Keeping things real at Meadowbank Bowling Club-First published 2018

February 17, 2023

North Otago Greens Adviser Ken Thickett, Greenkeeper Bob Campbell, Club President Daphne Campbell, Sarsha, and Immediate Past President Graham Thorn

Most lawn bowlers would assume that Meadowbank Bowling Club is somewhere on the outskirts of Remuera in Auckland. Meadowbank’s that suburb in Auckland which is not ‘inskirted’ enough to be part of Remuera. Like Ilam is not inskirted enough to be part of Fendalton in Christchurch.

But there’s another Meadowbank. In the South Island city of Oamaru. And the Meadowbank Bowling Club in Oamaru has a much more legitimate claim to the name ‘Meadowbank’ than any bowling club might have in its suburban namesake in Auckland. The Meadowbank Bowling Club has been around for 137 years.

Established in 1894, the Meadowbank Bowling Club is the 6th oldest currently existing bowling club in New Zealand. So old in fact, that the founding members couldn’t even eat peanut slabs in between ends – Whittakers wasn’t founded in Porirua until 2 years later.

But it isn’t just the club’s age which makes it venerable.

Meadowbank has an indoor bowling green. Sure, it only has 4 rinks and is just 32.7 metres long. But it’s nonetheless a green that allows bowls to be played all year around – and has in fact been played nearly every day all year round since it was built way back in 1996.

It’s surprising to find such a facility way down here in Oamaru. Particularly when so much noise is being made about indoor builds in Auckland at Orewa, Remuera, Howick and Royal Oak.

But then Aucklanders would also be surprised to find that Oamaru has a wonderful agglomeration of Victorian heritage buildings in the city. And surprised to find blue penguins emerging from the sea and clambering up the rocks at dusk every evening to retire in their trust-built housing colony. And surprised to find that the largest manufacturer of confectionery in New Zealand, Rainbow Confectionery, is based in Oamaru.

Oamaru is a surprising place.

Club President Daphne Campbell takes it with a grain of salt. “We’re well-known around the North Otago-South Canterbury area,” she says, “Because the other clubs aren’t able to contemplate playing winter bowls like we can here. So the indoor facility’s used not only by us, but by other clubs and community groups in the area as well.”

Outside, the facilities at Meadowbank look just as good too.

Two maniototo greens are lovingly cared for by greenkeeper Bob Campbell, Daphne’s better half. He’s just finished refurbishing the number two green. When Bob did the number one green, he took the seed off and laid it out to dry in the voluminous clubrooms. “It’s now sitting in a bucket in the booze chiller,” says Daphne. “We have plenty of takers for the seed.”

But it’s not just greens … indoor and outdoor … that Meadowbank has developed a name for.

“We’ve did really well at the recent Champion of Champion Pairs in Dunedin,” says Daphne. “Our girls got in to the last 8. And the boys finished 10th. This last season at the North Otago Centre championships, we came away with 22 titles.”

That’s not bad for a club of just 51 full-playing members and 16 social.

And whilst today they don’t have big guns in the bowling world, Meadowbank was home to the famous A.J. ‘Snow’ Rudduck : member at Meadowbank from 1955-1992; National Fours winner in 1966; Champion of Champion Singles winner in 1980; winner of 22 Centre titles; winner of 8 Easter titles; and winner of 36 Meadowbank titles.

Snow’s photo hangs as a centrepiece on the club wall. It’s a wall that Immediate Past President Graham Thorn is extremely proud of … displaying memorabilia which includes photos of other club lawn bowls emeritus, the honours boards, the roll of honour and more.

“When you’ve been going for over 125 years,” says Graham, “you feel you’re simply caretakers … and that you have a responsibility to hand over the club to the next generation in the same or better condition than you found it.”

Well said Graham. And with people like Daphne, Bob and Graham in the club, things are looking good for the next generation at Meadowbank.


-Rob Davis