Richmond Bowling Club going from strength to strength


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Back row (left to right) : Colleen Kempton, Denise Jackett, Barry Kempton, Andy Marwick, Donald Horne

Front row (left to right) : Jeanette Pauling, Helen Guiney

When you next pop into Richmond Bowling Club in Nelson, don’t be led astray by Google Maps.

“Despite Google Maps’ insistence, we moved down the road from their pinpoint 7 years ago,” says Club Patron and Life Member, Andy Marwick. “It’s the best thing we ever did!”

The club was struggling at its old site. The membership was shrinking, and as a result, the club’s income was shrinking. Yet the club’s expenses – the rates, the insurances, maintenance of two greens – were becoming more and more. It is a story we’ve heard many times before.

“We could have closed or amalgamated with another club,” says Andy. “But then another option came up. The chartered club down the road, Club Waimea, was also struggling. Their President was in our bowling club, and the idea emerged that maybe we could join forces and save each other!”

“Developers had always been interested in our land,“ he says, “So the sale would give us the opportunity to put down a new artificial green on Club Waimea land, as well as build a brand-new pavilion.”

It wasn’t a controversial decision for the club. Faced with closure or the chance to move a few hundred yards down the road and retain their own identity, it was an easy decision.

But it still tugged at the lawn bowls heartstrings to move from the site where the club had been for nearly a century.

Laying down the original green in 1919

“We celebrated our centenary last year,” says Club Secretary and historian, Helen Guiney. “The club was founded at the beginning of 1919, land was purchased from one Mr E.W.Win, the bowling green was laid, an AGM was held, officers elected, and we became affiliated with the Nelson Marlborough Centre - all in the first year.”

“The Richmond Women’s Bowling Club was established in 1952.”

Despite leaving these roots behind, Donald Horne, the numbers man at the club, is effusive about the move to Club Waimea.

“It was a win-win,” says Donald, “For them and for us.  Membership of the Richmond Bowling Club also means membership of Club Waimea.  So they have a whole new group of members using their facilities. We have a fabulous new bowling green and pavilion - which has attracted new members for us.”

“Even after gifting the pavilion to Club Waimea, donating the old clubhouse to Nelson Stock Cars out at Lansdowne Road, and rolling up the old Club Waimea carpet green and giving it to the Nelson Slot Car Club, it still leaves us with sufficient finance to be able to replace the new green when it is required.”

“We only have a full-paying membership of 64, which includes 2 who regularly commute from Murchison,” he says, “But we also attract an additional 30 seasonal members in summer, and even more in winter – over 40. With only one green, it means that you have to be quick to get a game when you want it!”

And two of the games that people really want to play in are the annual men’s and women’s signature tournaments at the club - the Nelson Building Society Men’s Invitational in July and the Women’s Invitational in February.

“They are both drawn two-day triples with a prize pool of $3,000” says Life Member Barry Kempton.   “Members also donate additional prizes, so that every player wins something. Bowlers keep coming back year after year from as far away as Christchurch, the Coast, Auckland, Tauranga and Taupo. We put on food, raffles and even a free welcoming drink!”

Barry’s wife is Colleen - THE Colleen Kempton.  As a member of the Composite team of Kay Tomlinson, Bev White and Josephine Connolly, Colleen won the Women’s National Fours in Auckland in 2009.

“It was typical Auckland weather,” laughs Colleen, “One day, we played on 3 different greens - to either avoid the rain or to avoid playing on a flooded green.  In the end, they told us they had to get the games finished, and we were playing on an artificial green with water up to our ankles. The kitty sort of floated down the green. And we tossed our bowls after it!”

Colleen and her team also went on to come third the following year.

Colleen and Kay are the only National Champions Richmond has ever had.    But it’s a different story when it comes to Centre titles - they’ve not only won quite a few Centre titles, but many other members have contributed to the Centre title haul as well.

“Our women club members do very well,” says Club Women’s Match Convenor Jeanette Pauling - more than happy to throw down a challenge to the men at the club.

Not that the men seem to need a challenge - Richmond is a club that is doing well … both the women and the men.

“We’ve come a long way,” says President Denise Jackett. “Who would’ve thought seven years ago that we would be where we are today.”

It is great inspiration for other clubs, Denise. Well done.

~Rob Davis