History (Continued)

What kind of people were members of the club in the nineteenth century? They tended to be business men, prosperous tradesmen and professional people. The lists of new members of the club during the decades of the second half of the nineteenth century show the names of grocers, contractors, coachbuilders, writers (lawyers), doctors, ironmongers, merchants, brickmakers, plumbers, clerks, joiners, teachers, drapers, cashiers, accountants, builders and tailors. From the 1850’s onwards the club associated itself with some of the most influential people in Hamilton. The Duke of Hamilton became the patron of the club; various provosts of the burgh were appointed as club presidents and several local landowners and industrialists such as Sir John Watson of Earnock and Captain Aikman of Ross were given honorary positions in the club.

Membership of the club itself became somewhat exclusive, despite the expansion in numbers. To join the club in the nineteenth century, as well as being male, you had to be acquainted with other members, reasonably prosperous and able to pay a subscription of ten shillings and sixpence by the 1860’s, rising to one pound one shilling by the 1880’s.

The most important members were, of course, the office bearers and “masters”.
By the 1860’s the term “masters” had been dropped and the committee members were described as “directors”.

The condition of the bowling green itself remained a major preoccupation of the office bearers, directors and members. For several years they paid local gardeners to cut the green regularly. By 1868, however, a greenkeeper was being appointed to take permanent charge of the almost-sacred turf.

Nothing, however, is totally sacred and in 1865 members of the club agreed that new turf should be obtained for the green. After due investigation and negotiation they were able to obtain the quality of turf required from Ardeer in Ayrshire and the complicated arrangements were made for lifting, transporting, delivering and laying the new turf on the Hamilton green. This major task was completed by the beginning of the season in 1866 and the office bearers reported with some satisfaction:

“Your committee are now happy to report that they can present the club with a new green, complete in every point, which will rank with the best in the country, and cannot but afford pleasure and satisfaction to all good bowlers. The whole cost of these improvements to the club amount to sixty two pounds four shillings and ten pence as shown by the Treasurer’s accounts; but which, for the handsome gifts of His Grace the Duke of Hamilton and Mr Merry would have cost upwards of one hundred and sixty pounds”.

By 1875, however, some members were talking of the need for a new green in a new location in Hamilton. This was to be the beginning of an important new chapter in the club’s history.

Meanwhile the game of bowls went from strength to strength in the Hamilton club. With the expansion of bowling throughout Central Scotland, the Hamilton club received regular requests, invitations and challenges for matches with clubs in Glasgow and other parts of Lanarkshire. Regular matches were arranged with an increasing number of clubs:
 

GLASGOW WELLCROFT

GLASGOW ALBANY

COATBRIDGE VICTORIA

AIRDRIE

LANARK

PARTICK

BRIDGETON

WISHAW

LARKHALL

BOTHWELL

CARLUKE

STRATHAVEN

BURNBANK

 

GLASGOW WELLCROFT

GLASGOW ALBANY

COATBRIDGE VICTORIA

AIRDRIE

LANARK

PARTICK

BRIDGETON

WISHAW

LARKHALL

BOTHWELL

CARLUKE

STRATHAVEN

BURNBANK

 


Within the club an annual programme of competitions was established with prizes donated by local notables such as the Duke of Hamilton and James Merry MP. These prizes were for competitions for the best rinks, pairs and singles although the idea of a club champion was not formally recognised until the middle of the 1860’s.

The rules of the game as played in Hamilton Bowling Club were revised in 1864 in accordance with a new set of national laws which had been drawn up by William Wallace Mitchell of Glasgow. These laws were published in 1863 and 150 copies were ordered by the directors of the Hamilton Club for distribution to present and future members.

For Hamilton Bowling Club members the season began, usually, in early May and ended by the middle of October. The annual opening was a notable event, attended by the provost and bailies of the burgh with music provided by a military band such as the Scots Greys, the Hamilton Militia or the Hamilton Town Band.

Hamilton Bowling Club, then, had become an established association within the town with members drawn from Hamilton’s established citizens. The club, however, was changing, just as Hamilton was changing.

By 1881 the population of Hamilton Parish had leapt to over 26,000, more than twice what it had been in 1841. Coalmines and iron works were appearing all around the old burgh and railway lines sliced through the countryside, and through the town of Hamilton itself.
It was at this time that Hamilton Bowling Club was re-established in its new green and began a new phase in its history.
 

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