Blink, as you pass through the settlement of Mamaranui on State Highway 12 between Dargaville and the Waipoua Kauri Forest, and you may miss it.
You’ll almost certainly miss the Mamaranui Bowling Club … it’s hidden down a side road. And that’s a shame.
Because The Mamaranui Bowling Club is a great example of what made New Zealand tick when everything used to be closed in the weekends. And today, when everything’s open in the weekends, the club’s still a great surviving example of how to run things in a small community.
“The railway line used to be just across the road when the club opened for business in 1953”, says Club Patron and Life Member Dot Gorrie. “The train from Dargaville would drop the women from the Dargaville Bowling Club off in the morning to play in a tournament, and on the return journey in the afternoon, it would sometimes sit and wait until they had finished. It helped that the engine driver’s wife was a bowler!”
“Like many railways around the country, they pulled the line up in the late 1950’s.”
These days, it’s pretty quiet at the Mamaranui Bowling Club. Except Fridays. Friday is ‘club night’ all year round. And the place hums.
“We get 30-50 people every Friday evening,” says Dot. “Even though we only have 15 or so members. It’s a real family, community occasion” (Remember, the population of ‘greater’ Mamaranui is only 180!)
“Over summer when the green’s open (it’s grass), they can have a roll-up. They can even play on into the evening … floodlights were put in over 25 years ago.”
And once the twilight bowls are finished for the day, the club can turn on the overhead sprinklers to freshen up the green. Mamaranui is one of the few clubs that still has polythene hoses strung on wires crossing the green.
“Every Friday meals are also available : burgers, steak and chips, schnitzel and chips, fish’n chips, sausages and chips, and much more … all at ‘bowling club’ prices. The bar does a good trade as well.”
“The club has become a community meeting place. Even the Kaipara District Council uses it.”
But the club isn’t just about socialising. It spruiks a number of open bowls tournaments which have continued to be well supported over the years. They’re all any-combination triples.
“In November we have the Barrie Gorrie Memorial, sponsored by his son.”
“We have ‘the Hams and Lambs’ in December … it’s a tournament that has been continually sponsored by our Greenkeeper, Bryce Wyatt and his wife Eileen.”
“The New Year kicks off with the Pivac-Garea, named after the late Kevin Pivac and Mike Garea. When they both got past playing rugby, they took up bowls. Their families take alternate years sponsoring the tournament.”
“Then we have the Men’s Pairs … the ladies do the lunches and the funds raised go to Cystic Fibrosis.”
“Finally in March, we have the George Morrish Memorial, which traditionally handed out meat prizes to the tournament winners. We all chip in. I raised and donated a steer for five years.”
That’s the way things are done in the country. Everyone supports each other… and supports everything.
Dot still farms 10 acres. And still finds time for the bowling club, the Northern Wairoa Genealogical Society, the Dargaville Museum and much more.
“Winston Peters dropped by a couple of elections ago … I guess even he was hoping that some of that Mamaranui supportiveness might come his way!”