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Remembering Allan Dobson

Rest in Peace

Earlier this week we reported on the passing of Allan Dobson along with two other local bowlers. I got to know Allan quite well when he joined the Veterans League Management Committee and enjoyed spending some time with him and Richard Armitage. We used to talk bowling a lot of the time and about our ideas and hopes for the future.

Allan was a qualified county referee and he agreed to be a subject of a series of articles that I included in the Veterans League's monthly newsletter. He wanted the articles to be about refereeing and not about him. Between us we put together two articles that were published over two issues of the newsletter. This is a copy of the second issue.

My Bowling Life


by Allan Dobson (Part 2)

I had really enjoyed my first season of bowling, and was already looking forward to the following April, when I saw a small article in The Examiner about a series of three or four seminars being held during the winter evenings to teach bowlers the laws of the game, with a view to eventually becoming a qualified referee.

I didn’t really fancy the referee bit, but I was keen to properly learn the laws. Already I’d come across a few ‘urban myths’ re how the game should be played, plus a few over-competitive individuals who had tried to take advantage of my obvious inexperience by ‘old manning me’.

Bradley and Colnebridge WMC was the venue, and along I went with six or seven other bowlers to be introduced to the redoubtable Joan Wrigley and her small team of trainers. The sessions were entirely painless, the support from the experienced referees was first class and I did learn an awful lot. Before I knew it, one Saturday morning, I was sitting the final examination, and a few days later Joan phoned me to say I had passed and invited me to the next referee society meeting - how could I refuse?!

I spent the next two or three years ’learning the ropes’, watching and working alongside numerous referees and slowly getting the necessary experience. I made lots of mistakes, but gradually I learnt not to make the same errors over and over again. Refereeing is not easy, it takes a huge amount of concentration to oversee a singles match - eight players, sixteen woods and four jacks often in play at any one time. My general tactic is to anticipate where the jacks are going to be led, that way I’m usually in a good position to intervene if two or more jacks are in close proximity. Only very rarely is a referee called upon to arbitrate regarding the laws of the game.

A particular highlight was being the referee in charge of the quarter-finals of the 2014 BCGBA Senior Merit at Cleckheaton, won by our local bowler Ashley Daykin. With a temporary stand along one side of the top green, there must have been over a thousand supporters there. Plenty had enjoyed the amber nectar. The noise was overwhelming, the atmosphere rowdy but good natured. I couldn’t hear a thing the players were trying to say, all communication was by hand signals.

After writing my first article last month I came across fellow ‘Yettoner’ David Fox. He made the point that two nice things about playing at a top level was, firstly, that if a bowler played an obviously bad wood and it was struck by a wood from a different end then it would be forfeited without question - no ‘That was lucky, I’ll have it back’. Secondly you don’t get ‘Beer bandits’, when you win and buy your opponent a drink and he then spends the rest of the game trying to ignore you rather than doing the decent thing and asking you if you want a drink. The top bowlers undoubtedly play to win, but generally they know each other very well and play the game in a good spirit.

Many people have asked me, ‘Why be a referee’. Probably the main reason is the same as why I enjoy bowling. Crown green bowling is like belonging to a large family, you see the same faces at most of the larger bowling events and, apart from the occasional prat, most people are supportive and friendly.

After a game it’s good to sit down and chat with supporters and bowlers. Probably the highest praise I received from one county captain in his after-match speech was, ‘….. as for the referee, I didn’t notice him, so he must have had a good game’ - that’s fine by me!

Finally, I’ll close by mentioning two individuals. Ian Alderman from Leeds, probably the finest referee I’ve had the pleasure to work with, and (see above) Joan Wrigley for her help and support.

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