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Bowling Down the Years - Winter 2002


Bowling is for all ages! So why not give it a try?

Bowling is one of this country‘s best-kept secrets. However, it is played regularly by tens of thousands of people. It affords good exercise, exciting competition and social contact.

Bowls historians believe that the game developed from the Egyptians. This has been determined based on artefacts found in tombs dating circa 5,000 B.C. The sport spread across the world and took on a variety of forms, Bocce (Italian), Bolla (Saxon), Bolle (Danish), Boules (French), lawn bowls (English), Road Bowls (lrish),-Ten-pin Bowling (American), Curling (Scottish) and Short-mat Bowls.

Game for all

There’s a common perception that, with the possible exception of croquet,  bowling is the most sedate of games. All you have to do is roll a ball gently from one end of the green to the other and have a chat along the way before adjourning for a nice cup of tea.

The reality however is much different. Anyone playing the game for the first time will experience the morning-after stiffness that proves bowling is more than a gentle saunter. And of course, there is also the skill factor. As it doesn’t require physical fitness, it is particularly favoured by older folk but there are also a lot of younger players enjoying the sport.

Over 8,000 people play this outdoor green game nationally, (2,000 in the South of Ireland and 6,000 in the North). However, when winter comes around, bowls like many outdoor games becomes less easy to play, so indoor variations of the game have come into existence. One popular variety is simply called ‘Indoor Bowls’ and is essentially ‘Lawn Bowls’ played on an indoor surface with the majority of the rules consistent with that game.

Short mat bowls

Another variant is called Short Mat Bowls which has characteristics all of its own. It has a really big following all over Britain and Ireland. It is a miniaturised version of the outdoor game to enable it to be played more easily indoors. It is played on a long mat with full-size bowls, the mat being easily rolled up and put away for convenience.

The short mat bowls game was first played in South Wales by two South Africans who came to work in the area. They moved to Northern Ireland and took the new game with them. Rules and conditions of play were drawn up and the game soon became well established in the province. Irish expatriates introduced it into England, but development was slow until the 198Os when its potential as a low cost sport for people of all ages was realised.

Join in

Now that the secret is out, if you feel you could use some relatively gentle exercise, with a little sport and companionship thrown in, bowling might just be the answer.

Athenry Bowling Club was founded on October 13th 2001 and plays the short mat version. It is associated with the Active Retirement Association and meets every Friday in the Community Hall at 11 o’clock. The members are hoping to arrange an evening session in the near future.

New members are always welcome.

A health warning … you might become addicted.

Evelyn Hoare is Treasurer of Athenry Bowling Club

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Written by Evelyn Hoare

Published here 15 Aug 2023 and originally published Winter 2002

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