History (Continued)


By 1941 Hamilton Bowling Club, in its centenary year, was respected and confident. The club had adapted and expanded; its green and buildings were being improved; its bowling was of a reasonable standard; the members maintained a friendly and convivial club tradition; the club played a full part in county, national and even international bowling activities; but, of course, the club was profoundly influenced by the major international events of the century leading up to 1941.

The membership of the club, which stood at around 100 by the time of the move to Strathmore Road, had expanded to 125 by the centenary year. This consolidation and modest expansion did not really reflect any major change in the nature of membership. The club still consisted of men, usually professional, self- employed and/or craftsmen.
The status of the club was enhanced by the patronage of the Duke of Hamilton and the regular membership of provosts of the burgh. Several of these provosts became presidents of the club.

The involvement of women in the club was a remarkably long and slow process. In 1911, a group of local ladies submitted a formal request for permission to use the green on certain afternoons. Although this was, eventually, approved by a meeting of members, on the basis of the casting vote of the Chairman, the ladies decided not to accept the opportunity, in view of the opposition which had been expressed by some members of the club.

It was not until May 1929 that a formal ladies section was established with permission to use the green only being granted each year at the AGM of the club. Few would argue, however, that this was a very important development in the club’s history and it was part of a process of making the club a more open association.

The competitive record of bowling played at Hamilton Bowling Club was reasonable, but not outstanding. There were occasions when members of the club did achieve national recognition. One of the years when the club was almost successful was in 1914 when the Hamilton rink reached the finals of the Scottish Championships at Queens Park, Glasgow. They lost, however, by 5 shots to Camelon. Members of the Club were proud of the general standard of play on their green and they were particularly elated when their best players gained some glory.

The bowling green at Strathmore Road and bowl house, or clubhouse, as it came to be known, were constant matters of interest to the members of the club. Over the years there were improvements, modifications and extensions. One of the first improvements was the planting in 1883 of 4,000 trees on the steep slopes between the green and the Butter Burn and Cadzow Burn. These trees helped to bind the slopes and, in future years to provide shelter from the wind for the bowlers.

The green was still maintained each year by a greenkeeper who was usually employed on a year-to-year basis. There were also certain, designated directors who were given responsibility for supervising the care of the green. From time to time, these directors and greenkeepers would be asked to repair sections of turf and also to undertake special drainage or feeding of the grass as required. By and large, however, the turf from the Holy Loch which had been laid in 1880 stood the test of time and, with expert attention, provided a consistent playing surface which met the needs not only of the members of Hamilton Bowling Club but of competitors from other Lanarkshire clubs and, indeed, from other parts of the world.

Hamilton’s most notable and venerable greenkeeper was Tom Law. He was employed continuously by the club from 1920 to 1954 and throughout these years kept the green at a consistently high standard. His proprietorial pride in his work - and his habit of keeping a strict eye on the bowlers’ conduct on the green are still remembered with gratitude and awe. The bowl house was expanded at various times, for example in 1901 with the addition of a directors’ room. Freedom to expand was limited by the fact that the cholera burial ground, dating back to 1832, beside the bowl house was felt to be sacrosanct and could not be built upon, even in the form of a tool shed.

A consistent and important commitment for the club throughout these years of its history was its involvement in parish matches with clubs in Lanarkshire and parts of Glasgow. There were also a few very special years when bowlers from other countries came to Scotland and included in their tours visits to Hamilton Bowling Club. The first of these overseas visitors came from Australia in July 1911. A very special match between Lanarkshire and Australian bowlers took place on the Hamilton Green on 27 July and this was followed by a formal civic reception.
In 1921 a team of New Zealand bowlers came to Scotland and played a memorable match against representatives of Lanarkshire Bowling Clubs in Hamilton. Similarly, a team from South Africa visited in 1935 and played at Hamilton in a match against a Lanarkshire team on 6 July.

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