Over one hundred years of continuous sporting activity in a ‘Club’ setting is truly an achievement in the history of Barry Athletic Bowls Club. Throughout this time very many members, with wide ranging personalities and skills, have walked the green velvet of Club’s bowling green, for recreative and competitive satisfaction, balancing the competitive spirit with camaraderie that has transcended the years.
This ‘heady-mix’ has moulded a Club ‘ethos’ which has created an identity and reputation of the Barry Athletic Bowls Club, within itself, and without, in the Town of Barry, Wales and even beyond. Much of this recognition has stemmed from the many successes of the Club, both ‘team’ and ‘individual’, which has produced prominent personalities, on and off the green, well known throughout the ‘bowling world’.
The Early Years 1900 -1930
The early origins of Barry Athletic Bowls club stems back over one hundred years to 1911, when it started life as an 'umbrella club' from its parent club, Barry Athletic Club Limited which originally offered cricket to its members from about 1900, and which extended to bowls in 1911 and eventually tennis in 1913. Football and squash were also added some time later.
However the first significant date was even earlier when, in 1900, the landowner of the site, Lord Windsor, granted the Barry Cricket and Athletic Club a lease, at a nominal rent, for sporting purposes. By 1905, Lord Windsor had been elevated to the First Earl of Plymouth who, with his son, were keen playing members of St. Fagans Bowling Club. In 1910, the Barry Cricket and Athletic elected a bowls sub committee with the construction of a bowling green in mind at our current site.
The green was formally opened on Saturday 14th May 1911 by Colonel William Forrest, agent to the Plymouth estates, when the Athletic Club patron, the Rev. H.H. Stewart made a presentation of a silver inscribed jack to Colonel Forrest expressing the club's gratitude to the Earl of Plymouth for his generosity to the club. After the opening ceremony, our first ever match took place against St Fagans Bowling Club which resulted in a first win 86 shots too 73 for the new Barry Athletic Bowls Club.
Three months after the opening of the green, our first open tournament was held during the August Bank Holiday weekend. Mrs C.H. Bailey donated a challenge trophy for the tournament which saw the club captain E.B. Sawyer defeat the club secretary H.C.T. Ireland 21-15. This original trophy is still in use as is presented annually to the winner of the Club Handicap Tournament.
With the addition of tennis in 1913, the Barry Athletic Club assumed its longstanding triple structure of cricket, bowls and tennis, a structure which survives today. Also in 1913, the club won its first Welsh Bowling Association league match defeating Llanbradach Bowling Club.
The bowls club continued to function during the Great War of 1914-18, when fifty members of the club that were serving their country in the Armed Forces were given honorary membership of the club for the duration of the war. In 1919, the club first employed an official groundsman at £3 per week to care for and nurture the bowls green and tennis courts, perhaps an early sign of the value that the bowls club placed on the excellence and reliability of our playing surface.
The post war period of the 1920's and up to 1936 saw further growth in the club's playing activities especially in terms of player success in competitive events and this helped to build the club's stature and identity in Welsh bowls. The 1920's also saw the formation of the Glamorgan County Bowling Association and, in 1925, the formation of the Cardiff and District Private Greens Bowling Club Championships, which was later to become Welsh Private Greens Bowling Association.
Our first National title was won in 1923 when Percy Holloway won the WBA National Singles.
Building and Strengthening 1930 -1960
The 1930's were significant in our standing as a growing force in Welsh Bowls. As well as many individual notable successes during this time, the emergence of the team as a strong and competitive adversary in Welsh Bowls was becoming clear. Firstly in 1934, Barry Athletic won the Cardiff and District Private Greens and was the forerunner of the many PG1 titles that followed. Then in 1936 the club lifted the 'blue ribband' of Welsh Club Bowls, the Caruthers Shield, defeating the Parc Howard club of Llanelli by a single shot 74-73, with a nine shot victory by R.H. Baker's rink being the key to the victory.
The Barry Athletic Open Tournament continued to develop through the 1930's with an entry of 250 in 1932 and a record breaking 250 plus in 1936, an event which was eventually won by Archie Gwilliam of Victoria Park B.C. Cardiff.
In recognition of the importance of our playing surface, the green was fully relaid in the Autumn of 1936 to help maintain the quality of the surface which was by now held in high regard in wider bowling circles.
The Club open tournament was discontinued in 1939 following the outbreak of the Second World War, although club play continued but on a much limited scale. In 1941, the Athletic grounds were requisitioned by the War Department and, as result of rationing, each player in club matches was expected to provide food for his immediate opponent as well as himself. By the end of the war, membership had dropped to just 43 members, but with renewed interest following the end of hostilities, membership quickly increased to 90 by 1948.
During this period, at club level, Idwal Thomas set a record by winning the Club Singles Championship for four successive seasons 1946-1949.
In 1948, we were granted our first licence to sell alcohol but only to members and their official guests. Also, in 1948, the club acted as host for Glamorgan County in a match against the South African Touring Team. Later, in 1950, the committee agreed that the future development of our club would be better supported by the construction of a new bowls pavilion which eventually opened in on the 13th May 1952.
It was around this time, in 1951 that two 'young gentlemen' would be allowed to play on the green for a six week summer holiday period - one of these young gentlemen was Richard Griffiths, and the other, a certain J.R. Evans who today remains our longest serving club member, and went on to become a renowned international bowler of the highest order both in his standard of play and attitude and conduct off and on the green - in fact our own J.R. Evans is the only known bowler to have a 'wick' named after him!
During the 1950's the club continued its development both off and on the green. Team successes continued with the club reaching the final of the Caruthers Shield in both 1951 and 1954. The club also achieved its second Carruthers Shield victory in 1957, again winning the trophy against the Parc Howard club from Llanelli by a margin of 81 shots to 69 - two significant rink victories by L. Andrews and J.M. John by 15 and 14 shots respectively being important in the overall victory.
Success continued also in the PG1 and PG2 competitions with he club picking up winners titles in 1953 and 1955, with the latter being notable in that it was a double victory for both the PG1 and PG2 teams, further endorsing and strengthening the club's reputation in Welsh Bowls.
In this period also, in recognition of the fine playing surface, the club was honoured to host the WBA National Finals in 1960.
The Golden Years 1961 - 2000
Our Golden Jubilee year, 1961, saw the development of a new master scoreboard at the green with metal turnover letters and numbers hung on hooks which was a generous donation from Maurice Monk, who was Club Chairman from 1962-64.
1971 saw the development of a new clubhouse to provide a lounge and bar area for members with toilets and kitchen area. The construction of the new clubhouse was funded by member debenture and other fundraising. During the winter months the new pavilion was used for short green indoor bowls allowing member to keep their skills honed between the seasons. 1974 saw the installation of a new automatic watering system and a new changing room was added at the far end of the pavilion.
1976 saw the long hot summer and the ensuing drought that affected so many local bowling greens - that season the Vale County Finals were transferred from Penarth to Barry Athletic and players at the time recall 'the fastest pace ever', estimates being in the region of 17 to 18 seconds - a true challenge to the best of players even on one of the best outdoor greens.
During this period the club saw the development of several players that have represented Wales at the highest level. With numerous national and international titles accumulated also, the reputation of Barry Athletic in Welsh and UK Bowls was at its peak. Our members at the time won the British Isles Fours title in 1963, and the British Isles Singles Championship in 1978, won by J.R. Evans, together with a number of losing finalist positions at various British Isles Championships.
World Championship bronze medals followed in Worthing 1972 from Gareth Humphreys and J.R. Evans, two bronze medals in Edmonton for Russell and Jim Morgan in the 1978 Commonwealth Games, and a gold medal for Jim Morgan in the fours at the 1986 Commonwealth games in Edinburgh.
Club success continued also in the Private Greens league, where the club registered 8 Championship winning seasons between 1962 and 1979. The PG1 and PG2 'double' championship in 1975 was a notable year emulating the success of the 1955 team. Another notable achievement was the four club singles championship wins by Gareth Humphreys between 1972 and 1975, similarly emulating the achievement of Idwal Thomas in the forties.
The club hosted the WBA National Finals again during 1979, under the presidency of Gareth Humphreys, sharing the occasion with our close neighbours at Barry Romilly. 1979 also saw the Caruthers Shield final played on our green when Cwmbran Park defeated Tonypandy BC. Later in the 1980's saw further honours for the club when we hosted the Wales vs Rest of the World Series in 1981-3 with Wales winning on each occasion, and a number of our own club players taking part in the event. Photograhs of the world renowned players that graced our green during these events are still on display in the bowls pavilion.
During the 1980s the club had a regular playing membership of over 80 players, regularly turning out seven full rinks of 56 players for the weekly 'spoons' competition; Club championship and handicap tournament entries would regularly be 60 plus. The club thrived during this period with green space at a premium as well as a healthy social calendar bringing much needed income to the club.
The last decade of the century saw continued progress and development at the club. In the early 1990's the club formed a full Ladies section which was a welcome and much valued addition the the club structure, and which became fully affiliated to the Welsh Women's Bowling association in 1993 and quickly grew its membership to 36 ladies.
The nineties also saw the introduction of new green maintenance contractors that oversaw the restoration of the green to its former glories and maintained its reputation as one of the best playing surfaces in Wales. Significant changes also took place in the clubhouse with new bar fittings and furniture, the construction of new changing rooms for men and ladies and an extension to the clubhouse that incorporated the original verandah, and provide an excellent viewing area for spectators through new double glazed picture windows that overlooked the green.
Our playing achievements and successes were maintained during this period too with a number of county and Welsh titles being won, and numerous club players representing the Vale of Glamorgan C.B.A, and being part of the Welsh title winning teams of 1997 and 1999. In 1996, our long time chairman D.K. Williams lifted the Wales Over 60 Singles title beating Cardiff's Malcolm Gilmore in the final and later in the decade three of our players Richard Bowen, Robert Horgan, and Glyn Thomas were selected to represent Wales in the annual British Isles Series, the first time that three players from the club had represented Wales at the same series since the 1970's. Matthew Woodcock was also selected to represent Wales at under 25 level.
During this period the club also continued to produce administrators and officials of the highest calibre to serve at county, national and international level - notable appointments during this period were Gareth Humphreys as a national team selector and Wales team manager, and Terry Coulthard as secretary for the Vale of Glamorgan C.B.A. and treasurer for the W.B.A.
With a new clubhouse, a well established and envied reputation and heritage in Welsh bowls, first class playing facilities and players, officials and members of the highest order, Barry Athletic Bowls Club was well prepared to meet the challenges of the new millennium.
The Millennium and the Centenary
The first decade of the new millennium saw the club continue to establish itself, increasing its playing membership gradually through the recruitment of established players from other clubs whilst continuing to nurture its own crop of young bowlers, many of which were related to elder or previous members of the club. Success continued too on the green with various county titles, national titles and a first British title in the pairs for Robert Horgan and Glyn Thomas.
During this period also we supplied three players for the Welsh Commonwealth Games team with Richard Bowen and Jason Greenslade both bringing back bronze medals from the Manchester Games in 2002, where the team manager role was filled by Gareth Humphries; Jason went on to be selected for the 2006 Games in Melbourne Australia, and the 2010 Games in Delhi, when he was also selected alongside Chris Blake. Robert Horgan was also selected for the World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2008.
2011 saw the centenary of the club when a series of events and noteworthy matches against selected opponents were played, and which culminated in a Centenary Celebration Dinner which was held in the Masonic Hall in Barry on Friday 16th September 2011. A special Centenary Booklet was complied by Don Evans to faithfully record the first hundred years of Barry Athletic Bowls Club with notable contributions from Gareth Humphries, Jim Morgan Terry Coulthard and J.R. Evans. Unique Club Centenary merchandise, clothing and badges were also produced to mark this significant event in the club history, and on Saturday 23rd April 2011, the club played against St Fagan's Bowls Club, our first ever opponents back in 1911 to mark the anniversary of our first 100 years.
As we start our second centenary, Barry Athletic Bowls Club maintains its prestige position in Welsh bowls, continuing to produce top quality players, competitive teams and our renowned excellent playing surface. There have been many highs and lows during our first hundred years but the club is a very good position today to build upon the solid foundations which have been laid through the hard work, dedication and commitment of our predecessors and former members, men with vision and passion for the game of bowls.
We play in their honour and memory, and with gratitude for helping to build and develop a Bowls club, a heritage and a history that we are proud and honoured to represent.