Gwen Lawson : Still loving bowls after 50 years

March 29, 2022

Gwen Lawson

Not many people have given more to the sport of lawn bowls than Gwen Lawson.

What’s more, few have given more to the sport of netball than Gwen Lawson.  And for that matter, marching … she’s right up there with contributors to that sport.

On top of playing and administering lawn bowls, netball and marching, she’s also managed to squeeze in playing softball (in her 20’s), indoor basketball (well into her 30’s) and swimming.  Knowing Gwen, you would also have to suspect that she’s also made an administrative mark on those sports as well.

She’s also given tennis and golf ‘a go’.

For one-dimensional sportspeople like most of us, all this multi-sporting sounds exhausting.

But that’s Gwen.

Even after all this service … even at the age of 82 going on 83 … even after a debilitating stroke three years ago, Gwen’s still keen to contribute.  Although these days, it’s limited to contributing to her perennially favourite sport : lawn bowls.

Gwen shows off her club's recognition of 50 year's membership.
“I’m still the Events Manager of the Northland Centre and a member of the Northland Board,” she laughs. “I’ve given 20 year’s service on both.  I think some of the members think I might be past it … particularly when they hear my creaky old voice (from the stroke) … but I can assure them the brain’s still fully functional!”

Nothing proves that more than the pages of the local newspaper, the Northern Advocate.

Gwen still writes a column (‘Bowls Chat’) for the Advocate every week … a labour of love that would push the pencil of even the most resilient of correspondents.

Unfortunately, for the moment, the pen is mightier than the bowl.  Gwen hasn’t played the game since April last year.  She had a fall (sorry ‘fell over’ ... she’s too young to have ‘had a fall’!) and unexpected ill-health has kept her off the green.

“I’m still keen to get back playing,” she says determinedly. “The body just needs to learn to behave!”

A stroke doesn't stop Gwen knocking out a column for the Northern Advocate
They would love to welcome her back to the green at Hikurangi (20kms north of Whangarei).

“I’ve belonged to Hikurangi ever since I started playing bowls in the 1971/1972 season,” she says. “In fact, they presented me with a trophy recently recognising the 50 years I had been a club member.  They also made me a life member some years ago.  I think I’ve done every job at the club, except greenkeeper!”

“They wouldn’t want me mucking around with the green!”

Gwen’s also a member of Kamo Bowling Club, which is more conveniently located to her home at the Lupton Masonic Village.

“I have to confess that I did start playing indoor bowls first,” says Gwen.  “My mum and dad were big indoor bowlers so I was playing when I was about 10.  Mum and dad both worked for the Northern Advocate … my mum as a book binder and dad as a lino operator.  They formed an indoor club and we all attended as a family.  Dad was an administrator in the sport at Whangarei and Centre level.”

“When I was in my early thirties, a friend suggested I give the outdoor game a go.  I loved it.  I gave up the indoor game almost immediately … I found it was like playing marbles!”

However, back in 1971/1972, it was still difficult for a woman to play bowls, particularly when they had a full-time job like Gwen.

“Only the men would play in the weekends, the women had to play during the week.  I worked for a chartered accountant full-time, but I got so keen on my bowls, I eventually manged to talk them in to going part-time so I could take Tuesdays and Thursdays off for bowls.”

At the same time, she was a solo parent, bringing up two small children : Sharon and Garry (no relation).  It was tough.

“Neither of the kids play lawn bowls,” she laughs. “They probably had enough bowls seeing me play all the time!  But hopefully we’ll get more bowlers in the family : those two kids have become 6 grandkids and 6 great grandkids.  In a few week’s time, it’ll become 8 great-grandkids – we’re expecting twins.”

Whilst Gwen has never regarded herself as an excellent player, 50 years of bowling has meant that she’s managed to put a few titles in the bank.

“I’ve won 21club titles,” she says.  “Two of those were at Kamo.  I also have 15 Northland (Centre) titles, and had half a dozen runners-up as well.“

“I went to the Nationals 16 years running.  I think the best I ever did was reaching the quarter-finals in the Singles in Christchurch.  I can’t remember what year.  We also got into the last 16 in Wellington in the Fours.”

That may not be ‘excellent bowling’ in Gwen’s eyes, but most bowlers throughout New Zealand would be more than happy with a record like that.

Gwen is grateful to the community for her QSM
In 2019, Gwen received a QSM for her 65 year’s service to sports administration.  When you think of all the service she’s given to bowls, then extrapolate that across netball and marching at local and New Zealand level, then you suddenly realise what a huge amount of giving to the community Gwen has done … and continues to do.

Thanks for everything, Gwen.