CLUB FOCUS: Laurieston BC

In the second of our series on bowling clubs in Scotland, Laurieston BC tell the story of their founding and how they have adapted to be fit for the future.

Located in the heart of central Scotland, with stunning views of the Ochil Hills and the Kelpies, Laurieston Bowling Club offers a warm welcome to bowlers and visitors to Falkirk.

Founded in 1913 under the chairmanship of local headmaster James H Mather, it took a further ten years to secure the necessary funds to lay out the green and erect a clubhouse.

It was a significant challenge which drew the following dry remark from a Falkirk Mail reporter: “A bowling green costs a bit of money, in fact a club can hardly be established at much less than £500 – a considerable sum for a place like Laurieston, which, unfortunately, can boast of having no Carnegies in its midst to lend a helping hand.”

Helping hand or not, judging by the following report it would appear that the inaugural season was a great success and that after the closing of the green, members left the clubhouse in the same giddy manner as the hit song of the day – Swingin' Down The Lane by Isham Edgar Jones: “That extra hour’s sleep on Sunday morning was fully appreciated by all and sundry. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to put the clock back an hour every night – perhaps.”

After a patchy start in competitive fixtures, it took the club until 1932 before significant progress was made when “for the first time in their history, they ended up with more victories than defeats in their club matches," though signs of progress were evident in the proceeding years when they achieved a convincing win over a club from West Dunbartonshire with whom it was said they shared “a bond of warm friendship.”

A bond which may have cooled somewhat given the triumphant tone of the match report: “A dramatic pause is called for here to prepare your mind to absorb and assimilate the stupendous fact: on Saturday last, Laurieston Bowling Club whacked – yes, whacked (a colourless word like defeated is no use here) – Vale of Leven, their most redoubtable opponents, to the tune of 39 shots up.”

Their first major triumph came in 1939 when Harry Ferguson (lead) and David Hunter (skip) won the Stirling County pairs, a feat which was surpassed by John Anderson who in 1973 became the first skip to represent the club at Queen’s Park, before going on to become president of both Stirling County in 1982 and the Scottish Bowling Association in 2002, as well as the national team manager when Scotland all but swept the board at the 1992 World Outdoor Championships in Worthing.

Another notable victor is Kelly Dickinson (nee Wilson) who became the first bowler to win the Scottish Ladies Under-25 Championship twice in 1995 and 1997, as well as the first Scot to win the British Ladies Under-25 Championship in 1998.

In its heyday, membership swelled to over 150; the ground was purchased from the local council; a new extension was built; and with the liberalisation of licensing laws, the sixties were well and truly swinging. As were much of the seventies and eighties, as evidenced by the following succinct but spectacular bar convener's report of 1981: "Not much to say. Drawings up by £15,000. Saturation point was supposed to have been reached last year, but this speaks for itself."

But in the face of rapid societal changes, Laurieston like most clubs have had to rise to the challenge of attracting and retaining the next generation of bowlers; firstly, by securing numerous lottery grants and more recently a £50,000 award through the SUEZ Communities Trust to refurbish their lounge and function suite – both of which host private parties and community events throughout the year; secondly, by amalgamating their gents' and ladies' sections, as well as restarting coaching classes for kids and young adults; and, thirdly, by embracing social media and designing a mobile-friendly website which is regularly updated.

At the retirement presentation of the inaugural president Mr James H Mather, Stirlingshire’s director of education, Mr J Coutts Morrison, said that Laurieston was to be congratulated for having kept its schoolmaster for the long period of twenty-eight years and that village life, and by extension the bowling community, was "one of the greatest assets of the nation.”

A sentiment echoed by a Falkirk Mail journalist in 1914 when reporting on a public meeting to "ascertain whether the proposal for a local bowling green be adopted or not": “Undoubtedly, a bowling green would be an invaluable asset to the village of Laurieston. In the beauty of the summer months, what better recreation can be imagined for both old and young than a quiet and pleasant game of bowls? Laurieston is hopeful of enjoying that luxury before many months have passed.”

A luxury which members and visitors to Falkirk are hopeful of enjoying for many years to come!

 

Many thanks to Joan Barrington and Peter Alexander of Laurieston BC.

All images - Laurieston BC. Do not reproduce without first seeking permission.

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