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A SHORT HISTORY
by Past President George C Low
SBA District Secretary & Member of National Council
1996 to 2005
(Note: for a longer and more detailed history click the link below)
In 1890 the firm of Robert Craig and Sons, owners of “The Moffat Paper Mill Company” abandoned their mill at Newbattle and moved all of its production to their newly enlarged mill at Moffat, Airdrie which had been in their ownership since 1865, and was situated beside the North Calder water. Many of their workers moved to Moffat and took up residence in the purpose-built cottages there on land purchased from James Towers-Clark, owner of Wester Moffat estate. Robert Craig died in 1892 and his four sons took over the running of the business. The employers had a keen interest in all aspects of the social life of their employees and the village of Moffat soon became a thriving community with a school, sunday school and shops. The new management also wished to continue their father's example in encourageing the workforce to have access to liesure and sporting activities by supplying them with excellent facilities. In addition to providing cricket and football pitches they decided to build a bowling green for the less able and energetic. James Towers-Clark was approached and he agreed to donate a parcel of land on which the company built a superb bowling green and clubhouse. James drew up a feu disposition (finalised in February 1897) in which he disposed to trustees for behoof of the members of “The Caldercraig Bowling Club” a plot of land. The conditions he laid down were;
The green was opened for play in August 1895 and very quickly was recognised in bowling circles. An entry in “The Bowlers’ Handbook for Scotland”, published in 1902 recalls that “it is nicely situated and is considered one of the best greens in Lanarkshire”. Membership of the club was open to all workers at the mill aged 15 years and over and to all residents of Moffat and within two miles thereof.
The paper mill closed its doors for the last time in the 1950’s and the property was bought and converted into a whisky distillery, Inver House Distillers Ltd, which became a very large employer in the area. The club benefited by an increase in members from among the workers but it too found difficulty in operating at a profit so by the mid 1980’s it closed its production side. It lives on now as a major independent whisky company with its head office and main bond being located in Moffat. The village itself has been swallowed by the ever expanding town of Airdrie and much of the property occupied by the mill now forms housing estates.
During its history the mill, and latterly the distillery, had as their main focal point a succession of chimneystacks. The latest chimney, which dominated the Moffat area, was a landmark which could be seen from miles around and had been taken as the central feature in our badge. On Friday 22nd June 1990 a demolition gang moved in and within minutes the chimney was reduced to a pile of rubble. So ended the last symbolic ties with our founders, the management of Robert Craig & Sons, but their name lives on in the title they gave to our club, “The Caldercraig Bowling Club”.
Of all the honours that are available to club members, the most coveted is to be regarded as the champion. This honour is bestowed annually and in the 104 recorded occasions that the championship competition has been played at Caldercraig since 1896 there have been 54 different recipients. Many have won the title on two, three and even four occasions, but the outstanding competitor with twelve victories was James Rae who won them between 1929 and 1962, winning in each of the five decades and including five successive years between 1929 and 1933. He was bestowed Honorary Membership in 1970 and died in 1972. James must have been a truly superb competitor and is rightly regarded as the greatest bowler that has graced our club. Prior to James Rae the most successful champion was Andrew Skelton who won all of his five titles between 1900 and 1909 and another who played post second world war was Lawrance Scott who lifted the championship trophy aloft five times between 1954 and 1980. The only other person to have been acclaimed a multiple champion with seven victories is still competing at the highest level. Jim Purves won for the first time in 1989 and his latest was as recently as 2012. He is the second most honoured club member and he is still young enough to be able to overtake James Rae but the competition is getting harder however, and there are a few younger members who are aiming to out-do him. It is doubtful however if anyone will ever replace James Rae as the most honoured Caldercraig member (but I wouldn't bet against it).
From its inauguration membership was restricted to males, and female participation was restricted to that of “tea ladies”, but in 1939 the members agreed to a request to form a ladies section. Ladies were given restricted access to the green, as was common in most clubs in the land and they had no say in the management of the club. The standard of play of the ladies however was very high and in the early post war years they were supreme in the district, twice winning the LWBA County Cup, winning the LWBA Pairs and Fours competitions and in 1956 crowning their achievements by lifting the National Fours Championships. It should be noted that the gents, in almost 115 years of trying have not managed to emulate them with the notable exceptions of John McHutchison winning the LBA Champion of Champions Trophy in 2001 and four of our younger members lifting the Under 45's crown in 2002.
(The gents did come close on two other occasions by reaching the final of the SBA single-handed championship in 1939 (Jack Rae) and, in our centenary year, Alan McGuiness and Jim Purves lost the SBA Pairs championship final in an extra end.)
In 1983 the retired gents of the club formed a Seniors Section and have participated fully in local association competitions with varying degrees of success ever since.
In the lead up to the centenary celebrations in 1995 the club successfully applied for registration to the Sheriff Clerk and subsequently opened their bar facilities. This has been a boon to the membership as all profits from regular sales and social events are re-invested into the club.
In 2000 the membership finally recognised the role of ladies and opened their doors to full membership, allowing them to have a say in the management and decision making of the club for the first time in over sixty years. In 2009 the final piece of the jigsaw was played with a restructuring of the management of the club being agreed by the membership. From this date all three sections of the club, gents, seniors and ladies, are represented on the new Management Board and although there may be short term teething problems it is hoped that this new format shall be a blueprint to be followed by other progressive bowling clubs.
Page Last Updated - 24/09/2012
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