GERALDTON BOWLING CLUB – 100 YEARS

The Geraldton Bowling Club was a 100 Years Old on 10th February 2010 and celebrated its Centenary in a variety of ways during the year.

In 1909 a group of men were in the habit of rolling bowls on a grassed area in Sanford Street.  Bowling Clubs were just starting to be formed in the metropolitan area, Albany and other major towns and the group was keen to start one in Geraldton.

On 10th February 1910 a group of enthusiasts met at the Railway Hotel and unanimously voted that they would make an attempt to build a small Clubhouse with one grassed Green.  Sixty members were required to make it operational and ninety one registrations were made at a fee of two pounds two shillings ($4.20)

A loan was obtained from the Geraldton Town Council and tenders called to build a small Clubhouse.  On 17th December 1910 the building was completed and officially opened.  The Club operated from premises to the rear and adjacent to the Railway (where the Police Station now stands) firstly with one Green and later a strip allowing another 3 rinks was added taking up all the space that was available.  Only men were eligible to play bowls at this stage.  For 50 years this Club existed mainly on a voluntary basis and being able to use the Railway Institute building just over the road for meals at Carnivals, Club dinners etc.

In 1930 women started to play bowls and their first AGM was held on 2nd November 1930, with Mesdames A.P. Rock as first Ladies President.

Their first singles Championship started in 1939 with an entry fee of one shilling (10c) and one penny (1c) to be put in the gas meter.  In 1940 the Ladies decided to affiliate with the West Australian Ladies Bowling Association.  In 1960 the Ladies membership reached 100 in the 1960’s due to the huge expansion of members, the Committee was forced to ban and further applications for membership and at one stage only married couples could be accepted.  Singles could not get in.  It became obvious that larger premises and more Greens were needed so the Committee approached the Geraldton Town Council for help to find a suitable location to establish new premises.  Eventually land was offered in Onslow Street  - big enough for a large Club house and four Greens, this was accepted and a lease issued.  The Geraldton Building Co was awarded the tender to build the Clubhouse and dozens of members set about organizing the Greens and surrounds.  The new Club was officially opened in 1963.

Unfortunately early teething problems were experienced in the form of disease and insect attack requiring one Green to be taken out and replanted.

In the meantime the grass from the old Greens was taken to the new Town Council Civic Centre and planted in time for the visit of Queen Elizabeth.

In 1979 the Geraldton Bowling Club staged the first Classic Event in W.A. this was organized by Mait Gray.  In the last sixties the Men’s June Carnival had 148 teams (592 players) for the first event over the weekend.  Entries did not close until 7.00pm on the Friday night.  The draw would then have to be done manually and the cards made out. Play was sectional, split rounds going well into the night.  In 1991 it was decided to remove the old swinging overhead lights from the Greens and replace them with towers and modern lighting on B & C Greens and this proved to be popular at the time.

In 1992 extensive alterations and extensions were carried out to the Clubhouse.  The Matchroom was relocated, the bar and lounge area was greatly increased.  The work was carried our by club member and builder John Ashplant.

The Geraldton Bowling Club introduced Corporate Bowls to this region and this proved to be very popular with the business community and Government Departments. 

In 1992, with help from the Department of Sports & Recreation and the City Council substantial brickwork and retaining walls were constructed, using voluntary club labor, under the supervision of Pat Bohan.  These were then planted with roses donated by Club members and voluntarily maintained by Keith Mitchell and his assistants.  This has completely enhanced the look of the Club.

Prior to 2001 the Men and the Associated had separate committees, constitutions, bank accounts etc.  At a general meeting in December 2001 it was agreed that both parties should amalgamate and that the new Constitution covering every member be adopted.  The Club has run smoothly since.

About 15 years ago the Club started coaching school children in the art of Lawn Bowls.  This was carried out by qualified coaches assisted by top bowlers from the Club, something like 300 students received instructions over a period of time.  The schools were very happy with this offer of free coaching and friendly rivalry developed between the schools culminating in an annual interschool bowling competition.  From this the Club recruited several junior members, who under the guidance of Merv Reid completed in many local and state competitions.  Four players have been selected in the Junior State teams at different times and one even went on to play in the Men’s State Team.

In 1979 eight talented Ladies from the Geraldton Bowling Club formed The Jubilee Singers.  They performed at the Club Carnivals as well as many local celebrations and public events.  They won the ensemble section of the Geraldton Eisteddfod in 1983 and 1985.   They also sang at the Australian Bowls Carnival at the Manning Club in Perth.  The Jubilee Singers last performed at Companion Time in June 2001.

There are still several members who started their careers at the old club, four of whom are past Presidents.

The environment and Green keeping skills allow bowls to be played in this region all year round and the Geraldton Bowling Club takes advantage of this with a twelve week programme which includes Sunday Men’s Scroungers and Friday Mixed Scroungers.  This along with the normal seasonal calendar means that play never stops.  Members and Associates of this Club have been successful in Country Week Singles, Pairs and Fours Championships and have had players to represent the State and National Teams despite an ageing population, static membership, and the financial meltdown the Club continues to prosper. 

The current Club President, Kim Trotter, and his committee are moving with times and keeping the club in the forefront of the region. Many new projects are being done to up date the club both inside & out. 

Members, visitors and guests now enjoy a modern, spacious Clubhouse with a fully equipped kitchen and large dining room.

There are three excellent Tifdward grass Greens.