Club Story: Maxwelltown BC

As we approach the end of the 2022 season we are keen to catch up on Club Stories from bowling clubs around Scotland. We contacted Linda Nelson, Club Secretary of Maxwelltown BC in Dumfries to hear about their season and the long-awaited return of the Maxwelltown Tournament Week following a two-year gap caused by the pandemic.

Q) How has the 2022 season been for the club?

“We started the season with a drive to enrol new members by putting up posters in local pubs and putting leaflets through doors in the local area. We invited people to an open night which turned out to be very successful. We were optimistic that our new season would be back to normal after Covid but in reality it wasn't quite as normal as we had hoped. We found some members had gotten out of the way of entering competitions but on the whole we are delighted with how the season has gone so far. Especially our league teams (triples, rinks and senior leagues and our ladies' leagues). It was a bit of a challenge to have enough players for all the leagues but we accomplished it. We had to enlist some of our brand new players but this worked out really well and has set us up for next year's leagues. Throughout the season we even managed to gain some more sponsors for our competitions and advertising boards.”

Q) Tell us more about the annual Maxwelltown week you hold in July…

“Maxwelltown Tournament Week has been running for many years and attracts a lot of interest from our local clubs including some of the best players in the area. Due to not being able to run this for the last two years because of Covid restrictions we made an extra effort to ensure it was a success. It was great to see some of the 'old faces' that have always supported us previously.”

Q) Any other news from the club?

“We are planning to liaise with local schools and community centres to attract primary school aged children to short mat bowling in the winter with a view to extending to lawn bowling in the new season. We have made enquiries about putting in ramps for access to our greens. We are also hoping to reinstate some of our popular social events this year (xmas dance, race nights, quiz nights) that we have not been able to have for the last two years.

Our hopes for next year will be to try to increase our membership and introduce bowling to as many locals as possible.”

A competitive club, with a drive to introduce newcomers to our sport, Maxwelltown were represented in the Perth & Kinross Disability Sport Bowling Championships this Summer by Joe McGurk who only recently took up the sport. We wanted to find out more about Joe’s journey into bowls as well as hear about the support he received from the club on his way to winning a bronze medal at the championships.

Linda told us more about Joe as a member of the club, and how the club are working to ensure their facilities were accessible and inclusive to the whole community:

“Joe joined our club in April 2021, we all welcomed Joe and he quickly became involved in our morning bowling sessions where he got lots of support and encouragement from our experienced bowlers. He also made his debut in the triples league against local clubs which he really enjoyed.

We got the wheelchair for the club by applying to Scottish Bowlers Fellowship who provide it free of charge if it meets the needs of disabled members. However, it was agreed that we would rent it for a trial period of three months to see if it was suitable for Joe and would help him with delivering his bowls. We are planning to do a small fundraising event to cover the rental charge.

Our club is open to all abilities and ages, and anybody can enjoy this sport.”

We found out more about how and why Joe got involved in bowling and his experience of competing in and winning bronze at the Disability Championships…

“I got involved with bowling around about a year ago and coming out of lockdown was a huge reason for this. Being a carer for my partner, who is in the highest risk category regarding covid, meant that I was severely restricted in which activities I could participate. During the lockdowns, people had to learn to live differently and I was no exception, it made me look for an outlet when we were allowed out again. I've always been passionate about sport but it had been difficult to find a suitable sport following my Traumatic Brain Injury which I acquired aged 9 after a serious road traffic accident.  I had tried a range of different sports including wheelchair curling and even had done some 10k runs for charity.  But this seemed like the one for me for sure, so I tried it and made progress. Bowling came along at the right time and I've never looked back. Having tried bowling for my first season as an ambulant player I got the taste for it, this was to spur me onto overcome my balance issues, the wheelchair sport I had craved was now on the horizon. I contacted Bob Christie who was to arrange to meet me at Grangemouth to cast an eye over my bowling technique, having done this it was decided that I would be able to take part in wheelchair bowling.

“I got many congratulations on my medal, it was a fantastic occasion which had a happy ending. I thank all of Maxwelltown for getting behind me and giving me the support I needed, all the way from being voted onto the committee to making the medal possible. During the final week of my preparation I got some invaluable coaching and this really helped. From my perspective I found it very good to get into bowling and breaking onto the scene regarding wheelchair bowling was a huge plus. My journey on the day was not without its issues. Two games in and I was still to register a shot having lost 12 0 then 8 0, this made me have to dig deep and importantly never stop believing in myself. The real turning point was in the fourth game when I had an all or nothing shot, thankfully I had won my third game so belief was there. The 'all or nothing' shot presented itself when I was sitting 2 down, this was the chance to drag the Jack through to my back bowls. I did. The bronze medal match was against the player I had beaten in that match and I controlled it and never lost a shot, what a turnaround, this is what can happen when you believe in yourself and go for your shots.

“In terms of a message to other disabled individuals I'd say bowling is a tremendous sport to pick up new friends and get a good bit of fresh air and a way to make you feel better about yourself, it’s a win-win situation.”

Joe is also a keen poet, you can read his poem about the Championships here. Many thanks to Linda and Joe for sharing their club story, Bowls Scotland look forward to hearing what will come next for the club as they continue to introduce our sport for all to amongst the Maxwelltown community.


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