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123 Years in Review…

Many early records and information pertaining to the formation of the Whangarei Bowling Club have not been found, but thanks to the research carried out by the 75th Jubilee Committee, Centennial Committee and various newspaper clippings collected by individuals, the history of the Club can be reported.

Cameron Street, Whangarei 1900


After arriving in Whangarei, an enthusiastic bowler, Mr J.T. Stone, went about introducing bowls to the area and with Mr James Marshall, a store owner, canvassed the business area for support in forming a bowling club. About 15 agreed to become members should a Club be formed.

A public meeting was held in the County Chambers where Mr Stone outlined the necessary steps and advantages of having a bowling club in the borough, whereafter it was decided to form a Club.

Officers elected were: President: Mr Robt. Thompson, M.H.R., Vice Presidents: Messrs W.A. Carruth and J.T. Stone, Secretary and Treasurer: Mr James McKinnon. 

Other foundation members at the meeting were Messrs James Marshall, J.E. Roberts, E.O. Weaver, Harry Weaver, Rev. L. Cubbitt and Charles McKinnon.

A committee of Messrs Drummond, Stone and McKinetry were appointed to select a suitable site for a bowling green, and as there was no town water supply, Mr E.O. Weaver offered a damp plot of land on his farm known as "Weaver’s paddock". This area was later to become "Rugby Park", the centre of North Auckland rugby until 1965. Anyone who witnessed a game of rugby in winter there, will testify to its dampness.

Edmund Ormand Weaver’s "Valley Farm" stretched from Rust Avenue in the south, to Kent Road in the north, the railway line east to the Western Hills. Access was via Vinery Lane off Bank Street. "Valley Farm" was the cradle of a number of sports including Whangarei Tennis Club 1895-1900; Whangarei Golf Club, Whangarei Hockey Club and Whangarei Cricket Club. These clubs were given the use of the property free of charge until they could afford playing areas of their own.

Construction of the green was entrusted to Mr David Jones of Whareora and E.O. Weaver. Ditches were dug on the north and west sides to provide drainage and turf was brought and laid on the prepared rinks. These ditches were two foot deep and later presented a problem for those players who were too strong in the arm and found the ditch with their bowls.

The late Mr Charles McKinnon recalled with humour "it was a truly remarkable sight to see the portly trundlers flat on their stomachs poking in the mud and slime with walking sticks or umbrellas in an effort to rescue their woods". By late 1900 the green was ready for play, and Mr E.O. Weaver was paid 7/6. a week to mow the green when required (probably with a scythe). Rope cords marked the limits of the rinks and a bowl was considered "dead" if it went outside the restricted area.


Opening Day Gala, 14 November 1901. 

Foundation Members on Opening Day.

Weekly News 21/11/1901

On Thursday, Whangarei was on fete, the occasion being the opening of the Whangarei Bowling Club green. Some 22 members of various Auckland clubs journeyed to Whangarei to assist the newly formed club. The green is most picturesquely situated on the property of Mr E. O. Weaver, who has generously given the use of the green gratis for 12 months and for a nominal rent for the remaining period of the lease of 10 years. For a newly formed green it is in splendid order" full size 120’ by 108’, well formed and level. Mr R. Thompson MHR, declared the green open for play in the time honoured fashion by throwing a jack across the green. A match was arranged viz President v. Vice President and resulted in a victory for the President’s side by 29 points. Seven rinks were played and as the Whangarei men were novices at the game, the teams were made up of two visitors and two local men per team. The visitors speak highly of the treatment meted out to them by the people of Whangarei. They were met at the steamer by officers of the club and escorted to hotels where breakfast was partaken of. After breakfast, buggies were waiting and the visitors were conveyed to Kamo Road. They were driven back in time for lunch and afterwards proceeded to the green. They received a hearty send off on leaving for Auckland.


Every opening day was an occasion for the borough with large numbers turning out. Subsidence in the north-west corner of the green was experienced and it was resolved to seek more suitable grounds for the Club. Also that year, the joining fee was reduced from £2.0.0 to £1.0.0 with the annual subscription remaining at £1.0.0.


Debentures were issued bearing 5% interest for a five year period. The Club became an Incorporated Society.


Subscriptions were raised to £2.0.0. After several approaches, the present site of the Club was purchased from the Whangarei Tennis Club in 1904 for an unknown sum.


Mr Charles Chissell superintended the construction of the new top green in which scoria from the railway pit in Kamo was used as a drainage base.


The Club was shifted to the new premise. It was originally thought that the pavilion at Weavers Paddock was shifted to Second Avenue, but closer inspection shows that it has a curved roof and other distinquishing features. Financial difficulties were experienced due to the cost of laying down the new green and members were asked to pay the whole or half of next season’s subscriptions in advance. Visiting Auckland bowlers commented upon the excellent playing conditions experienced.

Opening Day 1906 at the new site in Second Avenue, taken from Lovers Lane.

Whangarei Croquet Club with Whangarei Bowling Club in the background about 1910


It was decided to appoint a permanent caretaker to attend to the Club’s green and property. A building fund was established and a decision made to set aside a certain sum each year toward the cost of an additional green.


A committee was appointed to report on the advisability of extending the playing area to include the property on the lower level. The first annual tournament was held.

Participants in the inaugural Annual Tournament 1916 pose in front of the pavilion.

Whangarei Bowling Club in the early 1920s showing the new pavilion and lower green.


Construction commenced on the lower green (soil was obtained at 1/- per yard and cartage was 3/- per load).


A new pavilion was built and completed at a cost of £700 on the site of the present building. The old pavilion (pictured above) was shifted to the Croquet Club in Third Avenue, where it is to this day. Both greens were in use and playing well.


February 2nd & 3rd was the major event for Whangarei that year with a visit from Lord Jellicoe, Governor. There was a huge parade down Cameron Street with the whole town turning out. The Club was honoured by being part of the Governor’s itinerary during his visit.


Through the generosity of several bowlers and friends, lighting of the top green was carried out and evening play was greatly enjoyed.


North Auckland Bowling Centre is established with 14 member Clubs. Whangarei later became the Centre’s headquarters and remains to this day.


North Auckland Bowling Centre’s first Annual Tournament held at Whangarei.


A small winter green was laid down, ready for play the following year.

Competitors at the inaugural North Auckland Bowling Centre's Annual Tournament.

Opening Day 1935 - showing the extensive overhead lighting.


A wall was built around the lower green, again with voluntary labour, to protect it from flooding by the stream.


A pump was installed to provide water from the stream for both greens. A common method of watering was to place a hose on the green in a sack (to prevent damage) and flood the green.


A house for the greenkeeper in Second Avenue was purchased for £600. It was sold in 1974 for $17,600.

Annual Tournament 1946. This photograph above has long graced the walls of the pavilion, but when the original print was made it was flipped transversely (back to front). This is the correct way around.

Northern Advocate 28 October 1950

Whangarei Bowling Club Opening

The improved condition of the Whangarei Bowling Club’s greens and its new pavilion drew favourable comment at the opening of the club’s 1950-51 season this afternoon.

Clubs represented were the Northland Bowling Centre and the Kensington, Whangarei RSA, Marsden Ladies’, Moerewa, Kamo, Dargaville, Portland, Maungakaramea, Maungatapere and Kaitaia clubs.

The club president (Dr S.H. Ward) said there had been a number of changes and a marked improve-ment in the greens since last season. He paid tribute to those who had helped to build the pavilion in the short time of three months, and to the greenkeeper (Mr T. Weir).

In particular, he paid tribute to the work of Messrs F. Mogford and D. Stokes, and announced that Mr Stokes had been granted a life membership. "We would like to make Mr Mogford a life member, too", he said, but added that he was too young for this honour, which might come later. The Mayor of Whangarei (Mr W. Jones) congratulated the club on its fine new pavilion.

Excellent Cooperation

The president of the Northland Bowling Centre (Mr A.C. Whitham) expressed his pleasure on being present at the opening of the new season at the centre’s headquarters club. Mr F.R. Webster, replying on behalf of all the clubs represented, said he hoped that the excellent cooperation which existed between the Whangarei club and others would continue for a long time.

Mrs S.H. Ward sent down the first kitty of the season, and club veteran Mr W. Beehre, played the first bowl. Mrs W. Jones unfurled the club banner on the new flagstaff, and the season was officially open.

Opening Day 1950, a proud day for the Club - with its brand new pavilion and excellent playing amenities - the envy of the North.

1950-51 Executive pose in all their regalia.


A mortgage on the newly extended pavilion was arranged amounting to £2,500 probably to fund help the construction of a new soil and machinery shed backing onto Second Avenue. Roofing was extended off the shed to give shelter along the southern end of the green.


The wall on the south east side of the Club between the pavilion and the soil shed was completed with a new wrought iron gate donated by Mary Wilkinson in memory of her brother, and is known as the Wallace Calder Memorial Gate. It is quoted in the 1954 Annual Report,"The building, erection and completion of the Second Avenue entrance has now been accomplished and I feel sure that our Club now possesses an approach comparable with any green in the Dominion."


The shelter on the west of the lower green was completed. The material was donated and the labour voluntary.


Material was purchased and despite some problems, the usual voluntary labour force constructed the concrete wall between the top and lower greens.


Provision was made for a lounge on the ground floor of the pavilion and this was completed the same year.


Further construction with the erection of the shelter on the eastern side of the lower green all carried out by club members. More permanent changes were made to this shelter in 1962.


Whangarei becomes a City and the N.Z. Refinery at Marsden Point is officially opened.

Views of the Whangarei Bowling Club during the 1960s.


Extensive alterations were carried out to the social room which resulted in a greater open space and easier facilities.


A section on Kawau Island was given to the Club by Mr Charlie Herman to be raffled for augmenting the Club’s finances. The winner, however preferred the money and the section was sold in 1974 for $1500.


Although the overhead lighting had long gone, twilight bowls was introduced on Thursday evenings by Match Committee Chairman, Tony Girbin. It was reintroduced in the late 80’s with a sponsored competition, but faded after a number of years.


The lounge area on the ground floor was completely redesigned and refurbished, with new bar facilities and cool room. A new administration block was erected on by the south-east wall to accommodate the Match Committee, Secretary and Treasurer and provide a President’s Room.


New irrigation equipment was purchased which consisted of a high volume pump and a large array of interconnecting aluminium pipes (about 20ft long) which were laid in four rows across the green. About an hour was all it took to irrigate the green. Then you had to lug all the pipes to the next green.


The lounge are was further extended to accommodate more space for visitors and members alike.

Top Green 1975 – Immediately to the right of the pavilion is the ablution block, then further right is the new administration block. The Match Committee Room is on the left, which led through to the Secretary/Treasurer’s Room at the back (you could swing a small cat). The President’s Room is on the right. Also of note is the bare dirt, twelve feet out from the ditch. Such was the nature of "brown top" grass in the heat of summer - no matter how much you watered it.


75th Jubilee Year. An enormous amount of work went into this occasion by all members. 62 teams, five greens, six days of 25 ends, no time limit, fours bowls. Entries were received from Albertland, Dargaville, Glenfield, Hastings, Hikurangi, Hillcrest, Kaikohe, Kaitaia, Kensington, Mairangi Bay, Mangonui RSA, Maungakaramea, Maungatapere, Maungaturoto, Motueka, Ngongotaha, Onehunga, Onerahi, Taipuha, Tauranga, Te Puke, Warkworth, Waipu and Waiuku and Whangarei RSA. Whangarei’s two greens, two greens at Kensington and the green at Maungatapere were needed for play. A banquet was held in the A & P Hall on the Saturday night followed by a social dance.

1975-1976 Executive – Standing:  W.B. Andrews, G.R. Ladbrooke, L.C. Dudeck, 

L.W. Slater, D.J. Holwell, C. Hellier, G.P. Adams, G.P. Atkins, F.H. Massey. 

Seated:  C.B. McKinnon (Secretary), M.A. Edge (Vice President), M. Green (Vice President), I.P Mowat (President), F.R.B. Sherley (Immediate Past President), 

W.B. Gold (Treasurer), H.W. Neal (Green Superintendent).

Pictured at the Jubilee are Perce Mowat (President), Pierre Devereux (President NZBA) and Frank Mogford (longest standing Life Member).


The lower level of the pavilion was gutted. The lounge was extented to the northwest corner with new walls, aluminium joinery, all finished in brick and tile. The bar was renovated with new joinery and glass cooler. New paint, wallpaper and drapes completed the revovations.


Cotula was introduced to the top green, where it slowly established itself. Two years later, the grass was sprayed out, leaving the carpet-like finish we enjoy to this day.


A new irrigation system is installed costing in excess of $15,000. Water is drawn from the town water supply (at some cost) but the disease problems associated with the stream water have diminished. The Club still retains the water right to the stream. The pop-up sprinkler system has operated virtually without fault since installation, with the only addition being a pop-up centre sprinkler installed in 1998.

1980-1981 Executive: W. Howie, H.W. Neal, D.J. Holwell, T.M. Fleming, H.B. Cowen, T. Dewe, J.B. Wilson, L.S. Slater, W. Noa, G. Deeming, S.G. Fitzpatrick, H.H. Murdoch,

W.B. Andrews, F.R.B. Sherley.


The establishment of a Womens’ Bowling Club was approved at the A.G.M. in June, and the Central Whangarei Womens’ Bowling Club had their first Opening Day in September. In July, by way of debentures ($38,000), loans ($19,000) and cash, the Club raised nearly $100,000 for this major renovation. The old ablution block was removed and replaced with a new toilet block for women and men, store room and a shower for the greenkeeper. The stairway was enclosed into a foyer with a canopy over the entrance. The southern end of the top level was extended out over the new toilet block and included an office, womens’ and mens’ toilets, President’s Room and a completely new kitchen.


New seating was installed around the top green and new concrete was laid around the front and northern end of the pavilion. This was later tinted gray to ease the eyes.


The dining area upstairs was refurbished. All the windows were replaced with aluminium joinery, new chairs and tables, new drapes and an accoustic tiled ceiling. A new glass cooler was installed outside the bar.


The first gaming machine was installed in the pavilion, to some members disapproval. At a Special General Meeting that year, it was decided to purchase the property adjacent to the Club at 2 Second Avenue for $120,000 by way of mortgage over the Club’s assets.


The Lounge area gets a revamp with new carpet, accoustic ceiling tiles, lighting, ceiling fans and a P.A. system. Some new furniture was purchased and the new Honours Board was installed.


The Club purchases a portion of land adjacent to the west side of the top green from the Whangarei Croquet Club for $24,000, with the Club meeting all legal and survey costs.


The Club swaps a small piece of land with the Whangarei District Council in order to tidy up the boundaries. New shelters are installed in the west of the top green and on the west and south of the lower green.


A new soil/machinery and toilet block is constructed on the west side of the top green. The old soil/machinery block is converted into a barbeque room, a combined Match Committee room, bowls room and storage room. The old Match Committee/Womens’ lounge area is opened up into one larger lounge area.

The new soil/machinery and toilet block with new shelters to the left.

Our successful Sevens Team 1996: S. Nelson, T.O. Chapman, J.B. Wilson,
D.W. Chapman, D.H. White, M. Le Prou, M.G. Houlahan, J.A. Jamieson.

Opening Day 1997.


The Club sells its property at 2 Second Avenue to a developer in exchange for the middle unit in the three unit complex.


The Club takes possession of the new unit which is valued at $185,000.

The Club's new investment at 2 Second Avenue.

"Gouts Corner" as it was affectionately known with Life Members Les Slater, Frank Sherley, Maurie Edge, Len Dudeck and local character Tom Bee.

2001 Centennial Year

A huge amount of planning went on in 2000 for the Club's Centennial celebrations. It all culminated at Northland's Anniversary weekend with a social evening on Friday night, followed by a three-day tournament which consisted of two games a day of 25 ends.

2000-2001 CWWBC Executive: (Back Row) D. Ferguson, J. Hughes, I. Slater,
A. Field, D. Edge, D. Rhodes, A.J. Grenfell. (Front Row) B. Ryan (Secretary),
B. Battensby, A.J. Drever (President), A.M. Church, V. Palmer (Treasurer).

2000-2001 WBC Executive: (Back Row) G.R. Whitham, T.G. Reader, W.P. Fowlie,
M.T. Howie, H.W. Neal, W.H. Esling. (Front Row) J.P. van Haaften, M.G. Houlahan, 

S.H. Hart, T.O. Chapman, A.J. Grenfell (Secretary).

2001-2001 CWWBC Life Members: K. Daisley, K.L. Holwell.

2001-2001 WBC Life Members: J.B. Wilson, H.W. Neal, F.R.B. Sherley, L.A. Thomson,

D.J. Holwell, M.A. Edge.

Thanks to Goldie Wardell, a large collection of memorabilia was on display in the Clubroom during the weekend. The Club adopted a new "Bowls Whangarei" logo, being a combination of the CWWBC (swallow) and the WBC (tiki) logos. New maroon Club Shirts were produced together with a Centennial Cap. The Club published a Centennial Booklet (thanks to Garry Whitham) much of the content is used for this website. CWWBC donated $7,500 towards a new greens mower. Thanks to Northland Polytech pupils, Murals were mounted on the back wall of the Clubrooms in an attempt to quell graffiti. A new Time Clock was installed for $1,400 and the Club finally installed an Eftpos machine.

Centennial Tournament participants 2001.


After a lengthy period of negotiation, the Central Whangarei Womens' Bowling Club was amalgamated into the Whangarei Bowling Club formalised at the Annual General Meeting in June. The result was very successful with enthusiastic participation in all the Club's committees and competitions. The Club also launched its first website.


Another first for the Club with the election of the Club's first woman President Ina Slater. Ina had been a dedicated worker for the Club long before the establishment of the CWWBC, as herself and numerous others had been involved in the catering for the Whangarei Bowling Club.


The Club sold it Investment Unit for $200,000 odd, which enabled the Club to repay outstanding loans and have money invested for the future. This is also the year that membership numbers started to flag.

Ian Slater


The Club had a Business House Bowls going back in the last century sponsored by Muffler Services, but had dwindled due to the lack of enthusiasm to run it. This year, a new Open Twilight Triples was introduced with the generous sponsorship of Wally Yovich and is still running to this day.


Another woman President (Lenore Jamieson) and the Club ditched its gaming machines. The gaming machine income had been useful for the Club, but the introduction of new legislation by government reduced the benefit and the administration would have been tiresome. It also saved the punters a wallet full.


The Club installed a new kitchen in the downstairs lounge which has proved very practicable.


The Club investigated the possibility of selling the facilities and moving to new land - never eventuated.


Another woman President (Lorna Hill). Sadly, Lorna succumbed to cancer and died in January 2011.


Due to the lack of anyone willing to take on the duties of Secretary/Treasurer, the Club employed an administrator for the duties. The position has since been retired.


Womens membership had dwindled to a couple and Mens was not much better. Barrie Jones does his third stint as President.


Long time member and philanthropist, Wally Yovich, commissioned a large mural on the ​​wall facing Second Avenue. The scene, painted by tattoo artist Ernest Bradley, from Memory Lane, shows a girl and a young man playing bowls. Some time ago, Wally saw a similar one in Australia where bowls is popular with younger people, especially social bowls.

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