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A Brief History of the Bristol Blind Bowling Club

(Taken from the booklet by John Branfield)

In John’s own words - “…..it hopefully expresses how purposeful and pleasurable this particular pastime can be for unsighted and sighted alike. For my part I have found considerable satisfaction in providing support, but equally I have thoroughly enjoyed the companionship within the Club with the impairment often becoming a source of humour rather than a burden. ’’

In 1959 the Scottish first started bowls for the blind. In those days the player was helped onto the mat and instructed to bowl towards a voice or clapping or the sound of a bell. Today the ‘clock method’ is used. The bowler is at 6 o’clock and the skip is at 12 o’clock so when a bowl comes to rest the skip says at what time it is and how far from the jack. There are 2 concessions for blind bowlers, 1. the mat must always be 2 meters from the ditch and 2. a fixed string runs down the centre of the rink. This helps the player to feel the direction to bowl. The string has 3 points on it at 25, 28 and 32 metres, these points tell the player how far the jack is from the mat.

The Early Years

In 1974 a group of blind people considered forming a sports organisation for the visually impaired. They decided that bowls would be a suitable game for all. With help of Pat Jones from Bristol City Council a start was made at Whitchurch indoor bowling club. Dougie Deft from Keynsham bowling club was the coach and the original members were Alan Dyte, John Thomas, David Hayward and Dave Newton. The club grew quickly to a dozen members and fixtures were arranged with Keynsham, Bristol, Portishead, Clevedon and Bristol Arrow.

Brandon Hill (1975 - 1994)

An offer arose to share the green with Cabot and Brandon Hill bowling clubs. This was a very successful period for the club with membership rising to 40 and becoming mixed. Bill McCready was the Chairman at this time.

In the first year the club was invited to a major blind tournament In Hyde Park, London, where they performed with distinction.

Fixtures were extended to include opponents in S. Wales, Folkstone, Hartlepool, Leicester, London and Hastngs.

John Thomas, Dave Newton, Doug Hayward and Steve Carpenter often entered sighted City and County competitions with impressive results.

The pinnacle to date of Bristol blind bowlers was to represent England in the Commonwealth Games winning several medals of all colours.

The end of this period came when Cabot and Brandon Hill bowling clubs both finished. The Bristol Blind club was forced to find another green.

Greville Smythe (1995 - 2002)

This was a time of happy associations with Greville Smythe and Bristol South bowling clubs. Four players , including the treasure David LePoidevin, together with four from the West Country were selected to go to Australia for the International championships. In 1999 Alan Dyte, Dave Newton and John Thomas represented England in the triples competition which was a feather in the Club’s cap.

The Bristol Bus Company decided to terminate the route that passed by the club which made it difficult for members to get there. This started a slow decline in membership and once again the club was forced to find another club.

Bristol Arrow Bowling Club (2002 - Present Day)

The club was fortunate to be welcomed to the Arrow green. Up until now the club has still fulfilled many of its long standing fixtures. The Two Counties Blind Tournament at Clevedon still remains the most contested one.

The Joan Howard National Triples tournament was compete for in 2003 with the final between two Bristol Blind teams.

The backbone of the club remains in the hand of Alan Dyte as Chairman and Dave Newton as Captain. Further support comes from Brian fisher, Malcolm Patterson and John Branfield. From the Arrow Val and Clive Ford and Gill Razey’s support cannot be over-emphasised.