Return to the Green Story: Millport BC

The Return to the Green has been different for many clubs across Scotland, with different challenges and circumstances for all as we adjust to the ‘new normal.’ Bowls Scotland spoke to Christine McCubbin from Millport Bowling Club on the island of Great Cumbrae for an insight into how Covid affected the island’s community and how they are bouncing back this season with new members.

Millport BC has 3 bowling greens and the only putting green on the island. The club has equipment available to lend new members and visitors to the island, including a wheelchair for bowlers. A central hub for island residents hosting a variety of different clubs and events throughout both summer and winter months, Christine the Club’s President, tells us more about the activities at the club and its involvement in the Cumbrae community.

How did Covid affect the club / island community?

Of course, the bowling stopped completely, no competitions or anything. But it also affected our winter activities because we have a scrabble club, bridge club and line dancing goes on… and of course that all stopped. We didn’t have the school children along and we didn’t have visitors! We have 3 bowling greens, one green is usually left for visitors, we lost a lot of income. Financially, if we hadn’t received grants, it would have been a nightmare.  

What did the club do during lockdowns?

These grants have been an absolute godsend. What we were able to do is refurbish, we didn’t just want to put the grant money into the bank and leave it there. We made a lot of improvements in the clubhouse; we refurbished the ladies toilets, got new rink markers, made improvements to the putting green and got new equipment. We were quite fortunate to have help from our members, some of who are plumbers, joiners and so on.

Have members returned since reopening this 2021 season?

Yes, we’ve actually been doing pretty well. Some of the older members no they haven’t, but it’s been over 2 years since some of them have played.

We’ve got members in their 70s or 80s a couple of 90 year olds – they come now and spectate! They’re still coming around the club… The island is absolutely jumping with visitors, so up at the bowling club it can be nice and quiet and peaceful and they feel very safe.

The island doesn’t have a big population of full-time residents. We’ve quite a few new members this year as we did a reduced starter membership for new members. And we’ve actually started a croquet club after 4 members requested using the third green which doesn’t really get used. So members of the Bowling Club can now go and play Croquet if they wish! It’s great and it’s another green being used.

How did the relationship with Cumbrae primary school develop?

It’s part of the curriculum for the schools to have outdoor sports and we’re delighted that they’re coming and also delighted that some pupils are wanting to come outside of school!

They’ve been doing it every May and June – I think we started in 2017. They come along once a week, and because it’s a very small school – we have Primary 3, 4 and 5 for 45 minutes and then P 6 and 7, they come along with teachers and classroom assistants and two members from the club do the coaching. The children are very, very enthusiastic. And we’ve got 4 of the pupils coming back with parents after school, all learning very well.

We encourage the pupils to come to the club during the summer; bring the family up and have a game at the club. We ask them to pay £1 each time they come and they also get a can of juice each time they come up. We get whole families coming up together to do the putting and having their own little competitions!

Are there any aspects of club activity still not back to normal?

We do have a lot of holiday makers who are members, some have dual-membership and come over on the weekends to play. In ‘normal’ seasons, we have more visiting clubs – we have 12 clubs that we play against during the year. We also have a lot of clubs come over to use the back green to have their own competitions. We are missing all of that – we’ll have forgotten how to do things! We’d usually have catering for them, breakfast and lunch. So unfortunately this year that’s not really possible.

It’s incredible to see membership growth and resilience from our clubs during this difficult time and we are delighted to see that Millport BC are encouraging all members of the community to take part in the activities available at their club. From lessons for school children, to providing a safe place for their members and inviting visitors to enjoy the sport. Thank you to Christine for her time and for sharing this wonderful Return to the Green story with us. If you would like to share your story please get in touch via:

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