The Founding of SADBA – a Brief History
The original Minute and Account books are no longer available so we are indebted to Ken Budd of St. Albans Bowls Club for this account of the origins of the Association which he got from Bob Else when he (Ken) was writing the history of his own club. The account below is almost verbatim:
Early in November of 1957 a small gathering took place at the home of Bob Else, who bowled at Campfield Press. Bob was joined by S. Winters (Campfield Press), W. ]ones (Townsend) and H.E. Cross (St Albans). The object of the meeting was to discuss the formation of a St Albans & District Bowling Association. Bob and Stan Winters competed in the “Watford & District competitions and were tired of travelling to meet their various opponents. This initial meeting decided to proceed with the idea and Stan, as acting secretary, was tasked to write to the local clubs inviting them to send a representative to a general meeting. Eventually, the first general meeting was held at the Conservative Club, on 27th February 1958. The first elected President was W. Jones, with H.E. Cross being appointed Senior Deputy President and Bob Else as the Junior Deputy President.
Stan Winters was elected as Hon. Secretary. One problem at the time was that the County insisted that twelve clubs should form an association but, initially, there was only eleven clubs that chose to affiliate. This did not deter the Association from holding several competitions, one of which was for the President’s Cup (the Jones Cup), played as a Club Championship. The following year saw the affiliation of additional clubs, which met the County requirement. Rumour was that the County never wanted the District Association to be formed.
We know that eight of the Founder Members were Campfield Press, The Conservative Club (now Batchwood Hall), de Havilland Hatfield, de Havilland Leavesden, Harperbury Hospital (now plain Harperbury), North Mymms, St.Albans, and Townsend. The other three are likely to be Atlas Copco, Avdel Sports and Leavesden Hospital. Harpenden or Borehamwood, perhaps, though they have never laid claim to be a Founder Member. Another possibility would be Woodside, a club who shared the green with OWLS at Garston.
It is clear from Bob Else’s account that competitions were a key issue in the decision to go for a St. Albans & District Association, and Singles and Pairs Championships were started in the first year in addition to the Jones Cup. Triples and Fours competitions quickly followed in 1959, with Officers’ Singles, Champion of Champions, and Two Wood Triples all introduced in the first 10 years of the Association’s being. Since then Inter-Club Competitions have seen The Triples League, Club League and Bob Vise trophy added to the Jones Cup for annual competition.
In all of the individual competitions one name stands out above all others; Eddie Pugh, as a member of Rolls Royce (formerly known as Bristol Siddeley, and before that de Havilland Leavesden) and then Townsend, won no fewer than 26 championships over 31 seasons from 1958 to 1988 (8 times Singles Champion, 5 Pairs, 3 Triples, 6 Fours, 3 Champion of Champions and 1 officers’ Singles). What would his tally have been if the St. Albans Association had been founded earlier? Bearing in mind there were fewer clubs and fewer entries in the earlier days would he have been as successful nowadays? There is evidence to suggest that he would have been. In the 5 years 1982 to 1988 he won the Singles Championship twice, and was Runner up at least once, when the average level of entries to the competition was higher by 10% compared to the last 5 years. Eddie ended his playing days with the St. Albans Club in the nineties, but did not add any more championships to his tally during that time.
But the Association was not simply about competitions and the match fixture list grew rapidly so that in 1967 there were 10 outdoor matches against other associations (7 in 2007), 14 matches against clubs in the Association (6 in 2007) and 1 match against Rodborough B.C. in Gloucestershire. That’s double the current fixture Iist. Many of these fixtures required coach trips, and maybe it was the camaraderie that would have been developed on these outings that resulted in the popularity of “The Annual Dinner & Dance’:
A number of these in the early 70’s were held in The de Salis Hall at Harperbury; for three years running the numbers attending were in excess of 200, the largest being 236 in 1974. But, along with the fixture lists the numbers were declining by the end of the 70’s. The venue changed to the de Havilland Social Club in Hatfield and the Rolls Royce Social Club in Leavesden. The annual event became less and less popular and the last Dinner & Dance was held at the Rolls Royce Club in 1995. The following year the practice began of presenting trophies on District Finals Day.
An annual event that has outlasted the annual dinner is the Association Tour. Information about the when and where of the first tour is not available, but there have been 36 tours since 1978, often to the South Coast, Spain or Portugal. Well over 250 bowlers have played in men’s tour matches (an average of 28 bowlers on each of these 36 tours) and with Iady bowlers and non-bowlers the average number on each trip has been 50.
The annual tour has remained relatively popular despite the recent decline in the number of bowlers and the diversity of attractive alternatives available for “off duty” bowlers.
How well SADBA has lasted
In all, there have been 28 clubs affiliated to the Association. Of the original 11 Founder Member Clubs only 6 have survived, 5 have ceased to exist. Another 4 of the 28 clubs have also ceased to exist. Three clubs have left the Association but are still in being. The remaining 10 who have joined since 1958 are still with us.
lt would be surprising if the high casualty rate were confined to our area, so it is not surprising that there have been casualties amongst Associations. At least five of those that SADBA have played are no Ionger functioning. lt could well be that many more have fewer affiliated clubs. Therefore it is encouraging that St. Albans with 15 member clubs at the moment are only 4 off the highest figure of 19 reached in 1988 (but only for one year). After bumping along with between 12 and 14 clubs for most of the first half of our history there came a low point in 1984 when, with only 11 clubs affiliated we were back where we started in 1958. Things have only got better since then and we should, with optimism and confidence but not complacency, Iook forward to a further 25 years in the business.