(the following article appeared in the St. Marys Journal-Argus on May 13, 2009 in recognition of 120 years of lawn bowling in St. Marys)
At 8 o’clock on the evening of August 22, 1889, at The National Hotel, (which once stood at the S.E. corner of Queen and Water streets and burned to the ground seven years later in 1896), a group of men met with the sole purpose of establishing the first lawn bowling green in St. Marys.
It was to be located on the grounds of the new David Maxwell plant on James St. South (where the current Omega Paw plant is now located).
As the popularity of this new sport grew, it became necessary to re-locate to a larger venue. In the early 1900s, land at the corners of Queen St. East and Peel St. South (the current location of the Salvation Army) was leased from a Mr. F.G. Sanderson (a former Mayor of St. Marys who later became the Liberal M.P. for the riding of Perth South). A total of nine greens were established on two different levels and the club became officially known as
The St. Marys Lawn Bowling Club.
In October of 1907, Sanderson put the land up for sale and the club purchased part of it from him. The sport must have caught on with a good many of the locals because in June of 1909, a second lawn bowling club was established at the corners of Elizabeth and Peel Streets (across from the current Central School). The new club was to be known as
The Granite Lawn Bowling Club.
On March 24 of 1910, the Granite Club joined The Western Ontario Bowling Association which included clubs from Clinton, Goderich, Seaforth, Mitchell, Exeter, Granton, Kirkton, Stratford, Motherwell and Embro.
Also in 1910, a landmark decision was made to give the ladies the ‘privilege to play’. By 1911, the St. Marys Lawn Bowling Club was reporting a membership of 100 and its rival, The Granite Club’s membership stood at 72.
In October of 193, the St. Marys Club sold part of its land to The Salvation Army which built a new barracks on it for the princely sum of $650. The St. Marys Club retained the upper five greens for their use.
By September of 1920, the Granite Club had closed and sold the land to a Mr. A.H. Gould, who built houses on Lots 41, 42 & 43. Presumably because of the Granite Club closing and the St. Marys Club selling off four of their greens, a larger venue was required and on September 10 of 1925, John Lind, then head of the Parks Board, urged that new greens be created to accommodate the demand and popularity of the sport.
On June 10, 1926, the St. Marys Journal reorted that
work has started on the Parks Lawn Bowling Club’s new bowling greens, located in Athletic Park (commonly referred to as
On May 26, 1927, the new ‘Parks Lawn Bowling Club’ season opened and seemed to thrive up until the start of the Second World War when the club was reporting financial difficulties, most probably because of a decreasing membership partly due to our men serving our country overseas. However, by 1945, the membership was again on the rise and the club purchased a new lawn roller to replace the one made by Harold Cousins and James McGrigor in Cousin’s Garage on Queen Street East in 1938.
By the early 1950s, the club once again was struggling due to a diminishing membership and came close to closing. However, by 1954, the club was on the rebound and purchased new sets of bowls at the cost of $28 per set.
In 1975, the club received a ‘New Horizons’ grant and built the current clubhouse. During the 1970s, Larry McLellan, Doug Fenn and Len Boreham won the Ontario Colt’s championship (now called Novices) and Larry and Doug won Ontario Pairs.
The 1980s saw Betty Johnson and Len Boreham win the inaugural ‘Ontario Mixed Pairs’ championship. Also during the ‘80’s, the men’s and ladies sections joined together as one entity.
The 1990s put our bowlers and St. Marys on the map. In 1992, Brad Fleming, Chris Johnson, Larry and Jamie McLellan won the ‘Ontario Fours’. Then Larry and Jamie in 1996 won the ‘Ontario Pairs’ championship.
Not to be outdone by his father’s accomplishments, Jamie McLellan was selected for Canada’s National team and went to Malaysia for the Commonwealth Games. In 2006, Larry and Jamie again represented St. Marys and Ontario in the Canadian championships held in Regina.
As you can see, for a small town of 6,400 people, lawn bowling has played a significant part in its sports history. May it continue to thrive for another 120 years.