Lawn Bowling-Cobourg Club History

Cobourg Lawn Bowling


On April 19th, 1907, the Cobourg Horticultural Society recommended the establishment of a bowling green east of the Elms where the old drill shed was located, in Victoria Park, and on April 26th less than 7 people met to organize a club. A meeting was arranged for April 29th when a large group met to decide where the grounds should be. The Treasurer, Mr. Jones, favoured Victoria Park.

A committee was formed as follows:
President – J. E. Skidmore
Vice President - Stanley Barr
Treasurer – G. E. Jones
Secretary – G. S. Chatterton
Committee – E. W. Hargroft, J. D. Hayden and James Bulger.
There were 68 members.

The Executive Committee was authorized to decide the location of the green and they chose Victoria Park. There was no club house at that time. The membership fee was $4 which included the use of the bowls which were kept in a long wooden box by the fence. Four rinks were enclosed by a chicken wire fence and the green was lit by a string of gas jets each way. The caretaker was paid the handsome amount of $40 for the season.

In 1908, ladies were invited to join at a fee of $8 with bowls supplied and 21 did so. Ladies were allowed to bowl every morning and evening unless a tournament was being played. A league was set up to include Bowmanville, Colborne, Oshawa and Port Hope. Whitby later replaced Colborne. Only singles and fours were played.

The 1909 season opened on June 21st with the men’s and ladies’ sections being run separately. The ladies section chose Miss Eyre as their President. Both sections would continue to be run separately until 1988.

The archives record a number of large tournaments held during each season in the 1920’s. By 1936, membership had fallen to 35 members and funds were very low so it is surprising to find that in 1937 it was decided to build an addition to the club house at a cost of $2,500. In 1941, it was recorded that doubles play started. Up to that point play had still been singles or fours. There would be no further changes until 1957 when trebles were introduced in place of fours.

In 1952 fees were increased to $9 and that included the use of a locker. This appears to be the first time fees had increased for a number of years but after such a long period without increases the fees went up again in 1956 to $12 and again in 1960 to $15. By 1980 they had increased to $35 and to $65 by 1992. There followed relatively large increases over the following years to $100 by 1996 and $120 in 2000.

In 1990, Dorothy and Paul Allen formed the club’s junior section which has proved very successful and continues to this day. The club celebrated its centenary in 2007 with a tournament, dinner and entertainment at the Legion. Also, about that time there were discussions with the Town about possibly moving the club from its Victoria Park location to the planned new Cobourg Community Centre.

However, that plan did not materialize and the club remains an integral part of Victoria Park and the waterfront area of Cobourg. In 2017, the club celebrated 110 years in Victoria Park with the traditional anniversary tournament followed by a celebratory dinner at the Mill restaurant.

At the 1923 AGM, there was discussion about erecting a club house. A committee was formed to solicit subscriptions but membership had declined and it was hoped that when membership increased to 60 a club house could be erected. In 1924, the tennis club contributed $500 and the Cobourg Lawn Bowling Club (CLBC) borrowed $1000 from Victoria and Grey for the building of a club house. The loan was repaid by July 23rd, 1925.

The specification was for a simple frame cottage; large gauge shiplap siding; a centre door with small single sash windows either side; the roof was extended over a porch to the south with square wood columns supporting the overhang. At an added cost of $525, a substantial fence and dome lights were added.

In 1937, it was decided to build an addition to the club house at a cost of $2,500. Another front door, side windows and extension of the porch overhang were built. The addition doubled the size and the result was essentially the club house as it is at present.

There are no further records of changes but in 1961 a new roof was put on the club house at a cost of $800 and then, in 1981, it is recorded that the roof was patched and that there was a special levy of $10 per member to pay for it. In 1983, a small shed was put on the North West end.

Until 1947, the tennis club still had an involvement with the lawn bowling club but for whatever reason the then CLBC President, Mr. Holland, wrote to the tennis club President suggesting that they had relinquished their involvement in the CLBC as they had left and made no further contributions. That suggestion was apparently accepted.

When the club was founded there were four rinks. In 1909, another four rinks were added to the north of the existing rinks. It is thought that this forms the basis of the 8 rinks of today’s south green. In September of 1914, the Town council granted land to the East to square off the plot. Unlike the club house, which is owned by the club the land is leased from the Town.

In 1928, drains were laid round the club house. In 1929, the Town granted land for 3 more greens at a cost of $1,000. There is little record of development of the greens and grounds until 1952 when the club borrowed an unspecified sum to pay for new lights. In 1961, the east end of the greens was re-sodded at a cost of $505.

In 1973, 200 yards of turf was bought from a golf club for further refurbishment. In 1975, the club received a New Horizons for Seniors grant of $4745.65 for new lighting on both greens. In 1976/77 a new sprinkler system was installed with a grant of $4418.72. By 2001, the light standards were declared dangerous and new lights were installed early in 2003. The total cost was $29,835 and a Trillium grant was received of $25,000 towards the cost.

In 2002, the sprinkler system was replaced and a new control system installed at a cost of $6744. In 2012, much of the greens-keeping machinery was replaced following a New Horizons for Seniors grant of $16,000. This allowed the club to purchase a second mower, a polisher/roller, a new Verticutter, a compressor and other minor pieces of equipment.

In 2018, the club received a grant under the Horizons for Seniors program which was used for new greens keeping equipment (a multi-purpose mower, ride on tractor and self-propelled surrounds mower) as well as several sets of new lawn bowls. At the end of the 2018 season, a new equipment garage was built following successful fund raising by members and augmented by a $10,000 donation from the Rotary Club of Cobourg.

In 1974, a proposal was made by the Ladies section that the club should have its own Pin. The Ladies President at that time was Jean Rutherford and she took on the task of designing the Pin. The centrepiece of the design is a white rose which was the flower of the Cobourg Centennial.

In 1994, the then club secretary, Shirley Fraser, initiated the production of a club crest, based on the pin, which was available for members to purchase, either as an individual crest or directly sown on to shirts and jackets.

As part of the 110th anniversary celebrations, it was decided that the logo should be updated to a more modern style. However, the Executive Committee wanted to retain the traditional Cobourg white rose. After much discussion and refinement, the new logo was introduced in 2017.

There are many familiar and notable names that appear in club records and on the numerous trophies in the club house. Too many to mention here and apologies to the many who have made significant contributions to the club but are not mentioned.

Victor Foxhall and Helen Cane won the Ontario mixed pairs title in 1987. Vic was an English singles champion in 1951 and he became a member at Cobourg in 1955. He held many positions in the club as well as at District and Provincial levels. He was President of the Ontario Lawn Bowling Association in 1974 and in 1975 he received a special achievement award from the Government of Ontario.

Vic won 3 gold medals at the first Canada Summer Games and was successful in tournaments at provincial, district and club level. Vic's son, Martin is also a Cobourg member and has followed in his father’s footsteps and enjoyed success at all levels, most recently as a member of the Ontario Fours team which won silver at the 2017 Canadian National Championships in Victoria, BC.

The Milligan family have long been associated with lawn bowling and the Cobourg club. Ron and Trudy Milligan were members for many years and their children, Dan and Sharyl Ann are current members. Dan has won many awards in the Ontario games, as a member of the Canadian National team and in the Commonwealth games. In 1994, Dan and Sharyl Ann were at the Commonwealth games in Victoria BC, Dan as a coach and Sharyl Ann as an umpire.

Sharyl Ann was also a member of the Canadian national team and in the 1990s represented Canada in New Zealand and Scotland. Sharyl Ann is currently the Ontario representative on the (Umpires) National Officiating Committee and still finds time to run the successful Cobourg junior program as well as being a member of the Executive Committee. Dan runs his own business, MVP Sports which supplies bowls and equipment throughout Canada. Dan was inducted into the Cobourg & District Sports Hall of Fame in 2020.

Although no longer members Jim and Ruth Gordon have contributed much to the club over the years in bowling and serving on the Executive Committee, including a number of terms as President. Jim continues to support the club through sponsorship of the Open Men’s Pairs tournament.

Doug and Muriel Moore have also been long time members of the club. Unfortunately, they had to give up bowling a few years ago but were made honorary members. Doug, who looked after the greens for many years, died in 2014. Muriel, together with her sister, Doris (a past President), served the club in many ways over the years and the club was saddened by her passing in January, 2019.

Alma McKendrick was the last President of the Ladies club in 1987. Alma has served the club in many capacities. Unfortunately, Alma has now had to retire from bowling.

The names Carol and Harry Knapper can be found on many trophies and in many photos in the club house. Although Carol was not able to bowl in 2013, she remained a full member of the club and was often on the veranda watching the action. Both Carol and Harry have been active in the club serving on the Executive Committee in different capacities over the years and Carol will be missed following her death in December, 2013.

More recently siblings Ben and Baylee van Steijn have enjoyed major success at junior level. Ben has twice won the Ontario gold medal and Baylee won Ontario bronze and silver at the Canadian junior championships. Baylee is a member of the Senior Canadian Team for 2019 and 2020.

Reviewed August 2020


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