Mitcham Bowling Club has a proud history, dating back to its formation in 1958.
Over the past half century and more, Mitcham has been a prominent member of Bowls Victoria (previously the Royal Victorian Bowls Association and Victorian Ladies Bowling Association), winning many Pennant titles and producing a number of top bowlers.
The Club is located in a prominent position, with two superb bowling greens at its home in the beautiful surrounds of Halliday Park on Mitcham Road. It provides an important recreational facility for the Mitcham region. Further, it also provides a vital social outlet for people of all ages and means.
A leading example of this is the number of Barefoot Bowls evenings conducted by the Club as an introduction to the game of bowls. Many social groups and corporate bodies enjoy these evenings throughout the year.
The Mitcham Bowling Club was founded on Wednesday 12 March 1958 at a public meeting held in the sports pavilion at Walker Park, Mitcham – a meeting convened by the Mitcham Chamber of Commerce which had been very active for more than 12 months in promoting the formation of a bowling club in the district.
A copy of the original notice of the meeting is reproduced here (right). The meeting was attended by 59 people – 3 ladies and 56 men, with the support of Mr Bill Lowe, a Councillor of the Royal Victorian Bowls Association.
The meeting agreed unanimously that a bowling club be formed in Mitcham. The meeting elected Mr Bert Atkinson as the Club’s inaugural President, with Mr Alex Johnson as Secretary and Mr Tim McCoy as Treasurer. It was moved, and accepted, that 135 men and 65 ladies be the limited number for the Club, and the annual fees were set at five pounds for the gentlemen and one pound ten shillings for the ladies. It was also agreed that a debenture to the value if ten pounds be taken at five percent interest.
The first meeting of the Mitcham Bowling Club was held five days later on 17 March 1958 with 101 men and 45 ladies in attendance. It was agreed that all those who joined by 30 June 1958 would be Foundation members.
Application was made to the Nunawading Council for the lease of a site fronting Mitcham Road at the south end of Halliday Park as a home for the Club. Some opposition to the use of this site arose from residents adjacent to the area, and the Council offered the present site in the north east corner as an alternative. The new site was more acceptable to the Committee and the offer was happily accepted.
It was subsequently decided that a separate meeting of the ladies be called for the purpose of forming an Associates Club. This took place on 4 August 1958 when the inaugural Ladies Committee was elected. The first Lady President was Mrs Atkinson, Secretary Mrs Gwen Parker and Treasurer Mrs Myra Fort.
The first club house was a little tin shed in which the Club housed its equipment and had afternoon tea during bowls. The main work to develop the current Clubrooms was carried out in the early to mid-60s.
The first Constitution was formulated in 1958 with a clause that “no intoxicating liquor be consumed in the premises of the Club”. A number of Constitutional amendments were made over the years and a liquor licence was granted in June 1977 with a dinner held to mark the occasion of the opening of the bar!
The greens – our pride and joy!
The inaugural Committee decided working bees were the best and most cost-effective way to prepare the greens (estimated cost of two thousand two hundred pounds) and work started on 31 January 1959. A total of 1945 man hours were worked to develop the greens over 54 days between that date and 22 November 1959.
The opening of the greens took place on 5 December 1959 by the Mayor of Nunawading, Cr C.S. Ross, in the presence of local Federal and State MPs.
The Club affiliated with the RVBA in 1960 and four teams played in the Pennant competition in the 1960-61 season in Sections of Divisions C4 and D4.
The first Pennant success came in the 1961-62 season when the Men’s No. 4 side was a Section winner and runner-up in Division 4 – a very creditable performance for the Club’s second year of Pennant play.
The ladies achieved the first major success by winning the flag for Division 5 in 1962-63.
Over the years the Club has a very fine record for Pennant success, creating a record in the 1968-69 season for the RVBA competition when it won four major Pennants and one minor Pennant.
The Club’s enthusiasm of this period was rivalled in the 1981-82 season when it reached the pinnacle of success and won the White Pennant in Division 1.
Mitcham and its members
In 1985, the Club became The Mitcham Bowling Club Inc.
In 1994, in line with Equal Opportunity emphasis, ladies were admitted as full Members of the Club.
It has produced a number of prominent bowlers, among them Mrs Marion Stevens, a member of the Australian Gold Medal winning team for the Women’s Fours in the 1990 Commonwealth Games, and Bob Middleton and his son Peter – both icons of the game in Victoria and both highly respected.
Bob has represented Australia and Victoria, and Peter has represented the State. Bob was awarded an OAM for his achievements in bowls, has served as a Councillor of the RVBA, and in 2011 was inducted into the Bowls Australia Hall of Fame as one of the inaugural members.