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All Our Yesterdays - a journalist's memories

Bowling News

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS - 40 years ago in the early 1980's

Below is a report from a young unnamed journalist recalling some of his early sporting assignments when he first came across crown green bowling. No names, no clubs are mentioned other than it was in West Yorkshire but it provides a snapshot of what life was like for someone new to the sport and with an eye for detail.

I have met a number of the true gentlemen of Yorkshire some who I encountered while working as a young reporter at my first newspaper back in the early 1980s. Looking back, I recall a whole set of such men – the hundreds in West Yorkshire who spent many of their waking hours on the innumerable bowling greens which, oasis-like, dotted the grey-stoned towns and villages of that largely industrial area.

Crown green bowling was and still is a huge sporting and social activity in the area around Bradford, Dewsbury and Huddersfield where I worked. There were some younger players and some women, of course, but the majority of competitors I came across in those days were retired and fairly elderly men. Their love of the pastime shone through – as did their friendly but fiercely competitive nature.

All good newspapers understand their audience and my first paper recognised the importance of crown green bowling to its readers, giving over many column inches to its coverage. I was primarily a general news reporter but each member of the news team was allocated a geographical patch to cover and given responsibility for several specialist columns. My specialities included motoring - and coverage of the thriving crown green bowling scene.

Each Monday morning a leading member of the local bowling association – let’s call him Ted – would make his way down the old wooden stairs that led to the newsroom, clutching papers which revealed the scores of the matches that had taken place over the past few days. Ted was probably in his late 70s and seemed very old to me at the time. He was Yorkshire through and through, a genuinely nice guy and hugely enthusiastic about bowling. I was more au fait with other sports, such as football, but as every reporter knows you have to become knowledgeable very quickly in whatever topic you are asked to cover.

I would take Ted’s papers and let him describe to me some of the more important clashes of the past week and then turn all this into the weekly bowling column for that Friday’s edition. One duty of the bowls correspondent was to attend the meetings of the local bowling association and record who was due to play who as draws were made for the forthcoming knock-out tournaments. The information went into my column but a copy also went to the association for its records – it saved them a job, I suppose, to have a reporter from the local paper doing the work.

Another duty for the paper’s bowls correspondent and its photographer was to attend some of the big tournaments in the summer to interview the eventual winner. We were always very busy at work, so the first time I was due to attend I wanted to ensure I was not there too early, but still in time to see the final ends and report on the cup presentation.

“What time should I get there?” I asked Ted that Monday. He paused for a moment, then replied confidently: “It’ll be all over by 3.30pm, lad.” It all seemed fairly straightforward.

On the day concerned, which happened to be warm and sunny, the photographer and I made our way to the green hosting the big tournament, arriving at 3.15pm to ensure we did not miss the finale. But as we parked the car and I glanced towards the green, it seemed to be jam-packed with competitors, with numerous matches clearly still taking place.

Finding Ted among the crowd I asked him, somewhat bemusedly, what was happening. Eyes still fixed on the action of the green he replied: “Ahh, lad, we’re running a little late. We’re only at the quarter final stage. Why don’t you get yourselves a drink and take a seat for a bit?” Slightly irritated, the photographer and I went to the refreshments booth and ordered some soft drinks. Then we found ourselves a seat near the green and waited.

It had been a fairly long day at the coalface of journalism and, as the minutes passed and the warming rays of sunshine bathed our faces, we started to relax and enjoy the ambience. Matches continued until the final, where the winner needed to accumulate 21 points. By the time the game ended and we began our journalistic duties we must have been at the green for around an hour and a half and were on our second or third soft drink.

But it had been a wonderful afternoon spent outside in the sunshine and among a friendly bunch of Yorkshire folk. It was certainly better than being stuck in a magistrates’ court listening to criminal hearings or ploughing through a dull and lengthy council meeting. After that 3.30pm became the time the photographer and I would aim to arrive at the green when big tournaments took place – at least on the days when Yorkshire was drenched in glorious sunshine.

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