Forty years of carpet bowls at a Wearside social club

Farringdon bowlers including Vic Avery, second left, and Frankie Adams, second right. The occasion is the Vaux Gold Tankard Competition.
Farringdon bowlers including Vic Avery, second left, and Frankie Adams, second right. The occasion is the Vaux Gold Tankard Competition.

It’s been a sad year for the Wearside carpet bowls community.

This year, more than 40 years of carpet bowls came to an end at Farringdon Social Club.

Martin Campbell and his father Teddy.

Martin Campbell and his father Teddy.

It has happened because of the gradual demise of workmen and social clubs throughout the North East.

A once thriving league of more than 40 clubs had declined to only 10.

It’s a far change from the days when almost all clubs had at least one team which competed in two different leagues for various championships and other competitions.

But let’s go back to the beginning, with the help of Bob Usher and other Farringdon stalwarts who shared the history of carpet bowls at the club with us.

Although on decline in the ever shrinking workmen’s clubs, carpet bowls still thrives in community centres across the North East, bringing together people of all ages for a friendly game, a cup of tea and a chat

Bob Usher

In 1976, bowling began among some of the ‘Farra’ members.

But, as Bob explained, “bowling carpets were few and far between and were transported by members in cars.

“One member regularly borrowed the carpet from David Browns Engineering, brought it to Farringdon on the night of the game and returned it the next day.

“This continued until enough funds were secured to buy their own carpet and sets of bowls.”

Vic Avery, right, collects the trophy as the winner of the Champion of Champions tournament in the 1980s.

Vic Avery, right, collects the trophy as the winner of the Champion of Champions tournament in the 1980s.

By 1980, the game was increasing in popularity and three men – Billy Shergold, Bob Cook and George Layburn – had the foresight to form the first competitive league.

It was called SCL, in tribute to the three men behind it. Bob said: “Members owe a great deal of gratitude to these three men as many years enjoyment have followed.”

In the years to come, Farringdon competed in the league and won various cup competitions such as singles, pairs and fours over the years.

Yet in a twist of fate, it never won the SCL title for almost two decades.

That all changed in 1999 when they had their finest hour, lifting all but one trophy that year.

Martin Campbell was the singles champion, Bob Usher and Shaun Suddick the doubles and Farringdon took the SCL title with a first rink of L Taylor (skip) with T Campbell, J Stobbart and C Wrathmall, a second rink of M Simpson (skip), V Avery, J McKenna and M Campbell, and a third rink of B Usher (skip), R Peacock, S Suddick and J Maxfield with A Avery and B Trotter as reserves.

But changes have happened along the way and the carpet bowls movement has had to adapt with the times, as well as accommodating a shrinking membership and changes in format, said Bob.

“In 2003, Sunderland County was formed and brought together the best bowlers from all the clubs to compete with other Northern counties such as Northumberland, Durham, North Tyneside and South Tyneside.

“Still to this day, the Sunderland County team has members from Farringdon as well as other clubs in the league.

“The final of the carpet bowls season ends with the national championships hosted by the Potters Resort, Norfolk, in November.

“All competing counties compete for the national title, Sunderland just missing out in 2016.”

But Bob does have hope for the future.

He said: “Although on decline in the ever shrinking workmen’s clubs, carpet bowls still thrives in community centres across the North East, bringing together people of all ages for a friendly game, a cup of tea and a chat.

“The great bowlers of past and present are talked about and compared. There are simply too many to mention. A lot of the bowlers from that era still play today.”

And for Farringdon, one bowler in particular deserves a mention, said Bob.

“A well respected skipper with great temperament, great bowling ability whether being aggressive or drawing within an inch of the jack. He was called Frankie Adams.

“For many who played with Frankie at Farringdon, he was certainly one of the finest carpet bowlers of his era.”

Bob said: “The passion to play carpet bowls, for the members of Farringdon, will not stop. They are currently looking for another venue to continue.”

And there are memories galore to cherish.

“To have been part of these memories has been very special indeed.”

What are your memories of Wearside carpet bowls down the years?

Email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk