Barry Chapman : the boy from Beckenham

June 18, 2022

Barry Chapman has been a member of the Beckenham Bowling Club in Christchurch since 1963.

That’s a heck of a long time ago. New Zealand was a very different place then … the first shopping mall in New Zealand, Lynmall, had just opened … for the first time Kiwis could fly to London aboard a BOAC Comet … and Bob Charles became the first New Zealander to win the British Open.

But most New Zealanders of ‘bowling club age’ will recall 1963 for President Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas … and more than likely recall where they were and what they were doing at the time!

It wasn’t easy for 15-year old Barry to join Beckenham.

60 years ago, bowling clubs were mysterious secret societies where elderly men dressed in a strange white kit and rolled black balls up and down a green … all the while hidden from the prying eyes of the world behind a 6 foot corrugated iron fence. Kids weren’t expected to join. And bowling club committees found ‘reasons’ why they weren’t allowed to join.

“I got turned down,” says Barry, “So I went to the (then) Canterbury Bowling Association to see how I could join. They just put it back on me to approach a club. So I went back to Beckenham for a second time, and my application to join was taken to the AGM. The AGM referred it back to the committee!”

The committee finally relented and Barry became a member.

It’s fair to say that not all members were happy. “I got great support and encouragement from a lot of members,” recalls Barry. “But there were a few who didn’t think a school kid should be in the club. The traditionalists didn’t want me in, but the survivalists knew that younger people were the future of the survival of the club.”

Barry has now retained continuous membership for nearly 60 years.

It’s a record which few bowlers get to achieve. Given the average age of joining a bowling club is something like 63.2 years old (or something like that!), few bowlers get the opportunity to celebrate a diamond membership anniversary.

What’s more even the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch didn’t dent his contiguous membership.

“We were in our home when the earthquake struck,” says Barry. “There was a lot of damage, but thankfully no physical injuries to my wife Carole and I. Fortunately, one of the members offered us accommodation in Kaikoura for 3 months, and after that we house-sat in Cambridge in the North Island for a further 6 months. All while the insurance company and EQC was giving us the run-around.”

Barry and Carole settled with the bureaucrats by the end of 2011, and they purchased an off-the-plan house at the new Northbrook Village in Rangiora.

“I had played bowls at a wonderfully friendly Cambridge Central Bowling Club over the 6 months, but when we were back in town, I continued to play my bowls out of Beckenham … it was only a 45 minute drive in the car.”

Barry has a great affection for the club. Along with the other members, he has helped Beckenham become National Club of the Year in both 2008 and 2009. “I was also honoured with being Bowls New Zealand Administrator of the Year in 2009.”

Barry has remained conscious of having to break the mould coming into bowls as a youngster years ago, and wanted to keep evolving the game to appeal to a wider community. He became an advocate of Crackajack Bowls, where ‘outsiders’ could play informal bowls in mufti. It spread throughout Canterbury.

At the same time, Barry continued to enjoy indoor bowls as much as the outdoor game.

So much so, that in addition to being a Life Member of the Beckenham Bowling Club, he is also a Life member of the St Peters Catholic Indoor Bowls Club, the Canterbury Catholic Indoor Bowls Association, and the New Zealand Catholic Indoor Bowls Federation.

On top of being accoladed for administering the game Barry’s also had a pretty sharp outdoor bowls playing career.

“I went to my first Nationals in 1965 at the age of 18, and was tickled pink to qualify in the Singles. Since then, I’ve been to the Nationals quite a number of times (19). In 1975, we got down to the last 8 in the Fours (with Wally Wilkinson, Brian Wilkinson and Noel Brostow), and another time we got into the last 16 in the Fours with the same team.”

“In 1983, I skipped a Four made up of juniors from the club at the Nationals in Dunedin and reached the last 8 again. My last Nationals was just this year. I partnered a second-year player in the Pairs, but we found the wins hard to come by. We enjoyed ourselves though!”

Barry’s also savoured success. He’s accumulated more than 20 Club titles; his first was a Fours in 1966, and he was even a member of the winning Club Triple team this last season.

In 2016, he was Chair of the Club’s Centennial Committee, and took on the job of researching and writing up the Club’s history, and publishing a missive for the centennial celebrations.

“It was easier for me to do it … I’d been at the club for over 50 years and had been a part of that history. But I had a terrific committee working with me.”

Thanks for everything Barry. We look forward to celebrating your 60 years in 2023.