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The Green on the Hill

Chapter Seven

What of the Future?

On its 50th anniversary the bowls club is in good heart and is facing the future with confidence. At the time of writing, in its anniversary year the bowling club is likely to be fielding nine teams in three different Leagues. That in itself represents a major achievement. Recruitment in recent years has been buoyant, and morale and playing standards have been strengthened. The club has a sound relationship with the main Board, its administration is well run, and its finances are sound. With the introduction of both indoor and outdoor facilities, opportunities for bowling are now available to members throughout the year.

As with any organisation, over the past half century members have not always agreed and probably had their fair share of misunderstandings, gripes, frustrations and disappointments , but they have not been allowed to erupt into major rifts or permanent breakdown in relations. As Duncan McCalman was often fond of reminding members - "You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time”.

Inevitably, the club will have to cope with changes and meet new challenges over the next 50 years as much as it did in the first. As always, and perhaps most importantly, the club will continue to rely for its success on men and women who are not only willing to play but are also prepared to take on the responsibility of running the club. The ageing population of Sheffield may work in the club's favour but recruitment of new members, and younger ones must remain a high priority. The club over the years had broached the idea of a junior section, or academy, where families and their children can learn, and to enjoy, the sport, but it has never really got off the ground. Perhaps, with the help of the League Associations, the key to progress may lie with some form of cross city competition for younger bowlers. Social changes such as society's insistence on gender equality may signal the end of the distinction between men's and women's teams. And that delicate balance between opportunities for competitive league bowling and for social bowling will need to be carefully watched - a concern that the newly appointed club captain - John J Turner - has rightly recognised.

Surely, too, the bowls section will need to adjust to technological developments. The ability to play under floodlights will come and would be seen as a major step forward. (It has not been unknown in the past for matches to be completed under the head lights of cars positioned on the edge of the club's green!) And will we still see pairs of men or women marching purposefully across the green at the shout of "Measures," or will bowlers be equipped to carry a simple digital device capable of cracking the problem in a trice? (Of course it is already feasible for bowls to be controlled by a voice recognition device but that is likely to be seen as just a step too far!) And as always, our green is on the surface friendly enough, but we know from experience just below lurks a demanding and fickle character. No doubt, new techniques and treatments will emerge capable of improving yet further the quality of the green but which could be costly and perhaps risky to apply.

Quite likely, too, we shall have, and maybe lead, in the next 50 years, changes to the overlapping and byzantine league structure overseeing crown green bowling in Sheffield. It seems ripe for reform.

Yet, many aspects thankfully will never change. Bowling is after all one of Britain's oldest and most revered sports. The mesmeric roll and click of the bowls, the repartee and gentle applause, the shouts of frustration and of joy, will still punctuate a relaxing summer's afternoon. New friendships will be made and old ones renewed, and many of us bowl not for the selfish hope of a season's fame. And as all bowlers know, however good they are, crown green bowling is an unpredictable sport. That will always be its charm and attraction. With apologies to that wise old Persian poet, Omar Khayyam, we might well adapt a verse from his Rubaiyat, to remark:

The moving bowl rolls and having rolled,
Moves on; not all your hopes nor cries,
Shall lure it back to cancel half a turn,
Nor all your tears blot out the end of it.


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