The Northern Bowling Club celebrates a new century with a new brand

February 19, 2021

At Easter this year, the Northern Bowling Club in Palmerston North will turn 100.

It will be Palmerston North’s fourth bowling club to mark a century, although two of the earlier centenarians now no longer exist.  Manawatu Bowling Club closed 15 or so years ago.  And Terrace End Bowling Club amalgamated onto the Northern Bowling Club site last year.  Across the CBD, only Palmerston North Bowling Club is still hosting bowls after 132 years.

Technically though, even Northern will only briefly enjoy a second century.  With the amalgamation with Terrace End, the new combined club is set to be formally renamed ‘North End Bowling Club’ at the AGM this year, once the people who enjoy such detail have sorted out the niceties of a new club constitution.

That won’t stop celebrations being held over the Easter weekend.

“We’re planning events on Good Friday (2nd), Saturday (3rd) and Easter Sunday (4th),” says Life Member, Noeleen Elston.

“On the Friday evening at 4:30pm, there’ll be welcome drinks and nibbles at the club … it’ll be an opportunity for everyone to catch up.”

“On the Saturday, there’s a drawn tournament for registrants, starting at a morning-after friendly time of 11:00am.  More than likely it’ll be teams of 4 playing mixed triples.  AT the end of the day, there’ll be a BBQ dinner, drinks and music.”

“On Sunday, the clubrooms will be open from 11:00am.  That’s when the formalities will be :  the speeches, the cutting of the centenary cake, as well as a hot roast lunch.”

Registrations for the weekend are already coming in (see below), and the club is expecting somewhere north of 150 attendees.

Even that may be an underestimate.  Over its 100 years, the club has been home to some big names in bowls : Sharon Sims, Phil and Phillip Skoglund, Russell Meyer, Vic Sellars, Lyn McLean, Peter Shaw, Mark Nobel, Mary Campbell … the list goes on.  In fact there’s been so many internationals at the club,  Northern may well have the only honours board in the country celebrating those club members who have represented New Zealand internationally in bowls (see below).

The club has an impressive pedigree.  It includes the grandfather and father of Phillip and Phil … another Phillip Skoglund … who was also a club member.  He was Member of Parliament for the Palmerston North electorate from 1957-1960.  And like the younger Skoglunds, he was also a very handy bowler, and repeated centre titlist.

It’s not surprising that the club should have attracted such lawn bowls notables.

“At one time, Northern had a membership of 450 and a waiting list,” recalls 45 year member and Life Member, Des Meyer (father of).  “We had 4 greens, and members still had to book a spot to play on Saturday.  The Women’s Nationals were headquartered here in 1998, and they’ve been described as the best Nationals ever.  We had glorious weather.”

These days, the club is down to two wonderfully-manicured, international-sized cotula greens.  A third green has been given over to play petanque, and the fourth green is lying in wait for the Palmerston North City Council to hopefully action a positive feasibility report which might result in a cover being built over the green.

And although, membership is ‘down’ to 240 or so full-playing and social members, the expectation is that the newly-named North End Bowling Club will reverse the ‘u’ and the club will become a hub not just  for bowls, but for other Palmerstonian sports as well.

“We already host College Old Boys’ Rugby and Manawatu Petanque,” says Club Funding Coordinator, Christine Quinn. “And there’s another couple of sports who are also eyeing us up as a potential home.”

Becoming a more comprehensive community facility is sure to enamour the club to the local local body, and make them favourites for further funding support.

Who knows.  The new North End Bowling Club may even headquarter the Nationals again in the future.  And even beat the reputation of its 1998 Northern Bowling Club predecessor to become the best ever host of the Nationals.

World Championship International Representatives from the Northern Club

Phil Skoglund         
1966                 Singles and Pairs
1972                 Triples and Fours                                     
1980                 Pairs (bronze) and Fours (bronze)
1984                 Fours (bronze)                                     
1988                 Triples (gold) and Fours (silver)
1992                 Triples and Fours

Vic Sellars               
1976                 Pairs and Fours

Russell Meyer     
2000                 Pairs (bronze) and Fours (bronze)
2004                 Singles (bronze) and Pairs (bronze)                                     
2008                 Pairs (gold) and Fours (gold)

Sharon Sims         
2000                 Triples (gold) and Fours (gold)
2004                 Pairs (gold) and Fours                                     
2006                 Singles (silver)
2008                 Triples (bronze) and Fours