Like many towns around New Zealand, in the middle decades of the last century Greymouth once had a heck of a lot of bowling clubs.
The population of the town itself has always hovered around the 8,000 mark (with another 5,000 or so adding in the surrounding Grey District). Yet at one stage, greater Greymouth was home to 8 bowling clubs.
The four clubs established in the war years : Cobden (1936); Karoro (1937); Dobson (1939); and Blaketown (1945) still compete for Greymouth’s lawn bowling patronage.
The clubs at Runanga and Dunollie have closed. And the oldest club in Greymouth, the Greymouth Bowling Club established in 1904, has along with the Greymouth RSA Bowling Club relinquished its greens, and its members now play out of the Cobden Bowling Club.
They were all clubs that flourished when societal precepts were a little different … when for men in particular, time at bowls competed more robustly with time with the family.
Patron and Life Member, Frank Lucas, joined the Karoro Bowling Club in 1973 when the club was a powerhouse in the lawn bowls world.
“Ash Warnes, a New Zealand Selector. was a member of the club,” Frank recalls. “And he convinced Kerry Clark to transfer to Greymouth and join the club. Kerry went on to bowl for New Zealand in the Commonwealth Games in Christchurch in 1974.” (Kerry won the gold in the Fours with Dave Baldwin, Jack Somerville and Gordon Jolly.)
“Bruce McNish is still a member at the club today. He represented New Zealand at the 1994 Commonwealth Games.”
“He also won the Men’s National Fours a fair few times (1983 as a member of Milton; 1988 as a member of Spreydon; 1993 as a member of Greymouth; 1994 as a member of Burnside; and 2008 as a member of the Aussie club Musgrave Hill). I think he also won the National Pairs in 1994. So he’s been around a bit!”
“Gordon Batty was a member here. He was President of the West Coast Centre and went on to be President of the New Zealand Bowls Association. Gary Pascoe was also a member of the club before he passed away. His brother still plays here.”
Frank worked for the Railways, and like many railway workers in Greymouth, Karoro became their preferred bowling club.
“We all drank at the Australasian Hotel,” he confesses. “That’s how I got dragged into bowls in the first place.”
Frank ended up being everything in the club, but Treasurer. “When I join something, I like to do my fair share. And that’s what I like about the club … everybody pitches in.”
That included pitching in to shift the club to its current site in the 1950’s.
“The local health board turfed us off our original 1937 site, so some members lifted the pavilion, put it on some empty Monteith’s kegs, and rolled it down the road to where we are now!”
Club Secretary, Mary Keating, is another who has had a bowls lifetime at Karoro.
“I was an indoor bowler before I played outdoor bowls,” she laughs. “In fact I started indoor when I was 19. But a friend introduced me to the outdoor game in 1988.”
“AT the time I joined Karoro, the women’s club was very strong.” she says. “Unfortunately, we’re down to just three playing women. But we enjoy the club so much, we’ve got no plans to transfer elsewhere.”
The club only has 16 or so playing members. “It would be great to get more members,” observes Frank. “But we’re quite happy muddling along,”
Perhaps it’s time to get out the kegs again.
Best case is that if you tap them, members will come!
Worst case is that the club resorts to Plan B … and pops the pavilion on a few empty kegs again, and rolls it down the road to wherever it’s wanted in Greymouth!