John Graham


This biography was written by Victoria Doran.

Jack Graham was, to my knowledge, the only internationally renowned man amongst the names on Grange Hill War Memorial. His prowess as an amateur golfer earned him an obituary in the New York Times as well as many other publications.

Jack came from an extremely wealthy family with deep west of Scotland Presbyterian roots.

John Graham golfer.jpg

Jack’s portrait that hangs in the Royal Liverpool Golf Club clubhouse

John Graham was known in the Hoylake area as Jack or Johnnie, but in more formal circles as John Graham junior. As we are interested in him for his Hoylake connection I will refer to him as Jack.

Jack was born on 3 April 1877 in Liverpool the elder of the 2 sons of John Graham (1843-1921) and Mary Gilkison Allan (1851-1918). He had one older sister and one younger sister. He was born into great wealth as his father was a director of Macfie sugar refiners and his mother was  directly descended from Captain Alexander (Sandy) Allan (1780-1854), founder of the Allan Shipping Line, in its day the largest shipping line in the world.

Capt Sandy Allan from wiki.jpg

Captain ‘Sandy’ Allan from wikipedia

Captain Allan was very much as self made man. Born in Ayrshire and connected by marriage to Robert Burns, his father died when he was aged 12. He wanted to become a joiner, but was apprenticed to a shoe maker. Once he had completed his apprenticeship, he went to sea, and worked his way up to become a Captain and ship owner. He founded the Allan Line in 1819, with its base in Glasgow, though for most of his life he lived further down the Clyde in Greenock, the actual port for Glasgow.

Jack’s mother was one of the many children of Captain Allan’s eldest son James Allan (1808-1880), so Jack was Captain Allan’s great grandson.  The Allan Line had 3 bases, Glasgow, Montreal and Liverpool. James Allan managed the Glasgow operation, with brother Hugh in Montreal and brother Bryce in Liverpool.

In 1769 Robert Macfie (1744-1827) started a grocery business in Greenock, which progressed to become a sugar refinery, one of 4 based at Greenock at the time, to take advantage of the Caribbean sugar plantations.

Robert Macfie.jpg

Robert Macfie from an ancestry family tree

One of Robert’s daughters, Mary Macfie (1780-1853) married John Graham (???-1830) who became a partner in the Macfie sugar refinery business. This John Graham was Jack’s great grandfather.

Jack is descended throughout from the eldest sons, all of whom bore the name John Graham. His grandfather John Graham (1811-1890) moved with his wife and family to Liverpool in the early 1850s to help run the Macfie Liverpool operation. In 1881 he was managing director of a firm employing 200 men in Liverpool. Jack’s father John Graham (1843-1921) followed in his footsteps to also be involved with running the Liverpool refineries.

The extended Allan, Macfie and Graham clans intermarried throughout, and were clearly very close.

Jack was brought up and lived most of his life at Mohrcroft, Aigburth Drive, Liverpool. At some point his father built The Croft, 26 Stanley Road, Hoylake which the family used as a second home. This was probably chosen for its proximity to the (now) Royal Liverpool Golf Club which was founded largely by fellow Scots in 1869. After the war, some members of the family made it their main residence.

Jack was educated at Marlborough College from January 1891 to December 1894, where he belonged to Littlefield House. This was and still is one of the most prestigious of Britain’s public schools. He excelled at sport becoming captain of the school Cricket and Hockey teams, as well as a member of the rackets team.

On leaving school he joined Macfie’s as a commercial clerk, and remained connected to the firm for the rest of his life. However he took up golf and was so successful that he reached the 5th round of the Amateur Championships at the age of 21 and the semi-final on 4 occasions, starting at Sandwich in 1900. He was one of a Hoylake triumvirate with John Ball and  Harold Hilton who were regarded as the best British Golfers of their era. Apart from Bobby Jones, John Ball and Harold Hilton are the only amateurs ever to have won an Open Championship, so Jack was in very exalted golfing company. However he was brilliant rather than consistent and unlike the other 2 never won any Amateur or Open Championship, though he generally figured well each time. He was the lead amateur in the British Open  4 times (1904, 1906, 1907 & 1913). The Amateur Championships are matchplay. Jack seemed unable to maintain his standard of play over the many rounds needed to win, though he had many one-off triumphs. His obituaries describe him as ‘the best golfer who never won a championship’. Although born in Liverpool, he chose to represent Scotland at golf rather than England.

In 1900 he joined the Liverpool Scottish Volunteers and rose to the rank of Captain before he retired from it a few years later. This unit became the 10th (Territorial) Battalion of the King’s Liverpool Regiment, and is generally known as the Liverpool Scottish. He may have been influenced to join by John Ball who had served in the Boer War. Another influential figure may have been his uncle Colonel William Macfie (1840-1912), the husband of his mother’s sister Jane Crawford Allan (just one of the intermarriages) and a Colonel of Volunteers.

Although he must have played a lot of golf in his spare time, he apparently required very little practice, and worked hard for Macfie’s. His father was Treasurer of the Liverpool Sugar Refiners Association and Jack became its Secretary.

Jack was a member of the Lyceum Club, Bold Street, Liverpool. There is also some evidence that he acted as a correspondent for some publications, possibly for golf or possibly relating to sugar refining, or both.

At the outbreak of war Jack immediately volunteered for the Liverpool Scottish as a Private although he was already 37 years old.

Liverpool Scottish cap badge jpg.jpg

 Liverpool Scottish cap badge

It was quickly realised that he was an experienced Territorial officer and he was commissioned on on 22 August 1914. He landed in France on 1 November 1914 on SS Maidan with his battalion from training at Tunbridge Wells. By the end of November they were taking their 4 days on / 4 days off turns in the trenches at Kemmel, just on the Belgian side of the Belgium / France border. They spent 2 months there suffering a regular low level of casualties, but not taking part in any attacks.

At the end of February they were moved to the Zillibeke trenches west of Ypres. They spent 12 days switching every 48 hours from the front line trenches to dug outs only 400 yards back. After repulsing German a German attack on 12 March 1915, they were moved to the Scottish Wood in the Dickibush area, where they spent the next 2 months improving the trenches. On 14 May 1915 Jack was promoted to Temporary Captain.

By 9 June 1915 they were camped in fields near Busseboom to train and prepare for an attack. On 15 June they moved to Railway Wood and on the morning of the 16th were part of an attack along a 1000 yard frontage. This is known as the Battle of Hooge. They took the first and second German trenches with little difficulty, but then suffered as the Allied artillery got its range wrong. The third trench was reached but could not be held.

At the end of the day the Liverpool Scottish only had 3 officers return unscathed, one the medical officer, and one who had spent part of the time unconscious, so only one fought and returned whole out of 24 officers who ‘went over the top’. Jack was one of those who died and his body was not found. There were corresponding levels of casualties amongst the other ranks.

Other local men who died at the Battle of Hooge were Thomas Dawson, James Collingwood Evans, Geoffrey Lea Higgins, Thomas Frederick Jones, Bryden McKinnell and Frank Monteath. With 7 deaths (none of whose bodies were recovered) it was the single greatest loss of life for north west Wirral on one day during the entire war. They are all commemorated on the Menin Gate.

Menin Gate Memorial jpg.jpg

Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium

Following his death a memorial service was held for him at Hoylake Presbyterian Church, attended by many mourners including the local MP, Gershom Stewart.

Reflecting his many interests he was also commemorated on Liverpool War Memorial (in the Town Hall); Holy Trinity Church, Hoylake Roll of Honour (now in St Hildeburgh, Hoylake); Liverpool Presbytery Roll of Honour (originally in Trinity Church, Princes Road, Toxteth demolished 1974, current whereabouts unknown); Liverpool Exchange Newsroom War memorial, now on Exchange Flags, Liverpool; Lyceum Club War memorial (the club relocated from Bold Street, Liverpool in 1952, current whereabouts unknown); Grange Hill War Memorial, West Kirby; Royal Liverpool Golf Club Roll of Honour, Hoylake; Liverpool Cricket Club Roll of Honour; Marlborough College Roll of Honour.

It does not seem that Jack’s brother, Allan James Graham (1883-1941) served in the war, though his only son Allan Delafield Graham was an RAF Squadron Leader (Pilot) who died during the second World War.

Another  old Malburian, who was a close relative, Claud William Macfie, died on the same day at Hooge.

Jack’s cousin, Henry Claude Drummond died on 24 July 1917 at the battle of the Somme.

Neither Jack nor either of his sisters ever married. Jack left the equivalent of nearly £2 million (as at 2016).

Birth: 3 April 1877, Liverpool
Death: 16 Jun 1915 at Battle of Hooge, Belgium; missing in action
Addresses: 4 Grosvenor Terrace, Toxteth Park, Liverpool (81); Mohrcroft, Aigburth Road, Liverpool (91,01,11); The Croft, 26 Stanley Road, Hoylake (2nd home)
Occupation: director – Macfie sugar refiners
Unit: 10th (Scottish) Battalion, King’s Liverpool Regiment
Rank: Temporary Captain
Medals: 14 Star, Victory & British War
Commemorated: Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium; Grange Hill War Memorial, West Kirby; Marlborough College Roll of Honour; Royal Liverpool Golf Club; Holy Trinity, Hoylake Roll of Honour (now at St Hildeburgh); Liverpool War Memorial (in Liverpool Town Hall); Liverpool Exchange Newsroom War memorial, now on Exchange Flags, Liverpool; Lyceum Club War memorial (the club relocated from Bold Street, Liverpool in 1952, current whereabouts unknown); Liverpool Cricket Club Roll of Honour
Sources: CWGC, MC, DA, BN, LDP, LE, DR, Census: 81, 91, 01, 11, BR, PR, FT, Probate, RL, RSE, H, LG, Royal Liverpool Golf Club records, Battalion Diary for 10th KLR, wikipedia, Macfie clan genealogy, Marlborough College web site


10 thoughts on “John Graham

  1. Very interesting indeed. Very good to see all those interconnections. The Scottish connection is particularly interesting. Thanks again for your hard work.

  2. John Graham is also named on the WW1 board at Liverpool Cricket Club which commemorates that club’s members and those of Liverpool Football Club (R.U.)
    May I suggest that his badge should be that of the Liverpool Scottish, which differs from the standard KLR.

    Excellent site!

    • Yes you may. Victoria please note! And thanks for the additional information. Thanks for the compliment as well.

  3. Post now updated. There are other Liverpool Scottish posts that will need the cap badge changing I think. Will correct over next week or so.

    • Hi Douglas

      Glad you liked it. It was a very interesting one to research. No problem at all with you putting it on your family web site.


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