Cyril Gilfedder : Giving trojan service to club, centre and country

July 16, 2022

Cyril Gilfedder is one of those blokes that doesn’t take life too seriously.

He’s been a member of the North East Valley Bowling Club in Dunedin since 1976 and is waiting for the day when he gets a star beside his name of the Life Member’s honours board in the clubhouse. Not that he’ll be here to see it!

What’s more, that star’s not likely to be gilded on the board anytime soon. Despite the fact that Cyril is coming up to his 80th birthday, he’s in great health. Being a twelve-and-a-half-pound baby at birth may have something to do with it!

“I was born in Dunedin,” says Cyril. “But just after I was born, we moved off to Riverton, then to Invercargill. That’s where I joined the Courts as a clerk in 1962. I transferred to the Courts in Dunedin in 1966, and for a moment I had the silly idea that I wanted to do a law degree. That only last two terms at University!”

Cyril and Brian Sceats were work mates at the Dunedin Courts. “We also found ourselves working with Kerry Clark and Terry Scott, who started harping at Brian and I to come along to bowls, and their club at North East Valley.”

“One day in 1976, we relented. And to make sure we stuck at it, Kerry and Terry included us in their Four for the Club championships. Even though they carried a couple of newbies, we won the thing. And even went on to come runner-up in the Centre Champion of Champions.”

“It was probably the first and last time I won anything noteworthy. I’ve won a few vintage singles and got a third equal in the veteran champion of champions once. But that’s about it. I couldn’t even regularly make the four Holmes Feathers teams at North East Valley … I was the perennial ‘number 17’, which I became renowned for. In fact, I wore a big ‘17’ on my back as a late call up once. I got fined for taking the p*** out of the selector!”

But Cyril had a great excuse for not shining on the green.

He had met his wife, Tess, in Dunedin in the early days, and by the time he joined North East Valley in 1976, they had two kids: Geoff and Tony. Two more arrived (Stephen and Chris), and playing bowls was not a great excuse to absent himself from parenting duties. “Tess didn’t play, so I agreed to limit myself to club and centre bowls. It basically became club bowls … I never played centre bowls much.”

“Tess’s mother, Doreen, bowled. And she and I coerced Tess and her sister to play in the charity tournament that Ron Divers instigated at the club … you had to have a team with two bowlers and two non-bowlers. But that was the only time Tess played.”

Cyril may not have played the game of bowls a lot, but he certainly ended up administering the game a lot.

“I became Treasurer in 1977, and soon after we opened the new clubhouse at North East Valley. Then I volunteered to help write the club’s 75th jubilee publication for the celebrations in 1979. I didn’t imagine then that I’d also be writing the publication 25 years later for the centennial celebrations in 2004.”

“Along the way, I was also President in 1982/1983 and 2004/2005, and even Centre President in 2014/2015.”

But with a background in the Courts (Cyril became Registrar of the District and High Corts in Dunedin), Cyril’s admin skills took him into more specialist roles in bowls.

“I did a lot of work tidying up the constitution of the club. And Jim Scott and I also did a lot of work on the Dunedin Centre constitution. We were keen on showing clubs and centres throughout New Zealand how they could achieve the then gold star standard.”

“I also became a level 2 umpire in 2009, but neither had the aspiration nor was good enough to umpire at international level.”

“I was appointed to the Bowls New Zealand Judicial Committee in 2013 and the Dunedin Centre Judicial Committee in 2014. I’m still there!”

But it’s just having a bit of fun and banter with his mates at the club which Cyril most enjoys. And he particularly enjoys the Speight’s North East Valley Invitation Singles every Labour Weekend which the club has become renowned throughout New Zealand, and even Australia.

“It’s called the Speights North East Valley 10,000, Men’s Singles although I think there’s about $16,000 prize money these days. But it’s not the prize money so much … the winner receives a framed caricature of himself by cartoonist John Parson. It’s really special. And you’ll see framed copies of the caricatured winners hanging on the walls of the clubrooms every year since the tournament started.”

“It’s a pretty special adornment to the clubhouse walls .. much more special than my name sans star on the Life Members board!”

But then the North East Valley Bowling Club is a special place. And so is Cyril Gilfedder.

Pete Thomson sums it up: “Cyril has given trojan service to not only North East Valley, but to the Dunedin Centre and Bowls New Zealand. He’s well known in the bowls fraternity as an expert in constitutional and judicial knowledge.”

Thanks for everything, Cyril.