With acknowledgements to Joe Garnett and Tom Gibson
1902 to 2002
Some time during 1902 (The exact date is lost with the first, Minute books) eight Scotsmen, namely, Messrs W.M. Hunter, A. Ogilvie, R.N. Miller, D. Cockburn, A.J. Mc Gibbon, J. Fraser, Jas McAuslin, R. Dunlop together with a Welshman W. Walsh met to form MARITZBURG BOWLING CLUB. The meeting was held in ALEXANDRA PARK PAVILLION, and they were joined by A.C. Bell, Wallace Batchelor and others and they resolved that a bowling green be constructed. (It can be assumed with some certainty that the date was 5 May 1902. The reason being is that mention is made in The Natal Witness that a social and dance was arranged to celebrate the THIRTIETH birthday of MARITZBURG Bowling Club will be held on 5 May 1932).
The first President was Mr. A.J. Mc Gibbon and that the Honorable Secretary was Mr. W. Walsh.
A green was built, in Alexandra Park, across the road from the Oval Cricket Field. Play began in earnest early in 1903 on No. 1 green (what is known as “B” green).
The first Club House consisted of a large Piano crate secured to a gum tree on the bank
The first building to be erected was in 1904, and was a wood and iron room measuring sixteen feet by twelve feet, with a narrow veranda, and lockers that doubled as seats. After the First Clubhouse was erected in 1904 the Committee decided that a building fund be implemented, for future developments and improvements, also for daily running costs.
About this time the Club was worried by a large Oak tree, on one corner of the green, its shade and roots causing a bare patch on the green. Appeals to the Curator of Parks were ignored, as he preferred the beauty and shade of the tree, to the comfort of the bowlers. They had to wait until he died some three years later before getting satisfaction.
Another anecdote of these days was, about a player who, after suffering a heavy defeat in the afternoon, waited until dark, then returned to the green and ran a harrow through it.
Late 1905 early 1906 it was decided to increase the number of greens, so as to accommodate the increase in membership, and also to be able to carry out maintenance of the No. 1(“B”) green.
No. 2 green (what is known as “A” green) was commissioned on 7 June 1907 at a cost of 600 pounds, and at that stage the Council’s Parks Superintendent supervised the upkeep of the greens.
No.3 green (what is known as “C” green) was officially opened by His Worship Mayor Councillor P.H. Taylor on 10 November 1917.
In 1912 the Club entered the National Tournament for the first time. It was held in Durban that year, and six stalwarts of the Club won the rinks shot aggregate shield (Dewar Shield) and were runners-up in the knockout competition.
The National Tournament was held in Pietermaritzburg in 1921, with the Club as headquarters, and after this it was decided that one club could not hold future events of this size and the District Association was founded.
The year 1921 was definitely Tom Gibson`s “year”., He was chairman of the National Tournament Committee, Cub President, Club Singles Champion and, in December, the first President of the newly formed Pietermaritzburg and District Bowling Association.
The Club has had its share of District, Natal and National honours. The members have continually brought back honours to the Club both for their ability on the greens by winning most of the countries top tournaments at some stage or another. Players of the Club have represented their Country and we continually have players representing us in the District sides at bowls. It has produced it’s share of Executives for Pietermaritzburg District, Natal and (S.A.B.A.) South African Bowling Association, notably our Honorary Life President, Joe Garnet, who is also Honorary Life President of S.A.B.A and was awarded the Queen’s coronation Medal for services rendered to bowls in South Africa.
In 1923 the then Corporation agreed to grant the Club a loan to expand the clubhouse.
In 1924 a brick and tile clubhouse was built, (with the old wood and iron structure being auctioned off for 55 pounds). The brick and tile clubhouse was again modified in 1956, 1971 and 1975.
It was resolved after many years of conflict that lady members could hold minor office and a ladies section was officially formed in October of 1931, at approximately the same time the men started wearing the stripped blazers.
In 1952 the Club celebrated its Jubilee by hosting the Natal Championship Tournament
In 1975 The Azalea Tournament was started and was held during the town’s azalea festival each year. This developed into one, if not, the biggest Tournament in Pietermaritzburg for many years and we have had many of the Country’s finest bowlers taking part in this event.
We form part of the SPORT PARK of Pietermaritzburg with other sports such as Croquet, Soccer, Hockey, Cycling, Canoeing and Cricket all in close proximity.
None of this would have been possible if we had not received a long lease from the Council and numerous loans over the years.