The North End contains a hidden treasure tucked away in St. John’s Park, unknown to most of its residents. It’s the St. John’s Lawn Bowling Club. Contrary to popular belief, it is not only for an elite group of cultured retirees of English descent, nor is it expensive to join. Rather, it is open to anyone who is curious enough to try, and willing to learn.
Players meet at regular times throughout the week from June to September and will gladly welcome you and graciously teach you how to play. My son, who is almost 12 and took to the sport immediately, commented on how nice everyone is there. A closed, elite club it is not.
It is however, mostly made up of seniors, and the need to grow their membership and attract younger players has become apparent. Recently they hosted a special event with a day-care centre in order to introduce children to the joy of the game. It is a sport that can be enjoyed by all ages.
Lawn bowling has been around for ages, dating back to the earliest civilizations, known as "bocce" and "bowls" among other names. In Britain, the sport became forbidden for labourers between 1541 and 1845, as it interfered with their work, so for quite some it was a game of the wealthy. Scotland was responsible for establishing uniform rules and formed an International Bowling Board in 1905. Canada was first admitted in 1928. Today over 40 countries participate in international competitions.
The game is similar to curling (adapted from bowls) in the way teams are set up with a skip, lead, second, and third. Instead of the button and rings, players aim to get closest to the "jack" ball (a movable target). The bowls are heavier on one side, allowing them to curl. The benefits to the summer-time game, apart from the beautiful surroundings and weather, is the absence of strenuous sweeping and slippery conditions. Both games provide a social outlet, physical activity, friendly competition and challenge for the mind, as well as an opportunity for provincial, national and international tournaments.
The St. John’s Lawn Bowling Club has doubled its membership over the past year and wants to continue to grow. It invites everyone to come on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 6:15 p.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:15 a.m. There is no cost to try it, children under 18 are always free, and a first-year membership is $35.
Sonya Braun is a community correspondent for the North End. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org