Bowling back the years at Coaltown

Provost of Fife Jim Leishman throws the first bowl at Balgonie Bowling Club
Provost of Fife Jim Leishman throws the first bowl at Balgonie Bowling Club

Club celebrates centenary year in style

Members of a Coaltown of Balgonie institution were ‘bowling’ back the years at the weekend with the help of the Provost of Fife.

For the village’s bowling club is celebrating its centenary year and Provost Jim Leishman was on hand to open the season with the ceremonial throwing of the first jack.

The Provost was following in the footsteps of Lady Nina Balfour who who had the honour 100 years earlier, albeit then she was afforded a special silver jack for the occasion and was afterwards presented with a pair of gold mounted bowls.

Her husband Charles Balfour had provided the green to his employees in time for the 1914 season after the club had been formed a month before on March 2. Mr Balfour had been approached the year before in his capacity of owner of Balfour Collieries and Estates to fund the provision of a club for the community.

Groundworks commenced in September, 1913 and were completed at an eventual cost of £244.

The birthday cake

The birthday cake

Official opened on May 20, 1914 the club has been a permanent fixture ever since.

However, the community’s use of the the facilities was short lived. Following the outbreak of the First World War the club house was taken over in October 2014 by the 1st/6th Highland Light Infantry who were billeted close by , they stayed until May of the following year.

They regiment recognised their stay in the town and in a token of their appreciation presented the club with the HLI Trophy, a commanding piece of silverware that members still compete for to this day.

Club honours have been numerous with the club’s first major success that of winning the Gilmour Trophy in 1931. In 1968 national recognition was assured with the securing of the Senior Four’s National Title and a number of county competitions.

More recently, the club won the ‘Fife Triple’ in 2003 and the club’s 100 members continue to compete at all levels locally throughout the season.

Ian Hemsley, club secretary and former president said the club will be making a special effort to mark the landmark season.

“It’s a historic occasion for this club and one we want to celebrate,” he told the Gazette.

“It’s an honour to have the Provost here and we’ll be having a number of functions through out the season.

“We will be playing all but three of our matches at home, one of the away fixtures is against Dysart Bowing Club who are also in their centenary year and many of the clubs from the Glenrothes area, as well as further afield in Fife, will be playing here this year.”

The Coaltown club will also have the honour of hosting a number of prestigious high ranking competitions including the Scottish Finals and the Fife Area Finals as part of the centenary celebrations.

Llloyd George, a club member since 1978, echoed the desire for the club to mark its history and said the season is set to be one of the most memorable ever.

“We’re really looking forward to welcoming other clubs to Coaltown and competing at all levels, hopefully we might even see a piece of silverware or two make its way back to the trophy cabinet this season, that would be a fitting way to mark the club’s birthday,” said Lloyd.

Coaltown resident and local councillor Ian Sloan paid tribute to the club’s longevity.

He said: “I congratulate the club for reaching this historic milestone.

“It has a long standing and important place within the social fabric of Coaltown of Balgonie, and long may it do so.

“It everything that a club should be, warm, welcoming and an asset to the community.”

An historic agreement:

The agreement between Mr Balfour and the Club was formally agreed at the Committee Meeting held on the October 8, 1913, comprising eight sections:

1. Mr Balfour agrees to be at the expense of providing a bowling green with Bowlhouse at Coaltown of Balgonie, the members agreeing to make the excavations, lay the bottoming and ashes for the contractor.

2. All the soil excavated will be deposited within the site of the Bowling Green.

3. The Club shall be managed by a Committee and the Office-Bearers shall be limited exclusively to employees of Mr Balfour’s Collieries and Estate. The Committee shall draw up rules and regulations for the proper conduct and management of the Club, and if possible the subscriptions of the members shall be fixed annually at such sum as will keep the Club free from debt. The Committee shall have power to charge members other than employees of Mr Balfour’s Collieries and Estate a larger annual subscription but in no case less than that paid by these employees.

4. The Club undertakes to keep and carry on the Bowling Green from season to season in a proper playing condition.

5. The green shall not be open for play on Sundays without the written consent of Mr Balfour or his Colliery agent.

6. Two copies of the annual statement of accounts shall be supplied to Mr Allan, Agent of the Colliery, or his successors in office, three days before the Annual Meeting of the Club.

7. Entry shall be as from Martinmas 1913 and the Club shall pay to Mr.Balfour the sum of 5/- as rent for the Bowling Green at the term of Martinmas annually beginning Martinmas 1914.

8. Should the rent fail to be paid, or should the Club fail to carry on the Bowling Green in a sportsman like manner and for the purpose for which Mr Balfour has given it, he or his successors shall have power to resume possession at any term of Whitsunday or Martinmas on giving six months notice.

The agreement was formally signed by Mr John S.Allan (Agent of the Colliery) and Mr John Provan (Chairman of the Club). At the same meeting it was agreed that the entry money be set at 2/6 and the annual subscription be set at 10/- for ordinary members. (12.5p and 50p in new money.)