Posted on Jan 27, 2019
Bowling is a sport as quintessentially English as Cricket, Tennis, or Rugby - and in fact it pre-dates all three by many centuries.
The first reference to what now know as bowls appears in William Fitzstephen’s biography of Thomas Becket, published in the 12th century, in which he described the sporting activities of the young men of London, making mention of a game in which “they strive to fling before the Mark; they also use Bucklers, like fighting Men.”
By the mid-15th century the first bowling alleys opened in London, becoming attractive to what were then described as the “dissolute” and “gamesters”, provoking government legislation to curb such activities (the same happened to football).
However, the most famous of all stories concerning the game in its earlier years must surely be that of Sir Francis Drake, vice-Admiral of the English fleet, who in July 1588 was said to have been enjoying a game of bowls at Plymouth Hoe when he was warned of the impending arrival of the Spanish Armada. Calmly, as legend has it, he insisted on finishing his game before setting sail, facing adverse winds and currents, and inflicting a mighty defeat upon the Spanish.
Not so very far from the site of Drake’s historic game and subsequent victory is the small town of Plympton, south-west Devon, home to the Plympton Bowling Club.
EU Today was pleased to meet up with members of the club whilst enjoying a pre-match meal, and a glass or two of Cornish ale at the Highwayman Pub, Dobwalls, Cornwall, on their way to a game against local side Liskeard.
The game resulted in a 76-60 defeat for Plympton, but reports suggest that a good time was had by all.
The club, formed in 1962, boasts over 100 members, and as well as their sporting prowess - in 2018 they won the Plymouth & District Mens Bowling League Littleton Cup - carries out many social activities and has over the years raised in excess of £10,000 for local and national charities.
Bowls, which has been included as an event in the Commonwealth games since their inception in 1930, and is known to be played in 40 countries. Variations on the game exits in many parts of the world: Belgian and French readers will be very familiar with Pétanque, which is also traditionally enjoyed accompanied with beer!
For more about the Plympton Bowling Club:
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