by Past President George C Low
(SBA District Secretary & Member of National Council 1996 to 2005)
As the millennium approached I thought it was a good time to reflect on the past few years activities at Caldercraig and to upgrade the history that I had written in 1990 and presented to the members at the Annual General Meeting of the Club. In recognition of my efforts at that time, the Club members appointed me official Historian and Keeper of Records and later in the year I was honoured with a presentation to mark my services. I was greatly proud of this honour and have endeavoured to continue the work on behalf of the members.
Leading up to the Centenary of the Club I was more than aware that the task of completing all the missing details of the earlier years was probably then impossible, but how wrong can one be. A chance remark by a friend of a member led to my being overwhelmed at seeing two precious historical items long thought lost. The original Medal presented by Captain Towers-Clark to the club in 1895 and the second Champions Cup presented by Robert Craig and Sons in 1906. This find spurred me to greater action and soon I was made aware of the whereabouts of the Third Champions trophy (1923 to 1931) which I am sure is the long lost Towers-Clark Fruit Bowl played for from 1896 until 1914. I was able to borrow these items for a short period and they were displayed during our centenary celebrations in 1995.
This updated and revised History takes into account the recently found trophies, the advances in the Club over the intervening years and the updated rolls of honour, and is presented for the members’ information and hopefully, pleasure. A complete record of all trophy winners, updated annually, is maintained and displayed in the Clubhouse and elsewhere in this web-site for perusal of all interested parties.
I have also compiled an annual Roll of Honour, complete from 1982, (the year I joined the club), which I have produced as a companion to this short history and it may be of greater interest than a dusty record of competition winners whose names are no longer recognised by many of our more recent members
I hope that you enjoy the fruits of my endeavours and some day in the future perhaps one of our younger members will take over my mantle of club historian and continue my work for future generations of bowlers at Caldercraig, “The Best of the Best”.
George C Low
PLAINS, Airdrie October 2014
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND TO THE FORMATION OF
CALDERCRAIG BOWLING CLUB
Mr James Craig began operations as a papermaker at Balerno, Midlothian, circa 1812, in partnership with a son-in-law, a Mr Hill, but they went their separate ways in 1820 and James Craig transferred his operations to Newbattle, near Dalkeith where he formed a business producing hand-made papers. About the year 1840 James took his son Robert (1808-1892) into partnership and they successfully expanded the business. In 1841 James died leaving his son to continue the business under the new style of “Robert Craig and Company”. In succeeding years Robert took into partnership his four sons, James (1844-1917), Robert (1847-1929), John (1849-1910) and Charles ( -1938), all of whom had been trained to papermaking.
On April 25th 1890, Newbattle Mills were abandoned owing to the firm being unable to come to terms with the agent of the landlord, the Marquis of Lothian, over the renewal of the lease of the property. The firm concentrated their works between their Moffat Mills, near Airdrie, and their Caldercruix Mills, both of which had been in their possession for many years.
Robert Craig had been a devoted lover of music and art, an excellent horseman and a keen participant in many outdoor sports, particularly cricket and curling. He died on 26th January 1892 and in addition to erecting a memorial in Newbattle Parish Church, his four sons endowed the Parish Church in Caldercruix in memory of their father whose generosity had largely helped in its erection.
Moffat Mills was built in the year 1822 by a papermaker named Hugh Liddle in conjunction with John McLaurin and George Balloch, all of whom were businessmen who hailed from Denny. Under their ownership the mill was not a success and it soon passed into the hands of John Craig, a brother of James Craig of Newbattle Mills. His son, also called John (1817-1898) succeeded him as proprietor and he was at first fairly successful but eventually the business got into financial difficulties and it was shut down in 1863 and put up for sale. In 1865 John’s cousin, Robert Craig of Newbattle, purchased the mill for the sum of £3810.00 and restarted it, trading under the style of “The Moffat Paper Mill Company”. In 1866 disaster struck the mill when it was completely gutted by fire but the new owner decided to rebuild it and when it reopened a year later it employed between 60 and 70 people. The family fortunes were almost lost when a venture in banking in Glasgow brought them to the brink of bankruptcy but they somehow managed to retain their papermaking interests and quickly restored them.
Following the difficulties with their landlord in Newbattle the decision to abandon the mill there was made and by 1890 the Moffat Mill was fully equipped and ready to take over the Newbattle share of the business, and more, and the turnout of the mill’s production was increased. There was a corresponding advance in the number of employees, among whom were now many of the workforce transferred from Newbattle. To provide accommodation for the additional employees the company acquired land from the estate of Wester Moffat owned by James Towers-Clark and a large number of houses were built by the firm, among which is the adjoining row of cottages, now privately owned, known as Craigson Place.
After the death of Robert Craig in 1892, the four sons, who were the remaining partners, took in Gilbert J Wildridge, the General Manager of the mill, as a full partner in January 1893, and in 1898 the business was incorporated as a Private Limited Company, all the shares being owned by the five partners, now Directors, with James Craig as Chairman and Gilbert Wildridge as Managing Director.
William Towers-Clark, Esq. was born in 1805, the son of Dr James Towers, a Glasgow physician and professor in the medical faculty of Glasgow University. At the age of 16 he was apprenticed to his cousin, Adam Graham, a Writer in the firm of Hill, Graham and Davidson, Glasgow. In 1829 he set up in practice on his own and in 1832 entered as partner in a firm which assumed the name of Reid and Towers. When in 1859 he had attained a prominent position in the first rank of his profession, a client of his, Dr William Clark, the last in a long line of proprietors of the Estate of Wester Moffat for whom William Towers acted as legal agent, bequeathed to him his entire estate and valuable lands in New Monkland coupled with the injunction that he bear the name Clark in addition to his own. Mr Towers thereupon assumed as his surname “Towers-Clark” by which he and his heirs were known thereafter. William Towers-Clark continued his legal career and in 1867 became Dean of the Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow. In 1860 he erected the mansion house at Wester Moffat, Clarkston, on the site of the old residence of Dr Clark. This property is now known as Wester Moffat Hospital. Following his death whilst on a train journey to Bathgate on business in April 1870, he was succeeded by his son, James Towers-Clark, as heritable proprietor of the estate. Among the many bequests made by William Towers-Clark is Katherine Park, Clarkston, in which is now situated the Clarkston Bowling Club. This park was presented to the residents of Clarkston in celebration of his wife, Katherine.
Following the expansion of the business in 1890 and the corresponding increase in the workforce, Robert Craig and Sons decided to continue their founder’s interests in outdoor games and they approached James Towers-Clark with their idea to build a bowling green for the employees. James offered to donate a piece of land and drew up a feu disposition which was finalised on 15th February 1897 in which he disposed to trustees for behoof of the members of “The Caldercraig Bowling Club” a plot of land. The conditions laid down by Mr Towers-Clark stipulated that unless they were fully met then the ground and any buildings thereon could revert to the Estate. These conditions were as follows:-
- The plot of ground be formed into a bowling green and be maintained as such in good order and condition for all time coming;
- A neat and substantial Bowling House shall be erected upon a portion of the ground and a suitable and substantial fence erected to enclose the ground. This fencing to be always maintained in good order and repair;
- The sum of one penny Sterling be paid at Whitsunday annually, if asked only.
Notwithstanding these conditions, the donor and his heirs and successors or their mineral tenants reserved all mineral rights to the plot of ground. The Company then constructed the bowling green and original club house and donated it to the trustees of the newly formed club and the opening took place in August 1895. A photograph of the proprietors of the paper mill, their families, invited guests and employee members and friends is on display in the clubhouse to this day.
Not everyone resident in Moffat was happy to have a bowling green in the neighbourhood. Following their constructing houses in Craigson Place for their workers, the management of Robert Craig and Sons set up an annual competition for the residents and presented prizes for those with both the best kept flower and vegetable gardens. In 1896 a Mr McKay was appointed as Judge for this competition and in his report to the management he included the fact that “I ventured to question the lady of one house how it was that her garden had become so productive of chickenweed and groundsel”. She replied, “The bowling green, the bowling green, is far too near and that’s the reason”. The judge concluded in his report, “It is my hope that by another year the gardens may have first attention and the joys of the bowling green will be none the less and perhaps merit the worthy dame’s approval”. It should perhaps be noted that Mr McKay did not name the “worthy dame” nor did he mention that Mr R Scott, the recipient for both prizes of best flower and vegetable gardens for that year, was indeed a keen bowler and founder member of the club.
Robert Craig and Sons had a keen interest in all aspects of the social life of their employees. The village soon became a thriving community with a school, Sunday school and shops. In addition to their constructing a bowling green and clubhouse, the mill management also provided a football pitch and cricket field for the residents of the village. These were situated in fields behind the bowling club. The access to these fields was communal with that to the bowling green, that is, by means of a footpath leading from the wash-house in Craigson Place, and along a path running between Craigson Place and the bowling green. There was no access to the green from what is now our car park. This area was for many years part of a field in which the local farmer grazed his animals. The only access that the farmer had to his fields bounding the green and the football and cricket pitches was through a gate leading off what is now known as Varnsdorf Way, and in consideration for his allowing bowlers to enter the green by the present-day route, he was given permission to erect a gate and drive his cattle and horse and cart along the communal footpath. Through time the path through his field became the only means of access to the bowling green, and on occasions it is reported that some of the ladies were afraid to enter the green because of the cattle that were gathered about the gate. On one occasion, a careless member failed to properly secure the gate leading from the field to the green and the greenkeeper and some of the members found the farmer’s shire-horse grazing on the bankings. In their efforts to remove the offending beast the members only succeeded in frightening it and clods of the sacred turf were seen to fly over its head as it became more and more excited. Such were the joys of a greenkeeper in those days.
The paper mill of Robert Craig & Sons and latterly the distillery of Inver House had as their main focal point, during their entire life spans, a succession of chimney stacks. The latest chimney, which dominated the Moffat Mills area, was a landmark which could be seen from miles around and had been taken as the central feature in the badge of Caldercraig Bowling Club. Early in the morning of 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.
TRUSTEESHIP of the CLUB
The original disposition made by James Towers-Clark lays down that only Trustees can assume additions or replacements to their numbers and that a majority of those surviving or the heir or successor of the last survivor of those previously appointed or assumed can and should do so. The original Trustees of the Club were appointed as follows, viz., James Towers-Clark, heritable proprietor of the Estate of Wester Moffat; James Craig, Robert Craig, John Craig, Charles Craig and Gilbert Wildridge, the Directors of Robert Craig and Sons; and five employees of the firm, namely:- Alexander Hay, Cashier; William Gray, Engineer; Robert Scott and William Ross, Paper Makers; and Peter Laurenson, Clerk.
In 1941 the only surviving trustees were Alexander Hay and Peter Laurenson, and with Major William Towers-Clark, the new proprietor of Wester Moffat Estate, they assumed seven new trustees, namely:- Douglas M Wood, Chartered Accountant, Edinburgh; Charles R Craig, Paper Manufacturer, London; David D.S. Tennant, Paper Manufacturer, Moffat Mills; Gilbert Wildridge, Farmer, Peebleshire; Alexander Cowan, Paper Manufacturer, Penicuick; James Reid, Manager, Caldercruix Mill and James C Neish, Secretary, Moffat Mills.
By September 1956 the numbers of Trustees had again been depleted and those surviving, namely Major (now Colonel) William Towers-Clark, Douglas Wood, James Reid and James Neish, assumed three new Trustees viz.: John C.M. Wood, Paper Manufacturer, Lenzie; Samuel C Watson, General Manager, Caldercruix Mill; and Robert Chalmers, Clerk, Airdrie. The following years again took their toll and when the last surviving trustee, Robert Chalmers, notified the membership of the situation at the Annual General Meeting of the Club in 1980, he made the decision to appoint six new trustees, all members of the Club, thus severing all links with the former company of Robert Craig and Sons Limited of Moffat Mills, Airdrie. The Trustees of the Club were appointed as follows: - Robert Chalmers together with Lawrance Scott, Alexander Weir, Robert Smith, John McSkimming, Malcolm Mathieson and William Matthews, all of whom were senior members of the club committee (all of whom are now deceased).
The original disposition made by James Towers-Clark lays down that only Trustees can assume additions or replacements to their numbers and that a majority of those surviving or the heir or successor of the last survivor of those previously appointed or assumed can and should do so. In 1980 the numbers of Trustees had become so depleted that only one was left, and the stage was almost reached where no person with any connection to the Club was left alive. All of the surviving trustees were present at a special general meeting of the club in 1984 when a new constitution was put before the members. This constitution, which was invoked with immediate effect, included a rule that the office bearers and committee for the time being shall act as trustees for the club, thereby precluding the possibility that there should never be a trustee who is not a member of the club.
THE EARLY YEARS
Although bowls had been played in one form or another over the centuries, the early and mid nineteenth century was a time of relative disorder and conflict on the bowling greens in most of Britain and little formalised bowling was played. Because the sport was very much a regional game there were almost as many sets of laws and rules as there were clubs. It was left to a group of Scotsmen drawn principally from clubs in Glasgow and the West of Scotland to standardise the sport. They met in 1849 and appointed William W Mitchell, a Glasgow lawyer as their secretary. It was he who drew up a comprehensive set of rules, published in 1864, and over the years these were adopted as the definitive Laws of the Game. The forming of the Scottish Bowling Association in 1892, when 122 clubs affiliated into one body, (another 51 joined the Association by the time of the 1st Annual Meeting the following year), saw the start of the game as we know it today and the rise in the number of member clubs with the formation of many hundreds over the following decades. Today there are approximately 870 affiliated clubs with about 70,000 members. The standard laws of the game as defined by The Scottish Bowling Association, based on a revision of W Mitchell’s rules in 1893, were gradually accepted by Clubs and Associations in the rest of the British Isles, and world-wide, who followed the ‘flat green’ code and the Scottish Bowling Association was looked upon as the M.C.C. is to cricket or the Royal and Ancient is to Golf. The English, Welsh and Irish Bowling Associations were formed in the early years of the twentieth century, following in the footsteps of the Scots, who, until the outbreak of the Great War were regarded as supreme in the world of bowls.
It was into this climate and upsurge in the popularity of the game that the Caldercraig Bowling Club was founded in 1895. the original Rules and Constitution of the Club laid down on the formation of the Club showed that membership was open to all employees at Moffat Paper Mills over 15 years of age and those resident in Moffat and within two miles thereof. All applications for membership were posted in the green with the names of the proposer and seconder, and all members were balloted. These ballots took place between 8.00 and 8.30pm on a Thursday evening during which time no play was allowed. A minority of one quarter of black balls placed in the ballot box was sufficient to exclude the applicant from membership. The Committee of Management of the Club comprised nine in number and two-thirds of those had to be employed in some capacity in the paper mill with the remaining three being what was termed ‘associate members’. At the Annual General Meetings of the Club the Treasurer was duty bound to not only submit a statement of accounts but also to estimate the probable expenses of the coming year. Based upon these estimates the meeting decided the annual assessment to be paid by each member. The Proprietors of Moffat paper mills had the final say in two of the main rules of the Club, viz., the numerical breakdown of the Committee of Management and all matters relating to the conduct on the green of members, friends or guests, neither of which rules could be changed save with their consent.
Caldercraig was very soon recognised in bowling circles and an entry in The Bowlers’ Handbook for Scotland issued in 1902 by John McMurtrie of Bothwell Street, Glasgow, recalls, “It is nicely situated, and is considered one of the best greens in Lanarkshire”. The handbook also informs us that the club was composed mostly of paper mill workers and miners and that the annual subscription was five shillings (25p). (Note: The S.B.A. did not commence publication of their “Year Book” until 1926).
In 1901 there had been eight competitions contested by the members including the Championship, which at that time was known as “The Messrs. Robert Craig & Sons Firm’s Cup Competition”. With the exception of the championship and the competition for Captain and Mrs Towers-Clark’s Medal and Fruit Bowl, it was apparently the custom in those days for competition prizes to be presented as a ‘one-of’. Mr Robert Craig, the second son of the founder of the firm, and a Director and latterly Chairman of the Company until his death in 1929, presented a pair of bowls with inset engraved silver discs to the member successful in an annual competition played in his name. Only two such pairs of bowls have come to the notice of the author and they were won by James Law in 1901 and by Alexander Law in 1920. Mr James C Tennant, a nephew of Robert Craig, and a Director on the Board of the Company, continued with this tradition following the retiral of his uncle. A pair of bowls, suitably inscribed, was presented to M.G.Sloan in 1929 and these are now in the possession of the Club together with three of those awarded to Messers James and Alexander Law. The annual competition for the prize bowls was run until just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War and many were the recipients, including the following:-
|James Nimmo||Bob Robertson||Robert Ferguson|
|John Hay||James Rae (twice)||William Crombie|
|William Scott||Lawrance Scott||George Simpson|
Many of the pairs of bowls won in this competition were used by the recipients as their regular bowls and so will have been lost for all time although the two sets won by James Rae are still proudly held by members of his family. It was apparently the custom for recipients to remove the silver discs and replace them with other suitable discs to enable the winners to use the bowls on a regular basis.
During my endeavours to trace the history of the club I was fortunate to receive from the widow of Robert Chalmers, a long time member and Trustee of the Club, a silver medallion which had been presented to the Club in 1903 by James C Tennant. (As I was later to discover, this was a replacement for the original medal which had been presented at the inauguration of the Club by Captain and Mrs Towers-Clark). This medallion had been crafted by Belfield Jewellers of Shandwick Place, Edinburgh and is approximately 5cms in diameter. It has a 15mm central panel depicting a male figure playing bowls. Attached to this central panel are four rectangular arms forming a cross, each arm of the cross portraying a Scottish thistle. Linking the four arms in a circular design are the words, “Calder Craig Bowling Club”. Attached to the rear of the medallion was a semi circular silver bar on which over the years small silver discs were attached on which were inscribed the year and name of the recipient. In 1991 the members of the Club decided to remove the bar and discs and to use the medallion as the Presidential Badge of Office. Since 2009 it has been recognised as the main badge of office of the Chairman of the Club.
In 1994 the whereabouts of the original medal was discovered. It was in the possession of the grand-daughter in-law of Robert Ferguson, who had won it for the third time in 1901, and as was the custom in those days, he was allowed to retain it as his own property. This medallion was of similar dimensions to the “James C Tennant” medallion but was of a less elaborate design. The front of the medallion is decorated with what is presumed by the author to be the coat of arms of the Towers-Clark family, but this has not been verified. The rear of the medallion is fairly plain and was intended for the engraving of the recipient’s names although only one is inscribed thereon. Attached to the rim of the medallion is a small silver panel which has one name engraved on it but which has two silver discs attached, each of which has a recipient’s name engraved on both sides. The winners of these two medallions are recorded below as:-
|1896 C P Gibson||1903 J Hay jnr||1909 A Skelton|
|1897 James||1904 A Millar||1910 Alex Hay|
|1898 Robt Ferguson||1905 J Hay jnr||1911 A Murie|
|1899 J Hay||1906 Alex Hay||1912 G Donaldson|
|1900 Robt Ferguson||1907 Robt Ferguson||1913 A Murie|
|1901 Robt Ferguson||1908 James Law||1914 Wm Crombie|
|1924 Matt Sloan|
Another medallion has come to light and that too is in the possession of the family of James Rae. In 1933 he qualified for the final stages of the National Single-handed Competition and in so doing he defeated the famous R Sprot of Wishaw in the District Final. (Historical Note: R Sprot was a Scottish Internationalist from 1921 until 1936 and won a Gold Medal in the Commonwealth Games of 1934 held in London) The medallion James was presented with by the Scottish Bowling Association on this occasion is a beautifully inscribed and elaborately designed gold medal.
In the early days there were no organised leagues and few inter-club competitions other than the singles and fours championships run by the Scottish Bowling Association and the Middle Ward competition played for by Lanarkshire clubs annually in a one day competition for the Championship Flag. Caldercraig has never won the Middle Ward Championship. There was one other competition played annually from about the time of the Great War in which Caldercraig participated, although the first confirmed record of their taking part was in 1931 when they finished as runners-up. This was a one day competition similar to the Middle Ward Championship in which clubs in the Monklands area played for the Monklands Cup. (This cup was known as the John Ramsey Challenge Cup when first played for by clubs from Falkirk and District Burghs, having been presented by the Member of Parliament for Falkirk in 1876) The Monklands Cup Competition is played for to this day on the first Friday of June and is regarded as the premier event in the Monklands District’s bowling calendar. Twenty two clubs in the area compete annually and Caldercraig has been successful on six occasions, viz.: 1944, 1951, 1992, 1993, 1997, 1998 and 2008.
It was the custom in those early days, and one which has only been reduced with the introduction of a greater number of inter-club and one day open competitions in recent years, for clubs to host annual friendly matches with other clubs from within and outside their immediate district. Before the First World War, Caldercraig played host to and visited clubs in Cumbernauld and Bathgate as well as local clubs. The normal means of travel in those days was by using the many company railway lines which criss-crossed the countryside and to assist bowlers the McMurtrie Bowlers Handbook published details of the local stations and the walking distance from them to the various greens. After the Second War, Caldercraig continued this custom with annual friendly games against local clubs as well as entertaining members of various local churches and other organisations. The formation of the Airdrie and District League in 1963 and the resultant congestion in the bowling calendar saw a downward trend in those friendly games and the last of these annual events at Caldercraig was the long-standing match against Baillieston Bowling Club which was only discontinued in 1976. Two new annual matches were set up in the 1980’s between Caldercraig and Templetons Bowling Club, Rutherglen, and Crail Bowling Club in Fife whilst the ladies of the club held annual friendly matches with near neighbours Clarkston and the ladies from Slamannan. The high cost of transport experienced by both clubs saw the demise of the annual match with the Fife club after about fifteen years but the other games are still enjoyed by many of the members of the club.
One can only wonder at the difficulties the members and their wives must have encountered in accommodating and catering for the teams in the small and primitive clubhouse that was available to them in the “early years” but the womenfolk in those days were as equally resourceful as they are today and their custom was to prepare the meals on their own kitchen stoves. For this reason it was a fortuitous thing that most members of the club were resident in Moffat village.
PRESIDENTS and CHAMPIONS
The two highest honours in any Bowling Club are to be invited by ones peers to be their President and to be recognised by the members as their Champion. Up until 1949 it was the custom for the Club to present to the President’s wife a silver jack mounted on a wooden tripod on the occasion of the opening of the green for the new season. Until some time into the 1970’s it was also the custom for the President to present the Club Champion with a prize to commemorate his winning the championship, and the vice-president did likewise to the successful player in the Jubilee Cup Competition. It is now customary for the wife or other representative of the President to be given a present of somewhat less value and the Club presents a trophy or other small memento to the respective champions to commemorate their success.
In modern times at Caldercraig only three members have managed to become Club Champion in their Presidential Year. Below is a listing of those members who have attained this double honour.
Over the years there have been several Honorary Presidents and Vice Presidents of the Club, but there are no records detailing who they were prior to 1970 although I believe that in the main they were members of the family of Robert Craig & Sons. The first actual reference to Honorary Presidents that I have was the decision at the A.G.M. of 1973 to delete the names of Mr R Scorgie as Honorary President and Mr I Bremner as Honorary Vice President. At the same meeting it was decided to invite the General Manager of Inver House Distillery, Mr R A Cassie, to be our Honorary President. In 1975 Mr Ernest Capocci, a local business man, who had presented the “Capocci Cup” to the Ladies Section in 1970 was invited to become our Honorary Vice President. Some time later he was elected to be our Honorary President in succession to Mr Cassie, and he remains so to this day. In 1987, the members decided to invite Mrs Isobel Lees, widow of the late John Lees of Coatbridge, to become the Club’s first Honorary Lady President. Mrs Lees was the sister of Club members Mrs J A Johnstone and Mrs W J Corbett and had long been a friend of the Club. Mrs Lees sadly passed on in 1991 and to commemorate their sister Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Corbett presented the Club with a beautiful Presidents and Champions notice board which hangs proudly in the centre of the Club rooms. The full listing of Lady and Gents Presidents is recorded elsewhere in the web-site
As far as I can determine there have only been seven members who have successfully retained their Championship Title and one of those has done so on six occasions. They are:-
|R P Crombie||1927-28|
Mr A Skelton was Champion of the Club for the third time in 1904 and he was entitled by the rules of the Club to retain the trophy as his own property from that day. The Directors of Robert Craig & Sons donated a replacement Champions Trophy to the Club in 1906 when it was won by Robert Ferguson. Mr Ferguson became Champion for the third time in 1916 and he too was allowed to retain the trophy as his personal property. Because of the Great War it appears that there was no replacement for this trophy and no record exists, as far as I am aware, of any winners of a Championship competition between 1917 and 1922. Research tells me that the club was possibly going through a period of low membership following the Great War and this lasted for a period of about five years. In 1922 it was decided that a trophy which had not been contested for from 1914 should be resurrected as the third Champions Trophy. This trophy was in fact the original fruit bowl presented at the opening of the green in 1895 by James Towers-Clark. It had been contested for every year until 1910 and again in 1913 and 1914. The winners have their names inscribed on it as follows:-
|1896 W Crombie||1897 Robert Scott||1898 W Crombie|
|1899 Andrew Skelton||1900 J Ross||1901 H Christie|
|1902 Andrew Skelton||1903 J Hay||1904 R Hay|
|1905 R Hay||1906 J Hay||1907 W Crombie|
|1908 J McCall jnr||1909 Andrew Skelton||1910 Albert Nichol|
|1911 Not Recorded||1912 Not Recorded||1913 W Crombie|
|1914 John A Murrie|
(Note: it was obviously not the custom that a multiple winner of this trophy should be allowed to claim it as was the case with the Champions trophy)
With the onset of the Great War this competition trophy was not played for again until its resurrection as a replacement Champions trophy in 1923. When this third trophy was played for it was decided that any member able to win it on three occasions would also be entitled to retain it, but now the members stipulated that to qualify the winner had to win the Championship on consecutive years. James Rae won this trophy for the third consecutive year in 1931 and therefore became the proud owner. A fourth trophy was acquired by the Club the following year and although James Rae won the Championship in 1932, 1933, 1938 and 1940 he was not able to retain this trophy. In 1942, following his death, Mrs A Skelton re-presented her late husband’s trophy to the Club and it has been played for as the Champions Trophy ever since. The champions trophy competed for between 1932 and 1941 has continued to be presented annually, but now it is awarded to the winner of the twice weekly rink nights competition and is known by all as “The Rose bowl”.
Confirmed multiple winners of the Championship Title are recorded as follows:-
In 1939, following on from his success in the Club Championship of 1938, James Rae was unable to represent Caldercraig in the Scottish Bowling Association Singles Championship because of commitments with his other love, music, at which he was a noted exponent and latterly the principal viola of the Scottish National Orchestra. His brother John, who was always regarded as being of lesser bowling ability than James, was selected to represent the Club. In the event, he turned out to be a more than capable deputy, for he went all the way to the National Final where he only failed at the final hurdle against Mr D Miller from Leven Bowling Club.. This was, and remains, the greatest success for one of our club members. A second chance to emulate John’s success was lost to the Club by the hands of fate. R Crombie, a mill worker, resident in the village, fell foul of the disciplinary procedure of the Management and not only lost his job but was obliged to find alternative accommodation. He moved out of the district and took up residence and employment in Fife. Mr Crombie, whose forebears had achieved success at Caldercraig, joined the Leslie Bowling Club and in 1954 won the National Singles Championship at Queens Park.
In recognition of his past achievements and long time membership of the Club, James Rae was elected an Honorary Member in 1972 and he died two years later.
The outstanding Lady Champion of the Club over the years was the wife of the afore-mentioned William Russell and sister of multiple champion Lawrance Scott. Mrs Isabel Russell won the Ladies Championship on no fewer than eleven occasions from 1970. There are no records of any winners of Ladies competitions prior to 1970 but Mrs Russell had been a very successful competitor in inter-club competition for over twenty years before this time and it is inconceivable that during these years she had not won the championship
Mrs Russell and Lawrance, whose grandfather was among the founding fathers of the Club and was one of the original Trustees of the Club as well as Champion in 1899, were both honoured with Life Membership. Mrs Russell gave up active participation at the club circa 2000 and Lawrance sadly passed away in 2002. In his will he left a sum of money to the club and the members decided to erect a totally enclosed viewing shelter for use by members and visitors and this was completed in 2004.
The Champions of the respective sections of the Club are listed elsewhere
Every male employee aged over 15 years employed in any capacity in the mill of Robert Craig & Sons was entitled, if he so desired, to be a member of the Club and the annual dues paid by him were reduced from that paid by other (associate) members. For a number of years leading up to the Second World War the membership of the Club was in a gradual decline. Most, if not all the members by this time, were residents of the village of Moffat and employed in the paper mills. There were only about twenty five members and some concern was being expressed by them at the possibility of having to close the green due to lack of support. By coincidence, a group of about twelve lady members of Springwells fell out with their club and approached the Committee of Caldercraig with their proposal to set up a Ladies Section. Seeing this as a means of retaining and enlarging their Club, the membership voted in favour of the proposal and in 1939 the Ladies Section of Caldercraig was formed. One or two of the male members were angry at this decision and resigned their membership but the Club survived the immediate crisis and soon an upsurge in support was the outcome. The founding of the Ladies Section coincided with the austerity brought about by the outbreak of hostilities and the loss for a time through service for their country of some of the younger members and but for this the continued existence of the Club may well have been in doubt.
The membership of the Club has shown considerable variances over the last sixty years, however. In 1951 there was a total paid up membership of 104, 45 of whom were ladies, but then began a steady and substantial decrease until, in 1978, there were only 55 members, inclusive of 18 ladies. The committee resolved to advertise the existence of the Club among the residents in the new housing estates which had sprung up in the near locality and many players were introduced to the game by their efforts. The decade of the 1980’s, when sport in general saw a rise in participants as opposed to spectators (in part due to increased exposure on television) saw membership at Caldercraig almost double. 1980 dawned with a total of 46 men and 18 women registered as members and by the start of the 1990 season there was a waiting list for the gentlemen’s section (membership had been set at 80 at the A.G.M. of 1985) and a grand total of 42 ladies. At the start of the 1992 season the members agreed to an increase in the total membership and the numbers peaked at 125 by the turn of the century, but today there are only 60 men, 29 women and no juniors. Let us hope that popularity in the game can be resurrected but the outlook is not too good throughout the country and Caldercraig will be lucky to escape the trend. The most disturbing aspect of the current decline is that the average age of our membership is increasing year on year and it is becoming essential that current members start to act to reverse the loss of members. The new Board have accepted that the current trend can not continue and it is investigating several ways in which to deal with the matter, including developing the building (through lottery or other funding) and the possible use of the facilities as a centre for use by members of the local community.
At the Annual General Meeting in 1993 it was proposed that the Club offer full membership to those in the Ladies Section. This was seen by some as recognition of the part the Ladies have played in the prosperity of the Club in recent years and although it was to be unique in private clubs in the district it was seen as the only way forward for progressive clubs. Other members of the Club saw it as a too radical step that was not in tune with current thinking in other clubs and as it was not being forced upon us we should not take such drastic action in isolation. Although the proposal was not rejected by the members, they wished more time to consider and instructed the Committee to meet with the Ladies and discuss all the implications. In the event, the Ladies themselves voted against the proposal when it was put to them in a secret ballot. In 1994, however, the Annual General Meeting of the Club almost unanimously passed a motion to change the Constitution to allow three Ladies to become full members of the Management Committee. This move was seen by almost everyone as a sensible and progressive step which gave due cognizance of the role played by the Ladies in perpetuating the advancement of 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 the 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, have been represented on the new Management Board and although there were short term teething problems it is hoped that this new format shall be a blueprint to be followed by other progressive bowling clubs. The members had decided that the Chairmanship of the Management Board should be by rotation among the three sections of the club and for the first two years the chairman elected to oversee the new set up was Mr Jim Simpson. The Board is made up of six members (two from each of the three sections) and a Secretary and a Treasurer.
INCOME & EXPENDITURE
The annual statement of accounts for season 1950 showed a total income for the year of £141 1s 10d and an expenditure of £121 14s 10d. Annual fees stood at £1.00, with ladies paying 10/- (The combined membership totalled 92). The prize moneys paid to the runners-up in the Club Championship and Jubilee Cup and to the winners of the Club Pairs competition were equal to a years subscription per player. (The presentation of individual mementos by the Club to the participants in competition finals was not introduced until 1976). It was not until 1977, when there was a membership of 37 gentlemen and 23 ladies, that the income for a season amounted to over £1000. 1979 saw the £2000 barrier breached, but this was in part due to a £500 insurance claim against Inver House Distillers for damage caused to the green by flooding. There has been a steady increase in succeeding years until, for season 2004, there was a total annual income of £35,000 (half of which came from bar sales) and an expenditure of £34000. The club is increasingly becoming a business and business procedures and practices are now required by the management to ensure our survival and compliance with the ever increasing number of new laws and regulations which are forced upon us, particularly in regard to the licensing laws and health and safety etc regulations .
THE GREEN & CLUBHOUSE
Over the many years that the Club has been in existence there have been green keepers of varying abilities and experience, and to date, all of them have been volunteer members receiving only a small wage or honorarium. None the less, Caldercraig has always been regarded as having one of the finest playing surfaces in the area. The longest serving greenkeeper with almost thirty years service was Andrew Brown. During his membership, which was from 1927 until 1972, Andrew served in almost every official capacity in the Club as well as being Champion on two occasions (1947 & 1949). He knew almost every blade of grass on the green and regularly spent three or four hours working to maintain its condition immediately after a full twelve hours shift in the mill. It was not until his falling victim to redundancy from the mill and his subsequent shift work in his new employment that he retired from his services to the Club. Many were the back-breaking hours he spent pushing the old lawnmower and with there being no such thing as machines for scarifying or coring these tasks too had to be done by hand. During his time succeeding committees were less than generous with the funds they spent to maintain the green in top condition. It was only by the hard work of Andrew and those before and after him that ensured that the green was as good as any. More enlightened committees of recent years have spent considerably more to ensure the maintenance of the green. Immediately the 1992 season finished the committee acted on the recommendation of the green convenor and replaced the original natural banking round the green with a modern artificial one. They also constructed new paths around the green and extended the south boundary by removing the old fence and taking in the former communal path for which there had been no requirement for a considerable number of years. This work was all carried out by a few of the members at only a fraction of the cost that other clubs had paid to have similar work done. Yours truly took on the unenviable duties of green keeper following the retiral of Alex Weir at the start of the 1994 season and two years later I recommended that the club employ an adviser to help. Other club members took over many of the green duties for a few years when I was too busy with my Scottish Bowling Association duties and later poor health, but I have returned as green keeper and convenor in recent years, albeit with the help of others in the more taxing duties. This has been of great advantage to the club and considerable improvements have already been seen with the improved health and playing condition of the green. The 2007 close season saw the installation of an automatic watering system and major renovations on the green edges. These improvements must be continued, for without a green to play on, it does not matter how good the other facilities are.
The wooden pavilion built in 1895-96 by Messrs Robert Craig & Sons as stipulated in the feu disposition by James Towers-Clark, had withstood the ravages of the weather for many long years. An addition had been built between the Great Wars when the clubhouse was almost doubled in size, but facilities were primitive by today’s standards. After the Ladies Section was formed, a large curtain was suspended from a pole across the middle of the hall to separate the sexes, and the gentlemen had to forego their primitive outdoor toilet facility situated at the rear of the clubhouse in favour of the ladies. The only facilities open to the men after this was the erection of corrugated sheeting and natural drainage. An old coke burning stove was situated in a corner at the ‘ladies’ end of the hall and this was the only means of heating and cooking. On the occasions that Caldercraig played host to visiting clubs, lady members, or in the days prior to there being a ladies section, the wives of the officials, prepared simple meals in their own homes and carried them up to the clubhouse. When Caldercraig hosted County Cup matches, or on other similar occasions when socialising with visitors, the entire teams would walk up to Clarkston for their liquid refreshments. The management of Robert Craig & Sons had ensured that the constitution of the Club forbade the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages and no relaxation of these rules whatsoever was allowed. It was not until the revocation of the old Constitution and its replacement in 1984, nearly twenty years after the closure of Robert Craig & Sons mill, that the sale and consumption of alcohol was officially permitted through the granting of special licences, although occasional licences had been obtained from the local court for a few years prior to the constitutional change. In 1994 the membership agreed with a committee recommendation to apply to the Sheriff Clerk for registration as a club. Upon doing so, the club was able for the first time to sell excisable liquor on the premises to its members and their guests.
After the war, the membership began to increase to a healthier number and facilities at the club were no longer acceptable. The Club was fortunate in having as a member the assistant burgh surveyor of Airdrie. John Hamilton became the driving force behind a series of new works which included the erection of a brick built kitchen and toilet accommodation. A proper water supply was connected from the old wash house in Craigson Place and in 1949 electricity was installed for the first time. Up until then the only means of lighting was by paraffin lamps or wax candles. He had sufficient knowledge of building works and good contacts which ensured that the members were able to carry out these necessary improvements at very little cost. It was he who acquired and erected the flag pole and a new flag was made by some of the ladies.
With the eventual closure of Robert Craig & Sons paper mill at Moffat and the purchase of the property by a new company called Inver House Distillers Ltd., a new threat to the existence of the Club reared its head. The new proprietors of the mill wished to take over the property of the Club for development of their warehousing and they entered into negotiations with the club committee, led by trustee Robert Chalmers. Inver House were willing to build a bowling green and modern new clubhouse on vacant land nearby. The committee, which in addition to Bob Chalmers, included Jim Johnstone, Bill Corbett, Matt Muirhead, Campbell Maxwell, Jim Preston and others, were initially very keen to proceed and with the possibility of not having a green to play on for a couple of years they approached the members of Clarkston and sought and obtained permission to play all of their games at the neighbouring green. Further enquiries were made to ascertain the time scale from the demolition of the old clubhouse and green until the new green would be in a suitable state to play matches on, and the disappointing answer of a minimum of five years meant that the committee had no option but to decline the offer of our new neighbours. It is open to debate whether the decision not to accept the offer of a new green and clubhouse was a good one, bearing in mind the problems that have been encountered with the old wooden pavilion since that time but I believe that the committee involved in the negotiations made the only possible decision.
Following the works of 1949-1951, no major renovations or building was done for many years until the membership began demanding better facilities once again, and in 1979 the committee decided to erect an extension onto the front of the building. Over the next year a wooden structure was built to form a viewing room and to create additional accommodation within the clubhouse. The building of this extension did not demolish any of the existing building and with the exception of its doing away with the original entrance door to the clubhouse it did not alter the interior in any way. For a few years this extension was used substantially but accommodation was still at a premium and succeeding committees purchased and erected wooden huts as alternative and additional changing/store rooms.
Springtime maintenance and liberal coatings of paint could not disguise the fact that the wooden structure had almost reached the end of its useful life. At the Annual General Meeting of the Club in 1985, when I accepted the Presidency, I asked the members to consider some fund raising events. My long term intention was that a building fund could be established with the aim of rebuilding or substantially furbishing the clubhouse before the centenary of the Club in 1995. Great efforts were made by the members, and although the task was a daunting one, they quickly managed to raise a little capital. The gents’ outdoor toilets, which had been built in 1948/49, were becoming an embarrassment and their replacement was regarded as a major priority. In 1987 sufficient funds were found to build new toilet accommodations and at the same time extend the kitchen facilities. On seeing the advantage to all that this change had made spurred the committee to greater endeavours, coupled with the fact that serious deterioration in the fabric of the building meant that a rebuilding programme would have to be advanced. In 1989 the Club was able to build an extension which replaced the entire frontage of the old building and almost doubled the size of the interior. Two years later a small band of willing workers employed a bricklayer and built a large new changing room and committee room at the southerly gable of the building. The 1994 close season saw the completion of the rebuilding programme when the old kitchen was demolished and a larger and more modern one was built in time for the Centenary celebrations. The major success of the last few years endeavours following the decision in 1985 to think about the future of the Club has been that almost all of this work has been carried out by willing worker members and those who have contributed in no small way by raising all of the moneys required. Although they tried, the committee were unsuccessful in their endeavours to obtain any grants whatsoever. The total cost to date of all these improvements has been considerable and everyone involved has to be congratulated for the success of their mission. The committee have made new outline plans for future development of the clubhouse, partly as a requirement of building and licensing regulations, but these will not proceed until new funding becomes available, although as stated earlier there are high hopes of success in this area. A small sub committee has spent considerable time and effort in the last year and are leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to procure the necessary finance.
The lack of quality accommodation may explain why Caldercraig had not been the venue for any important games in recent years but the changes since 1990 have already proved to local Association members that we are among the most active and progressive clubs in the District and are now able and willing to host such events. The finals of the Monklands Bowling Association were first held on our green in 1993 and again in 1998 and 2005. The Scottish Bowling Association district 27 finals were also held for the first time in 2000 but the greatest accolade was in 2006 when we hosted the Finals of the Lanarkshire Bowling Association championships..
Caldercraig has always been and will hopefully remain, first and foremost, a ‘Bowling Club’ where the game of bowls takes precedence over all other activities. It has always remained a small private club but the social life that members have enjoyed outwith the actual hours of bowling goes a long way in ensuring that the members remain part of a happy family. The necessity to raise money to replace the crumbling structure of the clubhouse in recent years and the ever spiralling costs of maintaining the green in top condition has had the benefit of expanding the social side of the club to the extent we now enjoy. Winter activities have helped to foster and maintain an even friendlier side to the already excellent relationships that members enjoy. No longer is the game of bowls at Caldercraig a six months outdoor pleasure, but it is now the common bond that has kindled many friendships that extend throughout the year. It is my hope that this shall always remain the case.
DISTRICT, COUNTY and NATIONAL COMPETITION
No male member of Caldercraig has had the honour to win a National Championship or to be asked to represent his Country but every Club member who is selected to represent the Club in one or other of the competitions open to all affiliated clubs, or who enters as an individual, pairing or team member in one of those organised for local bowlers has hopes and aspirations of not only acquitting themselves well but of bringing glory to their Club. Over the years Caldercraig members have proudly returned with a variety of trophies and honours and a golden era for the joint sections was between 1949 and 1956 with the ladies section leading the way.
In 1949 and again in 1950 the Ladies won the County Cup and in 1951 they also won the County Fours championship. Their greatest success however was in 1956 when Mrs AM Graham, Mrs W Russell, Mrs JW Main & Mrs JS Hamilton won the National Fours championship.
A second time of great success for the Club started in the late 1980’s and continues to this day with a number of members bringing honours home and the team growing from strength to strength. 1997and 1998 proved to be the most successful seasons in the history of the club when in successive years four major honours came our way. The decades of the years between 1990 and 2010 were particularly good. The gents won the Monklands Cup on four occasions between 1993 and 1998, the Airdrie League in 1994 and 1997, 1998 and 1999 and on another four occasions in the first decade of the new century. The League Knock-out Trophy was won in 1995, 1997 and 1998 and on another five occasions between 2004 and 2010. Seven divisional titles in eighteen years in the Lanarkshire League between 1992 and 2010 (with another three titles for our second string between 2000 and 2004) also came the way of Caldercraig. This success continued and in 2014 and 2015 we had double success when we won Divisions 6 and 5 and Divisions 16 & 15. In 2016 we were also the proud winners of the LBA "Top Six" competition. This followed an earlier defeat in the final of the Lanarkshire Leagues "League Cup" competition. In 1998 the John Laney Triples trophy came to Caldercraig and the club took great pleasure in the fact that they retained the title in 1999 with success following in 2000 and 2001. No other club has ever won this particular competition on three successive years, let alone the four that was achieved by Caldercraig. Their success in this particular competition has continued with victory in 2011, 2013 and again in 2016
The Scottish Championships were also favoured by club members with representatives in the Junior Singles (2004 & 2005), Singles (1997). Triples (1990, 1994 & 2010), Fours (1990) and Senior Fours (2004) all qualifying for the National Finals at Ayr Northfield. Centenary year in 1995 was a time of great joy for all members but also a year of great disappointment. Alan McGuiness and Jim Purves had qualified as District Champions and at Northfield were beaten by a single shot in an extra end of the final.
The ladies were not to be outdone and they had success with the pairs and the triples both earning a place on the national stage at Northfield in 1999 and the triples again in 2013. In the Monklands championships Mrs A Kyle won the Monklands singles championship in 1999 to become only the second Caldercraig winner of this prestigious event, the first being Mrs A Wallace in 1990. The greatest success within the gents section of the club to date, however, was the monumental success of John McHutchison who won the Lanarkshire Champion of Champions competition in 2001. John followed this up in 2002 by skipping Christopher McGuiness, Brian Orr and Graham Gillespie to victory in the county Under 45’s competition. The club continued their success in the gents county championships in 2017 when they won the Lanarkshire "Top Six" competition
Audrey McIntyre also brought great honour to the club and to herself when she earned her first International Cap when she played in the British Isles International series in 2014 and in 2018 Janie Kyle became our first lady member to win the Lanarkshire Womans Bowling Association Singles Championship.
Four of our recent Champions, Graeme McGuiness, Jim Purves, Graham Gillespie and John McHutchison have been honoured in the last few years by being selected to play for the County teams. Graeme’s brother Alan also gained his County Badge and he was followed by his son Christopher in 2003. Janie Kyle, Jean Crompton and Audrey McIntyre have all been selected to play in the Lanarkshire Ladies County Team. Graham Gillespie, Christopher McGuiness, Scott McIntyre and Ross Busby were also regular players in the county under 25’s and senior teams. Let us hope that in the years to come all our players will enjoy even greater success at District, County and National levels and be inspirational to other young members.
Caldercraig was honoured in 1993 when William Matthews was elected President of the Monklands Bowling Association and in the same year I was appointed Secretary/Treasurer of the Monklands Bowling Association, as well as being responsible for running the Airdrie Bowling Leagues which I did from 1992. I resigned both of those posts in 1997 following my election to the Council of the Scottish Bowling Association. Andrew Kyle and Ian Scott have both followed Willie Matthews as President of the Monklands Bowling Association (in 2001 and 2005) and Andrew followed this by attaining the Presidency of the Lanarkshire Bowling Association in 2006. Andrew has again achieved personal honours by being elected to the position of Bowls Scotland District Secretary for the North Lanarkshire area in 2014 and in 2015 Fraser Gillespie was elected as a Director of the Lanarkshire Bowling Association.
The efforts of these former Presidents of the Club and of the other members with their prowess on the green have ensured that Caldercraig has progressed to and remains at the forefront of local bowling circles.
Note: In early 2005 I tendered my resignation to the SBA. on health grounds. To mark my time as a member of the National Council the membership of the SBA elected me to Honorary Membership at their annual general meeting in 2005,