Kevin Briscoe : Distinguished Umpires’ Award

Kevin Briscoe has been an Umpire for over 50 years.

That’s longer than most people have been playing bowls.  Heck, it’s longer than many bowlers have even played at living!

And that’s just umpiring.  Kevin’s been actually playing the game since 1969.  Imagine.  When Kevin found a set of bowls to have a go with at his workplace at the Ohakea Air Force base, he probably still had sixpences and thrupences in his pocket … and was chatting with his mates about whether man would finally land on the moon that year.

There might still have been a Hercules or Orion parked on the apron at Ohakea … although back then they would have been new and shiny.

The RNZAF not only defined where Kevin found himself working over the coming years, but also where he ended up bowling … and umpiring.  He joined the Hornby Bowling Club in 1970, ‘over the road’ from Wigram Air Force Base.  And was then back airforcing in Auckland at Hobsonville and Whenuapai, and being tutored by Joe Parker at the Hobsonville Bowling Club in the secretive arts of umpiring.

Kevin became Umpire No, 1242.

Kevin threw himself into umpiring.  And the administration of umpiring.  He was the Secretary and Treasurer of the Royal New Zealand Air Force Bowling Association from 1969, from 1984 he was President of the Western Suburbs Umpires’ Association and Delegate to the Auckland Umpires’ Association.  In 1986 he became an Executive Member of the Auckland Bowling Centre.

He participated in the ‘golden bowling years’ in Auckland in the late 80’s … being appointed as a ‘yellow jacket’ at the World Bowls in Henderson in 1988 and an umpire at the Commonwealth Games at Pakuranga in 1990. After 20 years of umpiring, Kevin had become a very good technical official,

At about the same time, Kevin retired from the Air Force, and moved to Kaitaia in the tropical north where he became involved in the Far North Bowling Centre,  Thirty-five years later he has been there, done that in everything Far North Bowls.  Yet today he is still Vice President of the Far North RSA Bowling Club in Kaitaia.

“What he doesn’t know about umpiring and the laws of bowls isn’t worth knowing,“ observes Janine Lambert, Secretary of the Far North Umpires’ Group. “He’s reserved, but strong.  He’s a man of principle.  He lets his actions do the talking.”

But it’s been a tough last few years, Kevin has been grappling with a heart that hasn’t behaved they way he would like it to (but now better), and grappling with unfortunate reputational slandering … that has now been shown to be the misanthropy it was.

“He’s back … and full of beans,” laughs Janine.

It was therefore wonderful that recently, at a ceremony in Kaitaia on 23rd February, Kevin was presented with the Distinguished Umpires’ Award by Patrick Higgenbotham, Vice-President of the Far North Bowls Centre.

“Kevin has not only been an active umpire longer than any other umpire in New Zealand … ever,” says Michael Johnson, Chair of the New Zealand Umpires’ Committee.  “But he’s still umpiring today, and is still the President of the Far North Umpires’ Group.”

“The Distinguished Umpires’ Award is awarded at the national level to umpires who have made a long-standing, distinguished and exceptional contribution to umpiring and the sport of bowls,” says Michael.  “This may be for their work at a club, centre, national or international level."

“Kevin is absolutely the person we designed this award for.  He embodies everything about this award not only for his exceptionally long commitment to the sport and umpiring, but for his contribution to many aspects of the game, his support for others, and the skill and expertise he has brought to many different settings over the 50 years.”

Congratulations Kevin.  You really are appreciated,  And as bowlers, we may not say that to umpires nearly as often as we should!