Turf problems delayed Corrimal bowling club’s roll-up

corrimal bowling
Corrimal Bowling Club members played against Woonona in their first inter-club match at Corrimal in 1907. The bowlers are pictured on the green in front of the club house, with the tennis courts to the rear. Third from left is pictured Woonona president John Kirton and inset is Corrimal’s first president Evan Davies.


Lancelot Riddle c.1904
Lancelot Riddle, 1904

ALTHOUGH the formation year is recognised as 1905, Corrimal Bowling Club’s first inter-club game wasn’t played for another two years due to problems finding suitable turf.

An extract from the NSW Bowlers Annual 1906 reported the Corrimal Bowling and Tennis Club was formed in September 1905, “but owing to some preliminary difficulties in regard to the site of the club has not till now been able to make a fair start on the green. The present site has been leased to the club by one of the vice presidents (Mr Lancelot Riddle) at a nominal rent. It is principle owing to the generous terms upon which Mr Riddle has granted the site that the members have been able to start the club under such favourable auspices for the future…”

Riddle, a local publican, first came to the Illawarra with his wife and two children from the Tweed River district in the early 1890s. He was granted the license of the Bellambi Hotel in 1892, before becoming the first publican of the newly opened Corrimal Family Hotel in 1901.

The Bulli Times reported in October 1905 that the newly formed Corrimal Bowling Club had drawn up a lease with Riddle and membership was growing. However, the Times also revealed progress was slow and that “it will take some time to get the green in order”.

By June 1906 the contractor for laying the green, Cooper and Caban, were reported to have had trouble in finding “suitable material for turfing”.

Cooper and Caban completed the job in early July and Riddle died aged just 46 the same month.

Riddle’s premature death can be attributed to another delay in the opening of Corrimal’s green and it wasn’t until May 18 1907 that the had their first official roll up against nearby Woonona.

“The Corrimal bowlers played their first match on their green on Saturday last, when two rinks from Woonona tried conclusions with two rinks from Corrimal,” reported the Bulli Times.

“Mr John Kirton and Mr Williams acted as skippers to Woonona rinks, and Mr Evan Davies and Jon Robinson did likewise to Corrimal. The green presented a pleasing and animated appearance, for the Woonona players turned out in force and proved too strong for Corrimal, winning the game by a considerable number.”

The NSW Bowlers’ Annual 1906 reported: “The members of the Woonona Bowling Club have shown a keen interest in the efforts to start the Corrimal club, and have assisted and encouraged like true sportsmen, with their money and their time to make their neighbourhood movement a success. The formation of the Corrimal club will no doubt give an impetus to bowling on the South Coast, for the existence of two clubs in place of one is bound to excite a little friendly rivalry and competition, and create a greater interest in the game.”

Corrimal Bowling Club historian and life member, 83-year-old Neville Brown told me in 2007 that the club had its origins on land owned by Evan Davies, a Welsh immigrant and South Bulli Colliery under manager, on land he purchased in April 1905.

Mr Davies owned land in west Collin Street, as well as property on Francis Street where there was an orchard.
Mr Davies bowled at Woonona Bowling Club, which was formed in 1894, but wanted a small private green for himself and friends to practice on at Corrimal.

Mr Brown said that Davies and his friends built the green on his Francis Street property.

The area was to provide for a two rinks and a tennis court. These two rinks are part of the present club’s number one green, Mr Brown said.

© Copyright Mick Roberts 2015

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