This was not a particularly good season on the greens. Whilst two county Middleton Cup games were hosted, the standard of play did not reflect in our own results, either by the men or the ladies. There were some individual successes and Bill Jennings, Andrew Woodward, Dick Williams and Bill Port represented the county in the National Championships at Worthing, having finished as runners-up in the County 4’s.
The policy with youngsters was having an effect and two 13 year-olds, Matt Weir and Joe Scarrott turned out regularly for the club, as well as playing for the county under 25 team.
The County Ladies were forming an under 31 team to compete for the Amy Rose trophy at national level and the club helped to sponsor the provision of shirts for them.
Lol Hooper was acknowledged for his long and dedicated service to the club with Honorary Life Membership.
Only one county Middleton Cup game was hosted but the council and the club were approached by the British Isles Bowls Council to stage the Men’s Junior International series in 2003/4/5. These were to be held in September, along with the Ladies Open Tournament, club Finals Day and other outside events, so it was decided not to continue with the September gala from 2003 onwards. Another consideration was the very noticeable decline in numbers for this event.
Stan Winbush, a faithful servant of the club and of the county for over 30 years, passed away. He had, along with his many other contributions to the club, served as Secretary, Captain, Trustee, and President, and had been an Honorary Life Member. Outside the club he had represented South Warwickshire on the county Executive Committee for very many years and was an Honorary Life Member of the county. In addition to this he was a qualified international umpire and for a long time had been Secretary and Treasurer of the Leamington Open Tournament.
Another chain was broken when Nancie Colling, Secretary of the English Women’s Bowling Association since 1980, retired. As well as assiduously looking after ‘her girls’, she was also a great friend to the club, with whom she worked closely, and she always endeavoured to ensure that the activities of the EWBA did not infringe on us any more than was totally necessary. Her little hide-away place in the kitchen where she used to get away from it all during the Nationals will always be referred to as ‘Nancie’s corner’.
During the evening of 17th April, mindless youths, possibly fuelled by alcohol, decided to smash 47 windows in the clubhouse and the adjacent café.
With our dedication to youngsters taking up bowling, new legislation required us to appoint two Child Protection officers.
Two Leamington girls, plus two more who were to join the club the following year, were selected to play for the county under 31 team in the Amy Rose championship and arguably one of the most successful lady bowler in the county, Maureen Tims, joined the club from Whitnash. In her first year with us she won both the 2-wood and 4-wood County Singles.
The men made a very good start to the season and had good runs in both the Wardrop Cup and the National 2-4’s.
The club tour to Bournemouth was a success, and 4 out of the 5 games were won and the Ladies Junior Internationals were staged on our greens at the end of August.
A club photograph was taken to commemorate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, and also during the year Mike Gilks was elected as President of South Warwickshire BA.
This was the centenary of the EBA, and to mark the occasion an International Test series was played at various venues, one of which was Leamington. Teams representing the four home countries and the Channel Islands, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, and South Africa all took part.
The British Isles Junior International championships were also hosted, and to help cope with all these events a new toilet block was built and the changing rooms were extended.
Prior to the commencement of the season an all out attempt was made to recruit more members, including advertisements in the local paper, and there was a significant response.
The ladies entered the Coventry & District Friday evening league, and a third men’s team was entered in the Courier League.
The club tour went to Worthing where 3 out of the 6 games were won, and for the first time the club went on an overseas tour to Vilamoura in Portugal. Dr Bridget Hay presented a cup to be competed for by Under 19 players in the club, and one of these juniors, Samantha Holness, was selected for an England Under 25 trial.
It was the turn of Llandrindod Wells to visit Leamington where they won by 212 to 180, but they did bring their big guns including internationals Wendy Price and the redoubtable Betty Morgan.
To encourage more players to participate it was decided that from 2004, all home matches would commence at 2pm. This initially met with some opposition from other clubs but most eventually followed suit.
A new TV and video recorder were purchased for the clubroom.
At the end of the year Warwick District Council agreed that Leamington would again host Women’s World Bowls in 2004, and put up £20,000 to sponsor the event. This was because Malaysia, who had been due to host the event, had met with huge problems of a political nature which meant that the championships would otherwise have to be cancelled. The timescale put considerable pressure on all concerned, including the club, but it was eventually decided that the town would do the honours on behalf of England.
Ivor Harris was elected as an Honorary Life Member.
Regrettably, after a successful run of 40 years, lack of support caused the abandonment of the Leamington gala. At the height of its popularity, three galas were held a year, with over 250 competitors travelling from all over the Midlands on each occasion, and there was always a waiting list. In recent times these numbers had shrunk dramatically and it was impractical to increase the prize money to attract a bigger following.
The problems with staging Women’s World Bowls at short notice were becoming very apparent and the club were concerned about the financial implications. However World Bowls 2004 Ltd was formed through the EWBA, and this company took the financial responsibility for the event.
On the greens the tournament was a great success in September, with one Leamington player, Mary Ashley, even becoming an ‘international’ when she substituted for one of the Portugal players who became ill and she went on to play in two more games. The club were very supportive both physically and financially and were thanked for all their efforts but it was not enough to prevent World Bowls 2004 Ltd going into liquidation after the games were over, leaving rather a sour taste among many supporters and traders.
Prior to this Leamington had hosted an England v. Wales Test match and the Ladies National championships, but the county Middleton cup squad had moved away.
The club tour was to Newquay in Cornwall and having got the flavour, the overseas party again went to Vilamoura.
All matches were now starting at 2pm, and following a very hot summer the previous year, the club introduced a local rule allowing members to wear tailored shorts on the club green for roll-ups and internal competitions.
Playing results for the year were very good with the men winning 21 out of their 25 games and the ladies 16 out of 22. Our Courier League teams also had a good season.
The finest achievement of the year however was the winning of both the National and the County Pairs title by Maureen Tims and Jean Simmons, and this during the year when Jean was County President.
Another very good year on the greens where the men won 14 of the 17 games played, with 1 drawn, and the ladies won 10 out of 13. In mixed games we won both the matches played, one of them against Llandrindod Wells. The disappointing statistic was that 5 ladies and 6 men’s matches were cancelled for various reasons.
In an endeavour to instil more commitment among clubs and members, a letter was sent to the County urging that they once again look at the league format for Saturday afternoons.
Following earlier campaigns, advertisements were again placed in the local paper seeking new members and 27 new players were recruited.
Our ladies won the county Top Team honour but once again failed to progress further, and for the first time a ladies match featured three generations of the same family when Kerry Marks played alongside her mother Karen and her grandmother Vi Palmer.
This year two ‘overseas’ tours were set up when the home tour visited the Isle of Wight, while those with passports went to Pafos in Cyprus. The home players won all of their 6 games but those in Cyprus were not so successful! On the overseas theme, links were forged, through one of our South African members, with the Atlas Bowling Club in Johannesburg.
The Bridget Hay Trophy competition for under 19’s was altered to become an Under 25 event to tie in with County and National competitions.
Helen Slimm was selected to play for England Under 25’s in the British Isles championships held at Leamington in June, and the men’s equivalent championships were again held at Leamington in September.
Approval was finally given to purchase two short mats for use in the clubroom during the winter months and a meeting was held with the local school sports coordinator in an endeavour to get bowls introduced into schools in the district. A new scheme was devised which would involve other local clubs.
The ladies won the Coventry Friday evening league and this encouraged them to support the formation of a similar league in the Stratford area. The club’s lease rental to the council was increased by 10%.
At long last agreement was reached on a uniform club shirt for both men and ladies, despite opposition from those wishing to retain collar and tie.
Short mat bowling was started during the winter months and took off well, with a lot of interest from established and new bowlers, and two teams were entered in the Stratford League.
Playing results were not as good as in the previous two years, but Bill Port won the South Warwickshire singles and the club won the Read Trophy. Maureen Tims was again called for an England trial, but failed to win selection. However Helen Slimm caught the sector’s eyes once more in the under 25 trial and retained her place in the England team.
The twelfth home tour under Tony Barnett went to Weston-super-Mare, while the overseas travellers went to the Almeria region of Spain.
Two teams were entered in the newly-formed Ladies Stratford Evening League
After a long period when all seemed fairly well, there were once again many complaints over the quality of the greens at Leamington.
At the age of 18, Emma-Louise Jude became the youngest ever Club Champion, winning the Ladies’ Singles title.
The Leamington Men’s Open Tournament finally succumbed to the apathy of potential organisers, sponsors, and the consequential decline of competitors, and despite a cash injection from the club, held the final event in July after 66 years. It was a great pity but fortunately the ladies’ equivalent agreed to continue for as long as possible.
Looking forward to 2009, the Centenary Sub-Committee was formed.
Honorary Life Membership was awarded to Pat Cooper and Richard Ashley.
Very sadly, Lol Hooper, the oldest and longest-serving member of the club, died at the age of 89, just 2 years before the centenary which he was so much looking forward to. He joined Leamington in 1948, following his father into the club, became the Club Champion, and served in various capacities, including Captain, committee member and was Chairman for 3 years (including the Golden Jubilee year of 1959). He went on to become a Trustee and Honorary Life Member. Lol continued to bowl until shortly before his death, and in 2005, with two of the youngest members in the club, won, very appropriately, the Hooper Cup which had been donated in memory of his father many years before.
20 new members were recruited, but it was becoming embarrassing, particularly for the ladies, who were unable to find clubs with sufficient players to play against them, and there were far more names down for teams than there were places available. In consequence, towards the end of the season membership was closed for a short period.
A most encouraging aspect of the club was the Tuesday evening club night. The Triples League on this evening, organised by Geoff Cook, attracted more teams each year and it was wonderful to see the clubhouse bursting its seams after the games.
The overseas tour again went to Spain, this time to the Costa del Sol region, and the home tour returned to Torquay. The ladies once more won the County Top Team title but were thwarted in their first match out of area.
Success came to RLS 3 who won the league title in the newly created division four of the Courier league, and they also won the league gala.
A new player on the greens was 15 year old Daniel Ward, grandson of the redoubtable Bill, who played his first game for the club early in the season, and later in the year appeared on a rink featuring his father Nick, and his granddad, three generations of the same family, this time on the male side. He went on to win the Thorburn Cup in his first year and is a great prospect for the future.
Meanwhile Bill himself was honoured with his senior international cap, albeit on the indoor greens, but very well deserved and long overdue. He also won the title of Male Player of the Year in the local Sportsman of the Year contest.
And so to the final year before the centenary. The year started with a PowerPoint presentation in the clubhouse to all members outlining the activities that were planned for the big year.
A new men’s South Warwickshire evening triples league was formed, which the club entered, and one of the ladies’ teams won the Stratford ladies Evening league.
The men had very good runs in both the National 2-fours competition and the National Top Team competitions, and three out of the four Courier League teams achieved success.
Not to be outdone, one of the teams of the now thriving short mat section failed by the narrowest of margins to capture the Stratford League title but they had the consolation of winning the end of season gala.
One notable event on the greens was the winning of the men’s championship by 17-year old Daniel Ward, our youngest ever champion. He followed his father, Nick, who had won the title the previous year, and grandfather Bill who had won it on 10 previous occasions.
Unfortunately the greens were in poor condition and strong representations were made to the council by the club and by Bowls England. As a result it was agreed that suitable remedial work would be carried out as a matter of urgency.
The overseas tourists returned to Costa del Sol in Spain while the home tourists chose Bournemouth. The latter tour was marred by the death of one of the players while they were there.
Pete Rourke, who had been employed in the Leisure & Amenities department of the council for over 30 years, took early retirement. As our principal contact with the council he had been very popular, an excellent friend to the club and the most efficient officer you could ever wish to have. His service to bowls, and to very many other sports in the district, was immense and the reception he received at the presentation to him of a gift at the club’s annual dinner was evidence of this
Social events under the guidance of Fred Bannister were increasing, with very good attendances and it was very pleasing to see the clubhouse being used so much during the winter months.
A silver salver was presented to the club by an anonymous donor to help mark the centenary, and it was decided to award this annually to the ‘Club Member of the Year’.
The membership of the club currently stands at: Men – 101, Ladies – 76, Juniors - 7, Social - 35. Thus ends 100 years of achievement, of controversy, of fun, sadness, merriment, but above all, friendship.
Through the game of bowls we have welcomed people from around the world, have visited far-flung places, and have made very many friends.
We owe a huge debt of gratitude to those who started the club in 1909, to all those who over the years have kept it going and have developed it, and those who still, in a changing and very commercial world, continue to work without reward to ensure that our club goes forward, so that those who follow, and hopefully there will be many young people amongst them, will still be able to enjoy the benefits of Royal Leamington Spa Bowling Club.