And civil might be an appropriate word, since the origins of lawn bowling stem from a variety of ancient civilizations: Chinese, Egyptian, Roman, the Aztecs, Maoris, and American Indians. Subsequently, in England, the civility of it all was expressed by King Henry, who passed an act allowing only the wealthy to play the game, which is why the sport is also referred to as the Gentleman’s Game.
I can assure you that sort of cliquish civility is quite rightly dismissed at the TMR Lawn Bowling Club, which has just celebrated its 80th anniversary. I was invited to join the gang at their Thursday Breads & Spreads lunch at the club house in Connaught Park, home of the bowling green, and was welcomed with warmth and joviality.
My first task was to understand the game, which revolves around a white ball called the Jack. The object of the game is to roll your bowl as close to the Jack as possible. The game can be played one on one, two on two, three on three, and four on four. The amount of ends (playing all bowls from one end of the green to the other) in a game is predetermined, and once all the team’s bowls are completed, the end is scored. The direction of play alternates with each end.
The bowl itself is an interesting piece of work. It is not spherical, one side is more rounded than the other, so it will roll in a curve, and a good part of the skill comes from understanding how to the bowl and grass interact.
I sat with some of the lovely ladies who frequent the green. Cynthia Charest has been a member for two years, and appreciates the fact that there is an outdoor sport that she can simply access, unlike golf, which requires the time to drive to the course. More time for fun! Virginia St Cyr has been playing for eight years, Jackie Fyfe, who has a coaching certification in the sport, 21 years, and Sandra Roy has been playing for four years. My friend, Evelyn Guthrie (the town whisperer) has no doubt written about her rookie year on the green. Some, like Mary Hamilton, Athena Notar and Anne Hutton have been members for even longer.
There are eight male members in the club, amongst them Nick Ladanowski, Cliff Carrie, and Vrej Nigogossian. Carrie is the Grounds Chairman; it is his responsibility to ensure a well cut green that is quick and consistent.
The addiction to the game was explained to me. It has to do with the fact that one can bowl a beautiful game one day, and be figuratively in the ditch the next, so one just HAS to prove themselves over and over. As for the daily four hours plus some of the diehards can spend on the green, the wonderfully witty Val Carrie explains, «We don’t want to go home too soon because we might have to get the vacuum out.» The social aspect cannot be denied; it is clear the company is enjoyed.
Val Carrie and Jackie Fyfe have both made it to the Nationals, playing together in a doubles match in Montreal a few years back. As you read this column, Val Carrie, who has been bowling for 16 years, is one of those representing Quebec at the Canadian Lawn Bowling Championships in Victoria, BC. Just received an email from the Carries, and despite the fact that the airline temporarily misplaced some of their luggage, amazingly enough the airport carrousel did produce her bag of bowls. Good thing, because these competitions are quite regulated, and Val did arrive early to undergo shoe and bowl inspection. Good luck Val! (I feel a special kinship to Val, we are both named Valerie Anne!)
And where do a lot of bowlers turn to when the snow covers the green? Why, to the curling club of course! The greens will be open to the public at the annual MultiCultural Fair in the Fall; check it out and see if it’s for you!