Founded in 1943, Birkenhead Bowling Club will its mark its 75th Jubilee with five days of play and partying over Easter this month and everyone – especially members from other clubs - is invited to share in the celebrations and $7000 prize-money.
Other clubs have been around for much longer, with Auckland formed in 1862 and North Harbour’s Devonport in 1895, but Birkenhead’s consistent success in Centre, Regional, National and World competition over the years has given it a proud history since the original committee held its inaugural meeting to create the club on 1st February 1943.
The new club bought a half-acre of land for eighty pounds on the corner of Mokoia Rd and Wairoa Ave and used a small ex-Army hut as a clubroom for its initial 25 members who paid an annual membership fee of 4 pounds 5 shillings – less a 10 shilling rebate for prompt payment.
After almost two years of hard and mostly-volunteer work the single green was ready for play on - opening day 11th November 1944 when membership had more than doubled to 55.
Now with 84 men and 20 women players, and 158 social members including chairperson Colin Barrow, Birkenhead has two greens which in the mid-90s were re-laid on sand to give the drainage for both summer and winter play. The club boasts that they are the best natural greens in Auckland, and remain the North Shore’s only sand-based surfaces.
Known as a progressive, friendly club, Birkenhead’s large clubhouse has an elevated viewing area, two bars with pool, darts, TAB, big-screen TVs and full kitchen. Birkenhead secretary Terry Moverley says the club’s social and welcoming atmosphere is largely due to its diversity of membership, ranging from proven stars to grass-roots players.
Top Birkenhead bowlers such as Tony Grantham brought home winners’ trophies from national and world championships while the late Danny O’Connor scored a New Zealand Gold Star for winning 10 national titles. Bowls legend Peter Bellis kept winning during his few years with the club.
And Birkenhead itself has been rewarded with three Bowls North Harbour Club of the Year awards between 2009 –when women were allowed to become members - and 2012. While three years ago becoming the first North Harbour Centre club to receive the Bowls New Zealand ClubCheck Gold Award for 'providing a strong and sustainable club based on sound business management, promotion of the sport in the local community, encouragement of community use of its facilities and bowling results.'
Birkenhead’s Easter celebration starts on Thursday with a $1000 Open Any Combination pairs tournament followed on Friday and Saturday by the Jubilee $5000 Open Classic and the $1000 Open Triples on Monday.
The social highlight is sure to be the 75th Jubilee Gala Dinner on Saturday evening with The Mermaids dance-band – but who knows how many guests might turn up? Everyone is invited and at last count our 500 clubs have 35,564 members – 25,534 players and 10,030 social.
It could be a great night.