Warwick Boat Club News

Mary Wheildon presented with her county badge

WBC’s Mary Wheildon was presented with her county badge at the Warwickshire Women’s Bowls Association’s friendly match against Nottinghamshire played at Solihull Municipal.

WWBA president Chris Cooke presented Mary with the badge and Warwick Bear. Warwick Boat Club has never had a ladies county president before but Mary will take up the role from Chris Cooke later this year. She has been a WBC member since the early 1970s.

Mary said: “I was invited to join the WBC by David Barnes who was Club Captain at the time 1973/74. I had played tennis from an infant as my parents were avid local competitors.

I was soon included in many regular fours, generally in the evening or on a Thursday afternoon when my shop, Rouse’s Garden Shop & Florist (now Flower Thyme), had half day closing – those were the days!

Squash was a learning curve but again with the league and matches they were always most competitive and great fun.

The social life at WBC was always excellent with many dinners, theme parties, the famous Punt-e BBQ at which we all competed in fancy dress punting up the river – sometimes via several banks. The Christmas Dinner was a must with 90 or so arriving, each with their instructed culinary masterpieces. A carver was busy at the end of each long table and great fun was had by all. Many of the members’ children came along to wait on table earning themselves some pocket money and enjoying the ambiance.

A massive skiing accident caused a sudden stop to my squash but the tennis continued (after two years) including the summer tournaments, helping run or even take part in the famous WBC Tournament, which was traditionally played on the middle Sunday of Wimbledon (I understand that this allowed those competitors who were knocked out at Wimbledon during the first week to come to Warwick).

The replacement of the old shale and grass courts by the all-weather courts plus floodlights on courts 9 and 10 allowed a Winter Mixed Tennis floodlit League. That was terrific fun and most competitive. Having been a winner in the summer tournament, I was keen to succeed in the winter one, this I did with Neil McDonald – all good fun.

An evening was put by for the growing rowing section, the tennis and the squash members to compete against each other at bowls. I had helped out the bowling section, occasionally playing against the Leamington Blind team – we usually lost. They were and are amazing. But one year I decided to compete for the Brophy Trophy – the MOST NAFF trophy in the world and won it. I was subsequently invited to come to coaching the following Monday morning – and thereby hangs the tale of the start of my bowling at the WBC.

Within a couple of years I was invited to be Ladies Vice Captain and then the following year had the honour of being Captain during the WBC’s Sesquicentenary year. I had been on several of the committees over the years - grounds, social and tennis, so felt confident that, even though I knew little of the running of the bowls section, I did understand the running of the club, so accepted.

We had lots of special matches but one stood out above all the others for me as I invited my cousin Liz Chedgzoy to bring a team of Warwickshire officers, friends and family to play a WBC team. What a day we had, like many, the rain to a big part but nothing dampened our fun.

Unknown to me until she arrived she brought the Bowls England President plus so many notables. The clubhouse looked spectacular; our new china, which had been shown off at the Ladies v Gents match a few weeks earlier was again prominent – since then we have added cutlery too. We ladies are good at giving a great party!

Still on a steep learning curve, my bowling continued to improve, aiding me to begin to win some of the club tournaments, being invited to play for club matches and even the Herald League, followed by an invitation to join the South Warwickshire Ladies association. This is a stop gap, I learned, between club and county levels. These matches I have thoroughly enjoyed.

Liz was so kind during my captaincy and was keen for me to play in the Leamington September competitions, which we entered together in the pairs. This was my first knowledge of true competitive bowling, I knew nothing of County except for the officers match that is a scheduled annual event towards the end of the season at WBC.

As captain, I was expected to play against the County Ladies. This was a big learning curve and I really felt that I had joined the Big Girls!

I then took myself off to play in the County Singles, being beaten by 10 cms the first year by a county player on the last wood, which would have given me my county point. It took me several years after that to finally succeed winning that required county point in the 2017 four woods singles and then four more points shortly afterwards winning the un-badged singles - they came like London buses! With enough club points WBC put my name forward to be a WWBA colt – but even before the paperwork was sorted I was invited to be the 2018 JVP (Junior Vice President).

I look forward enormously to the end of November when I take over from Chris Cooke, who is doing a sterling job. I just hope I will be as good as all the past and present presidents I have had the pleasure of working with.

Having been a WBC member for so many years I felt this was something that would help the profile of both the club and, more importantly, the bowls section. So being extremely green behind the ears I have been on a very steep learning curve.

I have to say that the officers work so hard keeping up with all the matches, the competitions, the finances, website, Bowls England, the progress of the county, as well as the care of the members both young and ‘not so young’.

I look forward enormously to the end of November when I take over from Chris Cooke, who is doing a sterling job. I just hope I will be as good as all the past and present presidents I have had the pleasure of working with.

Because we do not have six rinks yet, it is very sad that I will not be able to have the 2020 County Finals at the WBC, but I have been invited to hold them at Liz’s club, Stratford on Avon, so I do feel that this is ‘full circle’. I hope that many of the now keen and upcoming WBC players will succeed to the finals to be there actually playing - those who do not reach that level, I hope you will all be willing to help run the event along with many of the WBC gentlemen bowlers.

I am keen to have several presidency matches during 2020 at WBC – I look forward to sitting down with you all to discuss in which format these can be once the bulk of the 2019 matches are played. Meanwhile, it will be wonderful if many of you will come along to support our county matches - especially next year - when you have a spare day, afternoon or evening.”

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