Memories of Messingham Bowls Club

by Andy Clark

I first became a member of Messingham Bowls Club in 1974, I joined along with my friend the late Christopher Jackson who's father was a member at that time. We were by far the youngest members, both of us being in our teens.

At  that time the club members were mainly from the village as car ownership and usage was small compared to today. For our away games we met up outside the Green Tree pub at an agreed time dependant upon where we were playing.

There were fewer matches then as most clubs had only one or two teams in the league and there were less clubs participating. The  league was sponsored by the soft drinks company Schweppes and the rules for this league were a mixture of EBF and local rules agreed by the local league membership.

I believe in order to be eligible for the league the home ground had to fall within a circle drawn on the map using Scunthorpe town centre as the reference point, I think it was a 20 miles radius but can not be certain. One exception was a Grimsby team who played at Park Avenue who were allowed to participate  on the understanding that if they ever left then they could not rejoin. That was a fixture always difficult to get players for as the travelling was slow using the A18 as there was no A180 giving quick access to Grimsby.

From memory we played against Broughton ,Brigg Town and Brigg Sugar , Epworth, Roses and Gainsborough Town. Keadby Power Station, Grimsby Park Avenue, Appleby Frodingham , Normanby Park, North Lindsey, Scunthorpe. Blue Circle and Scotter. Some of these clubs no longer exist or have changed their names over the years, there may have been others but I can not remember them.

We also played in the Triples league which used the EBA rules for chalkers etc, this is the league that Normanby Park used to go all out for to try to win as it was a way into national competitions.

Our green was looked after by George “Jig” Reeder assisted  by Bill Ellsome , I had the privilege of playing with these two in my early days in the Division 2 matches and we were promoted as a club some time later into Division 1. The greens at this time were not equipped with automatic watering systems but relied upon the use of a hosepipe and sprinkler to keep them irrigated. In the summer of 1976 when we had no rain for weeks and a ban on watering gardens etc. some of the greens actually cracked open and the grass was brown all over.

The rules for the league required strings to be used to mark the edges of the rinks and in this dry period it was not unusual to have to bowl over the strings on the neighbouring rink to allow for the pace of the green and some woods actually turned back towards the bowler it was that fast.

The winders and strings are still in the equipment store. These were manufactured by one of the members, a George Lakin who was a woodwork teacher, He also made bowls score boards, long upright ones that look like a very large cribbage board. 

In those days we had no dress code for bowling, players wore whatever they wished, some played in jackets and ties. There were no stickers on bowls for identification, bowls were black composition or a heavy wood called lignum vitae. It was a matter of choice which you played with. I can remember one of the players a Billy Boult (who along with his wife had the local milk round) played with Lignum woods that were very ancient and had large cracks in them, we were all waiting for the day they fell apart but they never did.