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100 Years and Still Bowling by Andrea Kellett

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June is a significant month in Mornington’s history – it’s exactly 100 years since Mornington Bowls Club formed.  To mark the milestone, Mornington Peninsula Magazine sat down with club member Steve Missen, who has spent months researching and compiling a centenary booklet that will be presented to bowls club members in September.

Steve and membership officer Susan Gullidge have meticulously researched the club’s history – Susan scouring old minutes and Steve searching club computers and old newspaper articles, interviewing long-time members, liaising with the Mornington Historical Society, gaining access to family photo albums and scrap books and more. The result is a fascinating compilation of history, images and facts that we can only scratch the surface of in our magazine pages.

For instance, chances are you have heard of Linley Point in Mornington, but do you know who it’s named after? The answer is Frederick Murray Linley who, amongst many other things, organised and convened the inaugural meeting of the Mornington Bowls Club on June 1, 1917. And that’s just one snippet from the Mornington Bowls Club’s 100-year history.

We all recognise the priceless parcel of clifftop land on the Esplanade, opposite the Royal Hotel, that the club has called home for the last 100 years. That land was most probably an Aboriginal camp site and in November 1917 it became home to a four-rink green, but the task of hand watering (by watering can!) proved too big for the bowls club members and the club closed.  A permanent water supply became available in 1921 (when Mornington tapped into a town water supply) and the green re-opened on January 30, 1922. And, here’s an interesting note from the club’s archives: “Because of the poor quality of both roads and transport of the day, bowlers living at the southern end of the Peninsula found it infinitely more convenient to travel across the bay by ferry to play at the Queenscliff Bowls Club…” (How times have changed!).

The club has had 69 presidents; the site lease was £2 per annum when it opened; the pavilion was built in 1957 at a cost of about £4500 and was extended in 1995; and 1923 saw the opening of the Mornington Croquet Club on what is now known as Green 3. Ladies, who were not allowed to bowl at that time, played croquet while the men bowled! (Again, how times have changed!). 

Steve contacted the family of the club’s best ever player (the late Jack Glasser, who ran a butcher’s shop in Wilson’s Road with his sons); the club’s oldest living member Bill Saunders, aged 96; several female life members aged in their 90s; 87-year-old Alex Davis whose membership extends back to 1960 and who, with his father, a builder, was heaving involved in the pavilion construction back in 1957.

“It’s the first time it’s ever been done that we know of,” he says of the history booklet. And, he readily admits, the research would have been much easier “had we not thrown some of our history into the ‘dumper’ a few years ago”.

A centenary gala dinner and a Centenary Cup tournament, both in September, will formally mark the 100-year anniversary. Until then and beyond, bowl on ladies and gentlemen of Mornington Bowls Club.

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