At a meeting in the Town Hall in Helensburgh on Monday 21st October 1861 it was agreed to build a bowling green
and a Committee was appointed. This was the beginning of Helensburgh Bowling Club.
The new Committee started to raise money and decide where the new green would be built. The location was settled
when Sir James Colquhoun 4TH Bart of Luss granted the inhabitants of Helensburgh, in his words:
"About an acre and a half of elevated and picturesque ground for a bowling green at a nominal rent of 10/- per year".
This was equal to 50p today.
It took about 2 years to raise sufficient money and build the greens.
Opening day was 30th May 1863 at 2.00 p.m. with two greens of 3 rinks. We know that it was a bright and warm day; there was a large attendance of both bowlers and spectators, including among the latter a number of ladies; that the play went on for some four hours and that a “Bowl House “ was to be built.
In the first year we know that the club champion was a Mr. Gray of Luss Road and we also know there was a friendly game against a club from Bellahouston, Glasgow which Helensburgh won by 8 shots.
The fees were 15/- (Shillings) per year – around 75p.
There was so much enthusiasm for the game that a new large green was constructed and ready for play on 27th May 1867 (This is our present West Green)
In those days the players changed in an old house but in 1875 it was decided to erect a new "bower" - At an
estimated cost of £250. The "bower" was situated close to where our green keeper’s hut is today.
Bowling was a very popular pastime and teams and players from all over the West of Scotland came to play at
Helensburgh. Many came by bus but some used the new steam railway from Glasgow which was built in 1857.
In 1910 the Dumbartonshire Bowling Association was formed and the Club were very honoured to have one of its
own members. Mr. James Ballingall elected as President.
The Jubilee Year, 1911, seems to have passed off quietly but the following year, 1912, was quite eventful.
A team of 26 male bowlers from New South Wales, Australia, was touring Britain
and Ireland and, at the club's invitation arrived in Helensburgh on 30th July. The
Australians with their wives and friends - over 40 altogether - attended a Civic
Reception at the Imperial Hotel and then had a game against our club. We even
have a record of the score which was Helensburgh 107 shots, Tourists 90.
Later that year, in celebration of the Henry Bell Centenary, ships of the British Fleet were anchored in the Clyde.
We know from our records that the club sent a letter to the Commanding Officer, Vice Admiral Sir John Jellicoe
inviting the British Navy up for a bowls match. We know they played the local cricket team and football team but,
unfortunately there is no record of a game of bowls.
In 1914 the First World War started and interrupted the bowling. We have records of games which had to be cancelled and in 1916 it was decided not to play club matches that year. Because there were fewer games the club's income dropped and it was difficult to meet our expenses. It was, therefore, agreed to ask ladies if they would like to take up membership. We have no trace of ladies joining the Club at that time. The first record of Lady Members is not until 1924. During the war Wappenschaws (friendly games) were run for the Red Cross well over £100.00 was raised by the club. In those days £100.00 was a lot of money!
After 1918, when the war was over, interest in bowling resumed and the Club soon got back to its routine of friendly
games, league games and club competitions. Early in the 1920's the club decided to adopt blazer jackets of dark
green colour with yellow (gold) trimmings with the club's monogram (H.B.C.) on the breast pocket. Today members
wear dark blue blazers but one of the club's little traditions is that on Opening Day of the year following his Presidency
the Immediate Past President is presented with a dark green blazer.
In 1926 a new green was built (the current East Green, the club now looked like it is today but without the big
On the Opening Day in 1937 it was decided to welcome new members of the club onto the greens with a handshake
from the President - we still do that today.
Once again the 1939 - 1945 war affected the club's activities but we did try to play our competitions.
In 1961 the club celebrated its centenary year and a special committee was formed to organise a number of special games and events. By all accounts it was a very special year.
By now the membership of the club was growing and the little "bower" could not cope. On 21st August 1965 the new clubhouse which you can see today was opened by Mr. J. Arnold Fleming. He was a club member who gave a very generous donation to the cost of the new building. He was, in fact he club's Honorary President until his death in 1966.
Shortly after his death Provost Billy Petrie was invited to be the Honorary President which he
remains to the present day.
For the next 25 years things carried on as normal until 1986 when another committee was formed to celebrate 125th
anniversary. Members at that time can remember the Opening Day when it rained so hard it was impossible to play
bowls. However the rest of the year was a great success. Bill Blackie was the President for that year and he is still a
club member. In fact he has been a member for 29 years.
As had happened in 1965 the club house was getting too small for the membership and a new extension was built. This provided new changing rooms and entrance. The old changing rooms were converted into a kitchen and committee room. This was opened on 23rd June 1990.
Today although the membership is down in numbers we still play our competitions, many are for trophies presented by Club Presidents from over 50 years ago. We compete very successfully in the local leagues at every level and have a very active social calendar.
So there it is - Helensburgh Bowling Club over the last 148years. We will shortly have to be
thinking of our 150th Anniversary which is only 2 years away!