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Belfast Bowls club celebrating 175th anniversary milestone

Impeccably recorded in copperplate writing is the match scorecard for the Kenilworth v Belfast game in Dublin in 1916.
By Ray McClean

Belfast Bowls Club are in celebratory mood as the outdoor season gets under way.

The oldest flat greens bowling club in Ireland will begin their 175th anniversary celebrations on Saturday, April 8 with a Stormont reception hosted by Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw.

Also in attendance will be the Kenilworth club from Dublin, founded in 1892.

Afterwards the two sides will take to the green for their annual encounter which has been staged for more than 100 years even during the troubles.

Belfast honorary secretary Robert McLaughlin and club historian Joe Fitzpatrick have produced a booklet and copies will be presented to everyone at the reception.

Belfast club president Hugo Johnston said: "To have reached this milestone is a great tribute to those whose hard work and dedication over the years ensured that we are still in business.

"We're hopeful of recruiting new members and anyone interested in playing the game will be very welcome to join the club."

Belfast's first green was laid in 1842 at Nelson Street in the north of the city bur when the site was required for building purposes they moved to a site which was later to become York Street Flax Spinning Company.

In the 1850's they were again on the move to the rear of Belfast Charitable Society's Clifton House in Clifton Street.

However, property developers claimed the land necessitating another move to Cromac Park House bordering Agincourt Avenue and Botanic Avenue.

The club were again forced to seek pastures new and in 1904 a move to College Square East with a lease in perpetuity from Queen's University seemed the perfect solution.

Unfortunately, commercial considerations and vandalism forced them to move to the Harlequins complex at Deramore Park.

Hopefully, their nomadic existence has now come to an end.

The Belfast club have been instrumental in many of the innovations in the game including the establishment of the Irish Bowling Association.

Also involved in this progressive development was English cricket legend Dr W G Grace, also a talented international bowler.

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