that the paper profit for the first edition was £60 but the cash inflows were time delayed, such as advertisements from Dunlop and Wakefield Oils, the trick was to provide convincing excuses for not paying his suppliers on time. The headquarters for Irish Golf was largely Portmarnock but later it moved to Templeogue and Fleet Street presumably as Hewson let go of the reins and during this time they used a number of printers from Eason’s in Middle Abbey Street in the early years to the Monument Press.
As well as being writer, editor and founder of Irish Golf Hewson contributed prolifically to the literature of Irish golf in the many articles he wrote for the Irish Independent from just before the Great War into the late forties. In the thirties and forties, such was the experience he had amassed, he was commissioned to do serialised articles like: ‘Golfers I have Met’ and ‘Around Dublin Golf Courses’ under the by-line L.H. As a sportswriter and journalist he would have met most of the great golfers of that time, including Vardon, Herd and Duncan, with whom he had discussed the virtues of Portmarnock while playing on the putting green in Rosapenna during their exhibition match. He also met Douglas Fairbanks, or “Duggie” as he referred to him, on his visit to Portmarnock.
In a curious incident in 1936 he was charged with driving without car on Grafton Street where in mounted a footpath and struck a window in Messrs Switzers although they claim drink was involved later evidence on appeal showed him to be sober. He claimed to have been treated badly by the police – “as he would not treat Kaffirs” – were his exact words.
Hewson was an honorary member of over thirty clubs including Royal Portrush, Portmarnock, Galway, Co. Sligo, Co. Louth, Castle, Dun Laoghaire, Clontarf, Malahide, Ballybunion, Killarney, Curragh and Dublin Newspapers Golfing Society and at the the age of sixty-five was playing off a 12 handicap. He felt the stymie was created when greens were so bad that such a concoction was warranted but now with greens in pristine condition the whole premise was absurd and unnatural to the playing of the game. By the time of his 1947 article he figured he has visited 178 golf courses and his “Baby”, Irish Golf”, was a single-handed affair that hadn’t missed a beat since it first rolled off the presses in 1924 and its headquarters was Portmarnock.
Lionel Lyold Hewson was a traditionalist who bought into most parts of the game from the rules and etiquette to not using freak clubs or the belief that it should be kept as a game rather than turned into a business. He died in hospital while residing at Gathorne Portmarnock and was survived by his wife Ena. Golf owes a debt of gratitude to Hewson who left a huge body of work on the subject of Irish golf.
- * Irish Field 8th March 1913
- ** Irish Golf March 1938, page 250
- Austin Reid: The History of Limerick Golf Club 1891-1991
- Mary O’Connor: Links: Barrow & Hinterland
- Lionel Hewson: Irish Golfers’ Guide 1910; 1911.
- Lionel Hewson: Irish Golfing Guide 1912; 1913; 1914
- Lionel Hewson: Irish Golf Directory 1928/29
- Thom’s Irish Who’s Who 1923 <click here>
- South Irish Horse – The History <click here>
- Irish Golf Extracts (courtesy of Bill Gibson):
- Irish Golf December 1941 Article Looking Back by L.H.
- Irish Golf February 1947 Article Why I started Irish Golf
National Library photos:
I.G.Z. members:” “Guppy” Cairnes, Lionel Munn, Noel Martin, Henry Boyd, Vernon Macan, Francis Jameson, Cecil and Ken West, Wilson Smyth, Lord Castlerosse, Averell La Touche, St. Ledger Evans, Walter Huggard, J.W. Flynn, Arthur Hall-Dare, Charles Hezlet, Arthur Jackson, J.D. McCormack, Johnnie Morgan, B.R. Plunkett, Sammy Roche and W.M. Matterson”