BOWLS PRESIDENTIAL YEAR

1988 

As President of the club for the first time, it is difficult to forecast what club domestic problems can loom up to be sorted out.   Judging from cases that are reported in the papers, where golf clubs have to deal with slander cases in court, it could be a difficult role to play.    It is said, where there are people, there is trouble of one kind or another - let’s hope that in my case, this does not apply.

On Thursday, 26th May, our green had been vandalised and a police patrol would be on duty from 10 to 12 pm.   I went to inspect the green, to see the havoc these sick-minded people had caused.   The flower boxes had been strewn over the green, as well as hanging baskets.   Although not too much damage had been done to the green, it nevertheless was taken seriously, a sort of warning shot of more serious damage to take place in the future, and that we needed to look into our security with the council.

Havant Police Station contacted their local crime prevention officer, V Hardy, based at Fratton Station, whom I later met and assisted in carrying out a survey of the existing security arrangement.   One feature that was very unsatisfactory was the joint entry to both the tennis courts, to the rear of the bowling green and to the bowling club premises.   Our club was invited to Havant Council, where a joint meeting had been arranged with the police to discuss V Hardy’s proposals to improve the fencing around the green, which also included a separate entrance for the tennis and green facilities.    The club sent a letter of thanks to the Crime Prevention Officer for his contributions to make us as secure as possible.

During discussions with the police, reference was made to this type of vandalism and crime now rife across the country.   In most cases, those involved came from broken homes or single parents, as we witnessed the breaking up of traditional family life, generally.

In my case, I could quote that out of five local families, four had daughters whose marriages had broken up.   Much time was spent by these parents in keeping their daughters and grandchildren as family units.   It is evident that this lack of stability derived from having single parents will be an increasing problem, not only for the police but also for the social services.

The more serious effects will be known when the grandchildren’s marriages break-up, for they will not, in many cases, have parents’ homes to go to for support.

It is a growing concern to the local authorities to house single parents, as they are deemed to house them where children are concerned, even though this may mean jumping the housing list over a married couple.   This is another social change that is taking place throughout the country, and reflects the casting aside of Christian values, taught when attending church.   I have heard it said that Rome fell when family life broke up.

Our bowls pre-season meeting was held in the Bedhampton Social Hall, on Thursday 24th March.   At this meeting as their chairman, I welcomed all those present, and invited new members to stand up and announce their names, so that they could quickly be recognised by other members of the club.

The committee consisted of a number of experienced bowlers, such as Les Pigram, a neighbour, who had previously played in Waverley Bowls Club league team.   He had been a civil servant and had represented the civil service at hockey.     Eric Googe, the club captain since the founding of the club, played in Vosper’s League team, whilst his vice-captain, Harry Melling, played in Leigh Park league team.

I felt my first duty was to thank committee members in turn, after submitting their report to the assembly for the dedication they had given to their task.

Fred Morris, who had taken over the secretary’s duties from Maurice Underhay, had organised over 110 matches, including our favourite fixture with Southampton Old Green, both as a home and away fixture.  A fixture had also been arranged with Bath Civil Service, to which I should make certain that I was in the team, where I could meet my former work colleague, Reg Fast.    Fred had to retire from work on health grounds, and he was greatly admired for taking on this role.   He suffered from a weak heart and had to stop after a short distance for a rest.   He was completely new to bowls before joining our club.

Our treasurer was also new to bowls, and gave sterling service in producing all our printed matter, such as club rules, balance sheets, agendas, club board notices - with thanks to Daphne for allowing her kitchen to be converted into a business centre.   Tony’s presence as treasurer at the meeting enabled him to collect competition fees on the spot from those present, numbering around a hundred.

I closed the meeting by wishing each member ‘happy bowling’.   Quite frankly, the real object of this meeting was for members to mix with each other after official business, with a glass of wine and cheese biscuits that had been organised by the social secretary.

It was not often that the most famous bowls club in the world, Southampton Old Green, chose to play in an away match for this club was inundated with requests from clubs world-wide to play them on their historical 12th century green.

Ella, of course, made a bee-line for Sir Bert Baker, when they arrived by a bus borrowed from one of their member’s firms, who drove them from Southampton to Bedhampton.   It must be concluded that they did make a convenience stop on the way, which had served a double purpose.  Sir Bert had found a bench on which to get his feet up and have a short nap, and so Ella’s greeting had to wait until Sir Bert appeared fit enough to receive them.

This was one match that the club made sure that our visitors were given the best hospitality possible.   Each table at tea-time were laid out with the club’s best china and a flower bowl, prepared by Ella.

As is the custom, the home team’s President gives a short address after food had been taken and closed his remarks with the club looking forward to the return match.   In reply, the visitors stated they were very pleased to have visited our very young club, followed by an invitation to their Knighting Ceremony later in the season.   This was indeed a surprise and honour to attend this ancient ceremony, performed by the Mayor of Southampton at the Old Green.   For this invitation to be given, must have been due to all club members hitting the right note with all the Sirs and commoners.   Or was it due to the ladies displaying their charm, which must have included Ella’s, when she finally met up with Sir Bert.

Earlier in the season, George Bowbrick had laid a foundation for a 10 foot by 8 foot hut, for which planning permission had been approved. This hut, when installed, provided storage for scoreboards, mats, jacks and sundry items which are used when bowling takes place on the green.    As President, I was involved with a dedication ceremony.   George Hall’s family had donated a bench, where Joyce, his widow and his grandchildren were present.   The wording of the brass plaque, fixed to the bench was ‘Grateful Remembrance of George Hall - A Founder Member, Vice-President of Bedhampton Bowling Club.  Died 1987’.

I took part in another club dedication ceremony, involving the club’s new flag that had been commissioned to replace the first flag that Fred Osborne had made in the dockyard.   The club had now some money to buy important items for the club, thanks to the good stewardship of our treasurer, Tony Paine.

These were pleasant occasions for performing my duties as club’s president.   My effort could not have been too bad, for Mary King, my late Ernie’s wife, thought I would have made a good Bishop!  

Behind the bowls scene, a serious matter had been drawn to my attention by two members of the committee, concerning an alleged offence by an esteemed member of the club.   The expression that ‘the buck stops with me’, as it did over the balloon race threat of being sued, if not accurately covered with insurance, was again being repeated.

I was a member of Probus at Cosham, which met monthly at the Masons’ Lodge.   This professional and business club, a branch of the Rotary movement, enabled like-minded retired men, in the twilight of their lives, to meet and dress up once in a while and listen to a speaker after a meal.   It was usual to have two ladies’ days each year, where they could dress up and show off their refinements.

It was at one of these meetings, where a member, who was a Magistrate, gave a talk on various aspects of making judgement, as regards a person’s guilt.   It was not enough to prove that a crime had been committed, but also to prove that there had been intent to commit the offence.  His name was Les Bignal, and I decided to seek his counsel.

The outcome of my visit to him confirmed that there would be no club winners to go ahead and make a charge against the club member, who could also make a court case out of it, with the lawyers being the only winners.

It seems that the Good Lord continued to test me, for when I took on this President’s job, in no way did I think that I would be involved in litigation matters.   Common sense prevailed and I was grateful to Les Bignal for his professional opinion, which I was able to pass onto those who were closely involved with the alleged offence.   This was now subject to ‘subjudice’ by those concerned.

This was not the last of discord within the committee, for now I had a resignation letter from the Vice-Captain, Harry Melling.  Harry was well known for being a temperamental player, not suffering fools gladly.  He was, however, a very experienced player before joining our club, and as such, was a player that needed to be utilised to advantage. That Harry’s wife, Sylvia, was the Lady President, was another reason to talk him into withdrawing his resignation in order to maintain harmony within the club.

Again, I was being tested as how to handle this domestic issue.   I decided to talk out his feelings over a glass of beer away from the club, and to my amazement, we had the resignation withdrawn.    My mind went back to my work study days at Bath, when I had to talk to Mr Rose, the draughtsman, to use the new draughtsman workplace module, having told management he refused to use it.   Perhaps it was intended that I should always be tested so that I could satisfy St Peter to allow me to enter the pearly gates!

We had the first half of 1988, during my period of bowls presidency, free from stress in Harry’s quarters.   It was many years ago that this could be recalled, when not under stress from one month to another by Harry’s disturbed behaviour.

Whenever we called on Harry, Sylvia always had a broad smile for us, on answering the door.   She had been allotted a charlady, Alice, who we also met and found very friendly.   She would take over as housekeeper whenever Sylvia was off-duty from Outram Road.

It was very noticeable that Harry had a regard for these ladies, and had smartened himself up, having his hair cut more frequently.     We took advantage of this situation, by joining the sun-seeking holiday-makers at the Costa del Sol, Spain, from the 3rd to 12th June.

My duties of bowls Presidency were taken over during the period of my absence, by my Vice-President, Les Pigram, who I knew would do justice to himself.

To our surprise, we were able to play bowls in Spain, on an artificial green, owned by a large hotel, when not swimming or sun-bathing on the beach.    We made certain that Harry and Sylvia, also Alice, received postcards of the Costa del Sol beaches.  

On our return, when we called at Harry’s address, we were asked by him why he had not been sent a postcard.  It was pleasing to know of his concern, for it indicated that we meant something to him.    I assured him that the postal service can take some time to deliver, when dealing with foreign mail.   Again, we were pleased to learn that Harry was improving with regard to stability, which we felt was due to the influence of both Sylvia and Alice.

We were again made welcome on the 19th June at the Southampton Old Green, and to our surprise, a few ladies were included in their team, so that it could truthfully be described as a mixed team.   It was indeed a wonderful gesture, for being an all-male club, it must have caused some concern to the Old Guard that existed in many of the traditional men’s bowling clubs.

Sir Bert singled us out to show us some of the historical manuscripts that were around this pavilion, as well as copies of paintings going back to the 13th century.

Sir Bert Baker had compiled the brochure that gave the history of their club, dating back to 1299.   He was, therefore, well qualified to brief us on all the background to their club and also to the attitude adopted by the country to its usage at various ages from 1299.    Here is an account of Prohibitions and Penalties attached to the game, and reflects the social structure that existed in the past.

‘Inferior people’ were prohibited from playing bowls at this time.  The Act, under which the townsman was brought to book was passed in 1541, and under it, ‘no manner of Artificer or Craftsman of any Handicraft or occupation, Husbandman,  Apprentice, Labourer, Servant at Husbandry, Journeyman or Servant of Artificer, Mariners, Fishermen, Watermen or any Servingman’ were allowed to play bowls ‘out of Christmas under the pain of 20 shillings to be forfeit for every time; and in Christmas to play at any of the said games (others were inhibited) in their masters’ houses or in their masters’ presence.’   It was also decreed that ‘no manner of person shall at any time at any bowl or bowls in open places out garden or orchard upon pain for every time to forfeit 6/8.’

It was provided, however, that ‘every nobleman and other having manors, Lands, Tenements or either yearly profits for Term of Life in his own Right or in his wife’s Right to the yearly value of an Hundred Pounds’ ‘might play bowls without penalty within the precinct of his or their houses, gardens or orchards.”  Magistrates were enjoined to visit places and alleys to ascertain whether forbidden games were secretly pursued, and to arrest and imprison players and keepers alike, until they paid bail for their good behaviour.   Mayors and other officials were required to search for all such places weekly, ‘or at the farthest at all times hereafter once every month’ and there was a fine of 40/- every month of default.

 Truly, here is a full and sound reason why the history of the ‘Old Green’ was never fully recorded!

Most of our talk with Sir Bert took place over a drink.    He reminded us of our invitation to the Sir Knighting Ceremony, to be held on 17th August, before returning home.    This was an event that most members of our club would be attending, not only for its historical aspect, but we were told that there would be a free running buffet!

Ella and I reflected on the way home that it was not only the star under which you were born that mattered, but also the period.   The star that caused one to be a commoner, did not permit you to play bowls in the Middle Ages, without being fined.

The club had obtained this fixture with Bath Civil Service through the social secretary, David Bowen’s brother, who was a member of this club.   For me, this was not only providing me with an opportunity to see my old work study colleague, Reg Fast, and his wife, Barbara, but also for me to see Tom Priest, who was the team leader of another work study team, at the same time, in other drawing offices of the Admiralty.

The two teams met from time to time to compare notes.  Tom was of the construction discipline, whilst our leader, Bill Offord, was an electrical engineer.   It was during one of our get-togethers at Bath, that Tom mentioned that he was a keen bowler for the Bath Civil Service Club.

I had been to their ground whilst staying at Reg Fast’s when living at Entry Hill on the south side of Bath.   This event was a day out for members and their families, for those who were not interested in bowls had plenty of places of interest to visit, such as the Roman Baths and the pump room for coffee and to hear a pianist or maybe a violinist.

Regretfully, I did not see either of my former colleagues, due to a clashing of commitments, but I still regarded Bath with special affection.   Ella tried to get out of playing, to wander around the shops, but with no avail, for they told her she was indispensable!   Bath still retained its charm for me and had no modern structure to spoil its architecture of Bath faced sandstone.   It was no surprise that this was Beau Brummell fashion town of the 18th century.   

In my response to their President’s welcome at the tea interval, I thanked them for inviting us to their club, located at my favourite city, long may this fixture continue.

We learned that a few other clubs would also be present on the important event of installing the Master of the Green, by being Knighted by the Mayor of Southampton.   Our numbers were restricted to committee members and their wives.   All those that had been knighted were dressed in silk toppers, frock coats and striped trousers.  More than 200 had been knighted, of which 20 were here tonight.

Sir Bert, apart from giving us a smile, was busy ensuring that the scene was set, to carry out this historic event.   A long stair carpet had been laid, across the green in front of the pavilion, where an installation chair had been placed.  Even the Mayor was not allowed to walk on the green with ordinary shoes, for fear of damaging the green.

All the Knights looked serious as they took up station on the carpet behind the chair.   When the new Knight-elect had positioned himself on the installation chair by kneeling and facing the Mayor and Knights, everyone waited in silence, to hear and see this solemn knighting ceremony.

The mayor, using a dubbing stick, with its crown, and placing it on the shoulders of the Knight-to-be,  then commanded, “Arise, Sir Arthur.”   Masters and commoners alike envied him and shared his pride. 

Each time we have been privileged to visit the Old Green, we have listened to the Olde Green Song, rendered by the Knights to the tune of Lily Marlene.    Tonight was to be no exception!  Here are the words:

We are the Old Green Bowlers - afar has spread our fame

We try to win but if we lose - to us it’s just the same.

Out on the green we have a go - tell you so - for all we know

We are the Old Green Bowlers, since 1299 we’ve played.

 

If the number ones fail - and perhaps the twos

If the threes are off song, we never get the blues.

We leave it to the skips to draw the shot -

or take a pot - and smash the lot

We are Old Green Bowlers - since 1299 we’ve played.

 

Now, at last we come to the most important end,

That’s the twenty-second - when we go round the bend,

Drinking with the friends we made today -

Who like the way - the game we play.

We are the Old Green Bowlers - since 1299 we’ve played. 

Here’s a story that was related to us.

 Charles I was a keen player, and once lost 1,000, which he had staked upon a game.   The winner then asked him if he would like to engage in a further contest.   “No thank’ee”, replied the King, dryly. “Thou hast won the game, friend, and much good it may do thee.  But I must remember that I have a wife and children.”

Each time we visited this famous club, we would still hear interesting stories, connected with the bowls of yore, without doubt!

Probably, the year 1988 passed quicker than any other that I could remember.   My duty as President involved being present at most of the club’s 50+ friendly matches and to hold monthly management meetings.  Ella and I also took part in the club’s league matches, played in the evenings, as well as the Reflex competition, in which most of the local clubs took part.

As the outdoor season came to a close, a major event was held on 3rd September, known as Finals Day, where the finalists of club competitions took part to destroy their opponents, all dressed out in their whites, and hats, if you were a lady bowler.  Protocol deemed that the President, that is, the big man, shook hands with the winners and congratulated them.   Where the winner was a lady bowler, she received a kiss in addition, carefully watched by Ella.    She could not complain, for she was in the runners-up triples team, which was also given the honours treatment.

This had been my most successful season in these competitions, for I was a finalist in both the mixed pairs and the mixed triples.  (Rene Ford Cup.)   On these two occasions, the Vice-President was able to do the honours in my place - to comments in the background of, ‘It’s a fix!’

We were lucky that the weather was fine and that the club completed these games with refreshments served throughout the day. 

The outdoor bowls season continued until the end of September.   Before I could hand over my presidential role to Les Pigram, I had to ensure that all aspects of the AGM, to take place on 18th November, were set in motion, the main one being that the secretary had put a notice of the AGM on the notice-board, calling for nominations to be considered at the meeting for election on the main committee.  

I still had one important function to attend, the 4th Annual Dinner and Dance at the Curzon Rooms, Waterlooville.  Our guest of honour was an associate of Bill Yeoman on the Havant Council, Mrs J R Fulcher.  Whenever possible, it was the club’s policy to invite members of the council to take part in our activities to maintain good relations.   With this in mind, we had an annual challenge match against a team of councillors, making certain that they won this event.   Very important contacts were made and proved useful when dealing with club matters.

Most outdoor bowling clubs finish their bowling season on a light note, throwing bowling green protocol to the wind, such as bowlers being in fancy dress.    This was done at the Havant Indoor Bowls Club during the 1987 Christmas period, in which I dressed up as Nero, raising my arm in Hitler fashion every five minutes.   Ella kept her distance from me, not wanting to be associated with the idiot!

The closing of the green at Bedhampton, started by bowlers forming a ‘spider’ on the green.   Each bowler was standing on the periphery of the green and formed a large circle and held a ball each.   When I gave the signal, each bowler despatched his ball to the jack positioned in the centre of the green.

There were quite a few collisions on the way, but Mrs Mildred Whalley was lucky and skilful enough, to end up next to the jack, and so I declared her the winner.

Bowlers then took part in the Fun Drive organised by my friend, Ernie King, using the All Change movement cards.  However, each player at the end of each of the three sessions was required to bowl with their non-bowling hand.   Unless the bowler was ambidextrous, most players’ balls became mixed up with the adjacent rink, causing much confusion.

This was followed with players narrating their disasters, while having light refreshments.   Most bowlers were seen taking the bowls equipment out of their lockers, to use at the indoor club during the winter.

For those who had joined the club’s bridge section, we would be meeting here each Monday afternoon, looking onto this restful bowling green and perhaps, occasionally, seeing our groundsman, Jim Hammond, working hard to have the best green in the area next year.

The 4th Annual Dinner and Dance, held at the Curzon Rooms, Waterlooville, was the grand finale to the 1988 bowling season activities.  This occasion was well attended and, for me and Ella, it was our last opportunity as President to dress up with dickey tie and for Ella to show off her refinery, as we greeted each guest, inviting them to a glass of sherry.

The officials sat at the head table, with the guests sitting at large round tables in their particular groups.   Bill and Vi Yeoman had a group of guests who had kept together for many years, playing in a beetle drive once a month.

We had as our main guest, Councillor June Fulcher, who I found quite attractive, dressed in a flowery gown, around 40, with fair hair.  Not at all like I imagined a lady councillor would look like - for most, to me, appear to be dragons.

I was embarrassed with female company, for not only did I have Ella, but I had the Lady President to sit alongside.  Sylvia Melling and I had got along fine during the season and I would joke with her and said that she was queen and I was king.   It was good for the club to have good relations between the men’s and ladies’ sections.   Many clubs have domestic rows, such as Southampton Old Green, with the result that, as in their case, the ladies’ section was ended.

We had a four-course meal, with roast sirloin and Yorkshire pudding forming the main dish.  Toasts were made, to Her Majesty the Queen, by me, another was made to the Vice-President, to me the President, referring to my sickly green Austin Allegro, which continually passed Les Pigram’s house, further up Wigan Crescent.  In my address, from the chair, I congratulated the winners of the trophies who would be shortly handed to them by June Fulcher.   My main praise went to the groundsman, Jim Hammond, who provided us with a very good playing surface and was always highly regarded by visiting teams.   Jim was a very exceptional character, for he refused to accept any form of gratuity, nor would he allow us to buy chocolates for his wife.

After the meal, I had the difficult task of choosing the Lady President, Sylvia, to start the dancing session.   I was to receive a shot across the bows from Ella afterwards, with the remark, “Trust you!”

After I had sat down, immediately following Ella’s comments, Bill Yeoman, our godfather of the club, took me aside out of our chief guest’s hearing distance.  Bill did not fire a shot across the bow, he fired straight at me.   I had failed to give a formal welcome to June Fulcher, or to praise the support we had received from Havant Council.   This was, of course, unforgivable.   I told Bill that it was my intention to give this welcome and council praise at the start of the prize giving ceremony, in which June would be taking the leading part.     This I did, thanks to Bill’s comments about my omission of welcome in my address from the top table.

Harry Melling, the vice-captain, won the singles, whilst the captain, Eric Googe, was the losing finalist.   Comments from the floor could be heard that they needed to swap jobs for 1989.    There were nine events covered by these awards, for the winners and runners up.   I was very pleased to be twice in the champion’s group, whilst Ella was equally pleased to receive a runner’s up trophy.

We had a two-piece band, which finally played Auld Langsyne around 11pm.  I made certain that our chief guest, June Fulcher, had a lift home before we departed.

Everyone appeared to have enjoyed the evening, having been served with good old English joint and the not-too-loud dance music.   I felt my term of office had finished, or nearly finished, on the right note, but I still had a few days to go before officially handing over the Les Pigram at the AGM on Friday 18th November.

It was most noticeable that Harry had settled down at Outram Road, which was, without doubt, due to the housekeeper, Sylvia, for her caring attention given to each of her residents.   There were, occasionally, incidents that would require medical or police support, as was the case when Bill went missing and required the police to find him.  

As far as Harry was concerned, he had not wanted to come home and seemed to have a high regard for Sylvia.   She told us that she could rely on Harry to put the oven on when she had to go out shopping.   Only the Laura cloud spoiled Ella’s happiness, but this she seemed to be coming to terms with.

Contents - Introduction - Home

Alan Rayment 1998
Last revised: January 15, 2001