Patron Jim Urlich and President Roly Brown
In the 1850s, when the Reverend Norman McLeod shipped into Northland’s Bream Bay with 800 fellow Presbyterians, they must have thought they had finally arrived in some antipodean promised land, after escaping the challenging climes of the highlands of Scotland and Nova Scotia.
None of the 2,000 or so living in the area today would disagree with them. Waipu, Waipu Cove and Lang’s Beach remain one of those unheralded Kiwi paradises, only blemished once a year over Christmas/New Year by an influx of thousands of Aucklanders trailing the city traffic behind them. The surf, the beach, the climate … and for lawn bowlers, the bowling club … create a spot which must be just about as good as it gets.
Whilst the surf, the beach and the climate have spoilt Waipu forever, the Waipu Bowling Club has only been around a relatively short time – just 100 years – and on Saturday 29th February, the club celebrates its centenary with a day of bowls and bonhomie.
Back in May 1920, 8 would-be-bowlers met in Waipu and resolved to form a lawn bowls club. Waipu was a place on the go. Foundation work had been started on a branch line from the main trunk railway (and although abandoned, will probably be used for Shane Jones’ railway to Marsden Point).
The following month, a meeting of 20 intended members got the club underway, and after negotiating a lease from the Caledonian Society, the new browntop bowling green was opened the following year in November 1921. A year later in October 1922, the club had a pavilion – a refurbished classroom from the old school site.
Husband and wife team : Patrons Jim & Ivy Urlich
Membership grew to 50+ after the war. In 1950, a busy AGM resolved to set up a women’s club (1952), to purchase the land from the Caledonian Society (1955), and to build a new club pavilion (1956). By the 1970’s membership had climbed to 100+, necessitating the creation of a second green (1982). Today membership hovers around the 80 mark.
Club stalwarts (and patrons and life members) Jim and Ivy Urlich who joined in 1981 and 1982 have seen a fair chunk of that 100 years. “We’re not the longest-serving,” laughs Jim. “We’ve got a couple of members, Malcolm Sandford and Peter Brown, who were here for the golden jubilee in 1970!”
But living just across the reserve from the greens, Jim and Ivy have been able to keep a caring eye on the club for that last 40 years, unconditionally volunteering for all the jobs and duties that bowling clubs seem to incessantly require : filling the flagons, preparing the corned beef and ham lunches, organising the tournament draws (all tournament teams are drawn at Waipu), keeping the greens up to scratch, keeping the clubrooms squeaky clean … the list goes on.
“That’s what the club’s about,” says Jim. “Everyone pitching in and doing what needs to be done. Ivy’s baking the cake for the centenary celebrations. Not just one, but two of them.”
President Roly Brown (and relative club newby with 28 years service!) agrees.
“We’ve also been lucky to have had prudent management at the club. Since I’ve been here, we’ve only had three treasurers. They’ve all been great. They’ve acted conservatively, and haven’t given in to the temptations of debt. We can keep our subs at a reasonable level, because we don’t have the outgoings that other clubs might have. As a result, members are happy.”
Member also love the friendliness of the club. “Most just want to play bowls and enjoy the fellowship. It’s not about the winning. We’re not highly competitive. There aren’t the big names here. And we only have a few trophies in the cabinet.” observes Roly.
Waipu may not be enriching the bowling elite, but they’re certainly nourishing the grass roots. A formula which we’re looking forward to seeing for another 100 years!