St Margaret's Co-operative Bowling Club
CO-OP SPORTS GROUND, BIRSTALL ROAD, BIRSTALL, LEICESTER, LE4 4DE
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St Margarets Co-operative Bowling Club - A History
Chapter 1 Johnny and Corah Bowling Club
This account was related to me by Johnny Wesson in August 2014. He talked me through his personal collection of photographs of which a selection is given here. Together they give a remarkable insight into the formation of the St Margart's club and the enormous commitment involved. It is a story that stands proud in the history of bowls and deserves to be told for a very long time to come.
Sam Dobson September 2015
Johnny had been a keen and by all accounts gifted footballer but by 1972 he had hung up his boots and joined the Corah Bowling Club. The earliest picture he has (1972-05) was probably taken by the Leicester Mercury, who visited the Thurcaston Road ground, just after he joined. The name, "St Margaret Bowling Club" is shown on the pavilion. This name comes from the area of Leicester, near St Margaret's bus station, where the Corah factory was located. It was used from 1921 when the club was founded but by 1972 the company changed the name to Corah Bowling Club.
1972-05 click to enlarge
These two pictures (1973c 1974c) come from the mid 1970s. In both cases Johnny is on the front row 9th and 5th from the left respectivly. In 1978 he was elected club President, commemorated in this photograph. (1978) Johnny's skills as a bowler soon became evident being club champion three times in 1977, 1980 and in 1986. With his partner George Caird he won the County Pairs Championship in 1980. (1980)
1973c click to enlarge 1974c click to enlarge 1978 click to enlarge 1980 click to enlarge
(1982-11) Trophy winners at the club presentation evening in 1982. Johnny is 5th from left on the back row. (1985c) Taken in the mid 1980s. Johnny is standing 12th from the left.
In the late 1980s, due to loss of land in road development the Corah company announced that it would be closing its sports ground. The club would close with 1989 the last bowling season. These snaps show club title holders (1989-08) from 1955 to 1969 and (1989-09) from 1970 to 1986.
1982-11 click to enlarge 1985c click to enlarge 1989-08 click to enlarge 1989-09 click to enlarge
All were agreed that if at all possible the club should continue even without the support of the parent company. There was a passionate belief that the club should not fail. The friendships and sportsmanship built up over the years was far too valuable to be lost. The club must be saved. The only question was, just exactly how would this be done?
An approach was made to Lars Helgarsen , a director of Corah's. If a new club was to be formed a new site had to be found. Helgarsen was sympathetic but could offer little financially. He was happy for the new club to take the old pavilion. He was even happy for it to take the turf off the bowling green. So, a promising start but monumental difficulties remained.