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Veterans League 50th Anniversary again

Veterans League:

Today - 9 February 2021 - is the 51st Anniversary of the formation of the Huddersfield Veterans League. Last year was supposed to be a year of celebration to commemorate the 50th Anniversary milestone achievement but as you know it was taken over by a year to forget. It started in fine style with an event at Meltham to mark the opening of the Anniversary season. Doubling up with the AGM there were three speakers to inform and entertain club representatives. I had the privilege of speaking about the formation of the League and now, on the 51st Anniversary of that formation I reprint the full content of that talk which explains how it all began and all about the opening seasons of competition.



HOW IT ALL BEGAN


It was Monday 9 February 1970.

Harold Wilson was in his final few months as Prime Minister. Everton were on their way to winning the First Division Championship. A pint of Watneys Draught Red Barrel would cost you one and ten pence. Paul MCartney left the Beatles and nine old men gathered in the Pensioner’s Hut at Ravensknowle Park to discuss forming a new Pensioners Bowling League for Huddersfield.


Six different clubs were represented at this meeting and It was unanimously agreed to start a bowling league for pensioners in Huddersfield. Matches to be played mid-week on a home and away basis. Teams to consist of 10 players in 3 pairs and four singles. Scoring to be one point for each game-winner and two points for the best aggregate. Members will recognise that match format and scoring system as being exactly the same as it is today.


A starting day for the first set of fixtures of Monday 4 May 1970 was agreed. It was also decided that the home teams should offer tea and biscuits to visiting teams and a levy of £1 per team was set to defray the running costs of the League.


Mr J A Taylor of ICI was elected Secretary and he was tasked with contacting some other clubs about joining the League and to report back at the next meeting arranged for 9 March.


The second meeting was held at Moldgreen Liberal Club when eight clubs were in attendance. The meeting decided that the name of the League would be 'Huddersfield & District Veterans Bowling Association'. Mr Tommy Taylor was elected President. Ten clubs had indicated that they would like to join the League. It was agreed that matches would be played on Tuesdays commencing at 2pm. Standard jacks would be used with the visiting team to have the jack at the commencement of each game.


The President announced that Mr Andrew Barrie, the President of Moldgreen Liberal Club had offered the League a trophy. That trophy is still awarded annually today – now to the winner of the 10-man Section 2.


Mr Cowgill of Kirkheaton Con raised the question about numbers to form a team as they would have only the minimum number of bowlers which would mean having less than a full team on occasions through the season. Mr Tom Garlick of Meltham said that they would be in a similar position. This was a problem but clubs were keen to have the maximum number of teams in the first season of the league so agreed that any team short of a full team would be allowed to bowl one or more players twice in the same match with the proviso that the players playing twice would be drawn out by their opponents from the full list of players bowling in that match.


By the time of the third meeting which was held on 7 April once again at Moldgreen Liberal Club, 14 clubs had expressed an interest in joining the League and they were all represented at this meeting. It was agreed that no further applications to join the League would be accepted for the inaugural season to enable time to be available to establish the first set of fixtures which would begin in four weeks time.


The 14 teams were divided into two Sections of 7 teams not based on playing strength but based on geographic location and Huddersfield Corporation Passenger Transport bus routes with the aim of ensuring that no bowler had to use more than two buses to reach a visiting green.

Section 1: Bradley & Colne WMC, Hillhouse & Birkby, ICI, Kirkheaton Cons, Moldgreen Cons, New Mill WMC and Ravensknowle Park.

Section 2: Crosland Moor Liberal, David Brown Sports, Greenhead Park, Marsh United, Meltham, Outlane and Paddock I&C.

It was also agreed that the two Section winners would play off for the Andrew Barrie Trophy.


So the inaugural set of fixtures of the Huddersfield & District Veterans Bowling Association was played on Tuesday 4 May 1970 less than 3 months after the initial meeting in Ravensknowle Park Veterans Hut.


Member clubs next met on Thursday 9 July again at Moldgreen Liberal Club although the date had been delayed a week due to a clash with Moldgreen OAP’s Annual Trip. Members discussed opening up the League to women bowlers but decided against it.


Arrangements for the play-off final were agreed with ICI asked to host this match on their front green with Andrew Barrie to be invited to present his trophy to the winners. Prize money was discussed and Mr J A Taylor reported that the League had 8 pounds 4 shillings and 3 pence in its account. It was agreed that each club should contribute a further 10 shillings each to make the prizes worthwhile and 12 pounds was allocated for prizes with 8 pounds to be awarded to the winners of the play-off final and four pounds to the runners-up. This was later to be revised when Mr Andrew Barrie donated ten table lamps to be used as prizes, In light of this it was agreed that the winning team would collect the table lamps with the runners-up receiving £5.


Kirkheaton Cons beat Moldgreen Cons to the Section 1 title whilst Greenhead Park topped Section 2 ahead of Outlane and Meltham. The Play-Off Final was won by Greenhead Park who at one time didn’t look to have a chance. Kirkheaton Cons won three of the four Singles games and lost the other 20-21 to build up a commanding lead. However Greenhead Park fought back to win all three Pairs games, one of them 21-5, to snatch victory and become the first holders of the Andrew Barrie Trophy.


In 1971

- 16 teams were in the League with Paddock Cricket & Bowling Club and Newsome WMC joining the previous 14 original entrants again divided into two Sections based on geographic locations and bus routes.

- the qualifying age of bowlers was set at 62 and it was stipulated that they must have retired from full-time employment through age or due to Company policy or through ill-health.

- It was agreed to hold a new individual handicap KO competition with The Huddersfield Examiner offering a Rose Bowl as a trophy which was used for this new competition and was to be known as The Examiner Rose Bowl which we still compete for today. Mr H Hamilton of Paddock I&C had become the first winner of the League’s individual competition after beating Mr J Wilson of Meltham in the final on the Marsh United green with a total prize fund of £20.

- It was to be another nine years before promotion and relegation between the two sections was first introduced in 1980.


The Inter-District competition was first started in 1979 initiated by Shipley who invited ourselves, Sheffield and Leeds to join them in the first year of competition.


For all the annual tinkering of the League Rules the League is still in essence largely in line with it’s original concept which is a testimony to the foresight of those nine old men who took the time to establish the Veterans League 50 years ago this month.


I believe that this model has successfully built on that early foundation with a competition now extending to 96 teams in eight sections with 10 KO competitions, Inter-District teams and over 2,000 bowlers registered to play in our teams. We are even looking to start a Winter League later this year.


We are now the biggest League in the Huddersfield area. I believe that we are the biggest Veterans League in the country. Somebody had to start it and we are indebted to the foresight of those nine old men who took time out to meet up 50 years ago this month and decided to form the Huddersfield & District Veterans Bowling Association.

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