One of the original six sports as the Commonwealth Games (then the British Empire Games) began in 1930, Lawn Bowls has been contested at every Games since with the exception of 1966 in Kingston, Jamaica due to a lack of suitable greens. Scotland’s bowlers have been a regular feature on the podium, winning 37 medals including 18 gold. From record medal tallies to historic firsts, here are just some of the highlights from 90 years of Team Scotland success.
London 1934 – First Gold Medal
While bronze for the Men’s Fours team of William Lowe, Charles Tait, James Morrison and James Brown replicated the result of their predecessors from 1930, Robert Sprot became Scotland’s first Commonwealth Games bowls gold medallist, going undefeated across nine rounds in the Men’s Singles. Sprot was a three-time Scottish Singles champion and his father, George, won the first ever National title in 1894. The Men’s Pairs saw Alex and George Niven take fifth place with four wins and four losses.
The Games were originally awarded to Johannesburg, South Africa, but the venue was changed to London amid concerns about the treatment of black and Asian athletes by South African officials and fans. The Lawn Bowls events were held at Paddington Sports Club in Maida Vale and Temple Bowling Club, the latter nestled within a square of houses formed by Denmark Hill, Herne Hill Road, Ferndene Road and Sunset Road.
Brisbane 1982 – A Golden Double
Scotland’s bowlers put in an incredible performance to take two of the four titles on offer in Brisbane. Willie Wood improved on his Singles bronze from 1974 and Pairs silver from 1978 to triumph in the Men’s Singles while John Watson and David Gourlay took victory in the Men’s Pairs. Australia won the Men’s Fours and Zimbabwe the Women’s Triples, the first women’s lawn bowls event ever contested at a Commonwealth Games.
All events were decided by a Round Robin tournament. Willie Wood won 11 of his 12 matches to come out a deserving winner ahead of silver medallist Rob Parrella of Australia and bronze medallist Peter Belliss of New Zealand who both finished on 10 wins. It was a similarly close affair in the Men’s Pairs with Watson and Gourlay taking the title on shots with an identical record of 11 wins, one draw and two losses as eventual silver medallists Lyn Perkins and Spencer Wilshire of Wales. Alex McIntosh, John Harper, Brian Rattray and Jock Fleming took fifth place in the Men’s Fours while Jessie Adamson, Janet Menzies and Jessie Lawson made history as Scotland’s first female Lawn Bowls competitors at a Commonwealth Games, finishing 11th.
Victoria 1994 – A Games of Firsts
One of only two occasions on which Scotland’s bowlers have taken three gold medals at a single Games (the other being Glasgow 2014), Victoria stands out in its own right, but the Games was also notable for several ‘firsts’. Sarah Gourlay and Francis Whyte took Scotland’s first ever women’s title with gold in the Pairs, beating South Africa convincingly in the final after an incredibly close battle with England to top their group, while Robert Brand won the first ever Para-Sport title with victory in the VI Singles ahead of Robert Hubbard of Australia.
Richard Corsie took Men’s Singles gold after bronze at both Edinburgh 1986 and Auckland 1990, beating England’s reigning World Champion Tony Allcock in the final. Both Corsie and Allcock had topped their sections with nine wins and one loss before Corsie had the edge in the final 25-20 to take gold. Bronze for the Women’s Fours team of Dorothy Barr, Betty Forsyth, Elizabeth Dickson and Janice Maxwell made it a record tally of four medals.
Alex Marshall, competing at the first of his six Games to date, and Graham Robertson, competing in his final of three Games, took fourth place in their section in the Men’s Pairs, the same finishing position as Joyce Lindores in the Women’s Singles, while Gary Hood, Ian Laird, Willie Wood and Willie Hay just missed the Fours medals as they finished third in their group.
Glasgow 2014 – Golden Greens in Glasgow
At the iconic Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls Centre, spectators were to bear witness to some of the most consistent and impressive bowling by Scotland in many a Games.
Alex Marshall and Paul Foster dominated Malaysia 20-3 with three ends to spare, to win Scotland’s record breaking 12th gold of the Glasgow Games with victory in the Men’s Pairs. The five-strong men’s bowling team went on to further success with Marshall and Foster adding a second gold in the Fours with teammates David Peacock and Neil Speirs beating England 16-8, whilst Darren Burnett controlled the Singles final beating Canada’s Ryan Bester, 21-9 to ensure they all went home with gold, as the action drew to a close at Kelvingrove.
The women’s team had contrasting fortunes. The Fours came close, but lost, 15-21 against New Zealand in the bronze medal match to finish a heart-breaking fourth. Scotland went out in the quarter-finals in both Singles and Triples, whilst the Pairs were unable to progress beyond the group stages.
Glasgow 2014 saw Scotland’s Para- Sport Lawn Bowlers compete in the Games for the first time since 2002. The Para-Sport bowlers were also on form and got the Lawn Bowls medal tally off the ground. Mixed Pairs B2/B3 competitors Robert Conway and Irene Edgar, together with their directors Ron McArthur and David Thomas, had to settle for silver after losing 14-10 to South Africa in the final while Scotland’s Para Open Triples B6/B7/B8 team of Billy Allan, Michael Simpson and Kevin Wallace narrowly missed out on the bronze medal to England.
The total of four medals (three gold and a silver), was double the Lawn Bowls pre-Games medal target and resulted in their most successful Games ever.
Gold Coast 2018 – Record Breakers
The competition got underway on day one of the Games at the Broadbeach Bowls Club, a world-class venue which is regular host to the Australian National Championships and a range of top level
international events. And it proved to be an incredible nine days for Scotland’s bowlers on the hard baked greens, with 10 of them returning home with medals as they steadily accumulated two gold, two silver and a bronze, to become the most successful nation of all-time in Commonwealth Games Lawn Bowls.
There was a first ever medal for the Women’s Triples team, with Kay Moran, Stacey McDougall and Caroline Brown winning silver, and there was a bronze for Lesley Doig and Claire Johnston in the Women’s Pairs. Ronnie Duncan and Derek Oliver both made perfect Games debuts, being crowned double gold medallists. They won gold in the Men’s Triples, with 2014 Men’s Singles gold medallist Darren Burnett then in the Men’s Fours with Alex Marshall and Paul Foster.
Alex Marshall soon overcame the disappointment of losing out to Wales in the Pairs gold medal match, winning gold in the Fours to take his career tally to five gold and one silver and become Scotland’s most successful Commonwealth Games athlete of all time, with teammate Paul Foster only just behind him with four gold and a silver, moving up to third.
Team Scotland also had entries in both para-sport Lawn Bowls events. Irene Edgar and her Director, David Thomas made a return to Team Scotland having won silver in Glasgow in the B2/B3 Mixed Pairs and teamed up this time around with Robert Barr, directed by Sarah Jane Ewing. They came agonisingly close to the medals, missing out 13-12 to Wales in the bronze medal match. In the B6/B7/B8 Open Triples, Michael Simpson was the sole returning member of the team that took fourth place in Glasgow and was joined by Mike Nicoll and Garry Brown. The trio finished fifth in the group stages, with the top four advancing to the semi-finals.