History has it that the first bowling club formed on the Richmond River was in Lismore in 1907.
This club was the Caledonian Bowling Club, then known as the Lismore City Bowling Club. Because of its popularity, it inspired a well-known resident of Ballina of that era, Hugh Gibson, to construct a small private bowling rink on the lawns of his own property on the banks of the canal at the western end of Bentinck Street in 1908. This rink consisted of grasses of no particular variety–just a mixture of local grasses–and mowed with rather primitive mowers of the cylinder type.
Former Ballina Mayor Bert Barlow reflected that as a very small lad he often visited the Gibson family with his father and his friends. The bowls used were made of wood, similar in shape and size to those used to this present day. The green had no ditches, just a raised section with a timber frame around the rink to a height of about 10cm.
Records of The Northern Star newspaper and the minutes of the Ballina Municipal Council show that at the annual meeting of the Ballina Caledonian Society on April 28, 1909, mention was made of the success of the bowling green in connection with the Lismore Society. The treasurer of the Ballina Caledonian Society, Tom Martin, a local baker and former mayor, invited expressions of opinion as to the desirability of having such a ground constructed by his society. The idea was generally favoured. The president of that society indicated his willingness to contribute five pounds five shillings to a fund to get it started.
Another member of the society, Mr. Street, proposed that it be a recommendation to the incoming committee to consider ways and means of forming a bowling club within that society. The motion was seconded by a Mr. Jamieson and carried unanimously. A sub-committee of the incoming executive of the Ballina Caledonian Society consisting of Messrs. Jamieson, Martin and JT Day were appointed to report on the proposal at their next meeting.
On the May 6, the Ballina Beacon newspaper reported on what was proposed by the society and in that paper’s opinion it was felt that a bowling green would be far too big an undertaking for the Ballina
Caledonian Society and that a bowling complex itself would place the society ‘within the pale of insignificance.’
The upkeep of a green would be just as expensive be it used or not and that there is no more attention needed for 100 members than 15 members even though it was pointed out that at that point in time the Lismore members were contributing two-pound shillings each per annum.
However, notwithstanding the Beacon’s remarks, on May 17 the municipal council asked the mayor of Ballina to convene a public meeting at an early date for the purpose of considering the proposal to form a bowling club. The mayor agreed to call such a meeting on Monday, May 31, at 8:00pm. It is not known what transpired at that meeting because on June 6 about 30 persons attended another meeting held in Ballina to consider the same proposal.
A resolution was carried and a strong committee was appointed to make a full investigation and draw up a report for submission to an adjourned meeting set down for June 14.
Mr. T. Martin was appointed the secretary of the steering committee. With much willingness to join such a venture to form a bowling club it was moved and seconded and carried that when the membership reached 55, the club should commence operations.
The next we learn was that the (word undistinguishable) as originaly formed, as the records of the Ballina Municipal Council reveals, wrote to the Ballina Council dated June 21, 1909, applying for the use of an area sufficient to make a bowling green in the north-east corner of Clement Park No. 2, the site of the present greens.
This letter was received and referred to the parks committee for a report. On July 5 the club was granted an area two and a half chais by two chains and the council accepted 50 pounds to level the ground.
The rental of three pounds three shillings a year was fixed. On September 16, Ballina Bowling Club was established and this is recognized as the club…
Bernadette De Re