The Madras College Archive


Former Pupil Biographies

David Robertson Forgan (1856-1931)
David R. Forgan was an internationally renowned banker, a world-class golfer, and a master storyteller.

David Robertson Forgan, it was said, was born with a golf club in his hand. First of all, he was born in the birthplace of golf, St. Andrews, Scotland on April 16, 1862. His father was Robert Forgan a master golf club manufacturer; his mother was Elizabeth, nee Berwick. Robert Forgan (1824-1900) was founder and owner of the Forgan Golf Club Company at St. Andrews, Scotland.

In 1877 when David was fifteen years old, he applied for a job as messenger at the Clydesdale Bank in St. Andrews on the recommendation of his Sunday-school teacher who was an officer of the bank. He stayed with the Clydesdale bank for three years, after which he left Scotland for North America.

Once he got started in banking his rise through the ranks was meteoric. He went first to Nova Scotia where he was hired by the Bank of Nova Scotia. He held several positions with the Bank of Nova Scotia, first at Halifax, then at Winnipeg, and finally at Fredericton, New Brunswick.

On June 9, 1885, David Forgan married Agnes (Aggie) Kerr in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In 1888, the Forgans moved to the United States, where David took a position as Assistant Cashier of the American Exchange Bank in Duluth, Minnesota. In May of 1886 their first son, Robert, was born. He was followed by Marion (December, 1887), Ethel (June, 1889), David Jr. (October, 1891), and James (March, 1900).

In 1890 Forgan joined the Northwestern National Bank in Minneapolis. In 1896 he came to Chicago as a vice president of the Union National Bank and was made its president two years later. In 1900 the Union National Bank merged with the First National Bank where his brother, James B. Forgan was president. David Forgan became its president from 1907 to 1925 when it merged with the National Bank of the Republic where he became Vice Chairman and continued after it merged with the Central Trust to become the Central Republic Bank and Trust where Forgan served with James E. Otis as co-chairmen of the board of directors.

When the Forgan family came to Chicago in 1896 they settled in Evanston. They lived in a beautiful house that still stands at 1112 Greenwood.

As well known as David R. Forgan was as a banker, he was equally well known as a golfer. As mentioned above, he was born at St. Andrews, Scotland and his family owned the Forgan Golf Club Company. Growing up in that atmosphere David Forgan took his golf seriously and did not neglect it during his rise in the banking profession. In 1899 he won the first annual western amateur golf championship at the Glenview Country Club.

David R. Forgan is best remembered today as the author of "The Golfer's Creed" which was part of a speech he gave in 1899:

The Golfer's Creed

GOLF is a science,
the study of a lifetime in which you may
exhaust yourself but never your subject.
It is a contest, a duel or a melee,
calling for courage, skill, strategy and self-control.
It is a test of temper, a trial of honour, and a revealer of character.
It affords a chance to play the man and act the gentleman.
It means going into Godís out-of-door, getting close to nature,
fresh air, exercise, a sweeping away of mental cobwebs,
genuine recreation of tired tissues.
It is a cure for care, an antidote to worry.
It includes companionship with friends, social intercourse,
opportunities for courtesy, kindliness and generosity to an opponent.
It promotes not only physical health but moral force.

David Robertson Forgan died on December 26, 1931 at the age of 69 at his home in Evanston after a three week illness. A gall-bladder complaint led to pleurisy which brought about a heart attack early in the day of the 26th. He succumbed at 1:15 p.m.

The 'Old Boys Chronicle' in the Madras College Magazine for December 1904 reports:

"In other spheres of life we have ... Mr James B Forgan and Mr David R Forgan, who hold high positions in banking circles in the United States of America; ..."


The 'Old Boys Chronicle' in the Madras College Magazine for December 1905 reports:

"Former pupils of the Madras College flourish all the world over, and the latest pre-eminent in their ranks has occurred on American ground. Mr. James B. Forgan, who has obtained to one of the most desirable posts in the United States banking circles, has been offered the Presidency of the New York Mutual Life Assurance Company, an appointment which carries with it, we understand, a princely income. Mr. Forgan has, however, declined the appointment. He holds the office of President of the First National Bank, Chicago, and his duties and associations in that town have had for him preferable claims. He is regarded with the utmost esteem in the vast community in which he has settled. His younger brother, Mr. David R. Forgan, also a former Madras boy, is Vice President of the same Bank. They are brothers of our much-esteemed townsman, Mr. Thomas B. Forgan."


David and James Forgan 1915