By Quintin van Jaarsveld
Current and former members will converge on Hibberdene Bowling Club to celebrate a victory of perseverance and fellowship at the club’s 50-year anniversary cocktail party on Friday.
It’s somewhat of an underdog story; a small, humble one-green club that’s somehow managed to survive increasingly difficult and demanding economic times to continue its legacy.
That legacy, as club president Eddie Milne pointed out, is not results achieved but rather its homely, friendly atmosphere, renowned cordiality and the camaraderie among its members.
“We must be one of the friendliest clubs on the South Coast,” Milne, who assumed the role of club president last August, told eHowzit.
“We only have one green, where other local clubs have two or three, but our patio area is very nice for watching bowls and socialising outside and that’s what makes it such a happy club.”
Milne used a recent example to illustrate why the club is held in such high regard.
“About a year ago, we were contacted by a group of 18 British bowlers who said they were touring South Africa and asked if they could come and have a game of bowls at our club.
“We, of course, were happy to host them and made a special effort for them. It worked out that we had almost like a Guard of Honour for them when they arrived.
“We didn’t know them from a bar of soap; we had never met them before, all the arrangements were made by telephone and email and so on.
“So here was this Guard of Honour for them to walk through; we should hands and while we were playing, the guy that had organised everything told me he’d never in his life had a welcome like he did at our club.”
The club was originally established at the Alex Park on the seashore before it moved to its current location in Eton Road.
It was Milne who, by chance, discovered that this year marks the 50-year anniversary of the club.
“I was going through a few old photographs and looked at one small one of a chap bowling a bowl.
“At the back, it said ‘inaugural opening’ with the date, that’s when it dawned on me and when it was decided we had to do something special to celebrate.
“We’re trying to get hold of former members who’ve moved from the South Coast to hopefully have them join us on Friday and everyone’s excited about the celebration.”
Among those looking forward to Friday night’s event is 90-year-old Mike Hoyer, a founding member of the club who still plays regularly.
He assured eHowzit that he’ll attend Friday evening’s celebration.
As one of the smaller bowling clubs on the South Coast, the tough economic times have been particularly hard on Hibberdene.
Its main source of revenue is the annual Hibiscus Week, which sees the club host (along with other South Coast clubs) players from across the country in the national competition in June.
Aside from this marquee event, funding has been hard to come by, and this is where the close-knit club members have shown their love for and loyalty to the club.
“It [the club’s subsistence] comes down to the hard work of the committees and the loyalty of the club members over the years,” said Milne.
“We all club in and we all work together well as a team. The club has also received support from numerous local businesses over the years, which has been very important and greatly appreciated as well.
“We went through a bad patch a few years ago. At one stage, we had 80 to 90 members, which is a fair number for a club like ours, and it went all the way down to 40-45.
“That’s when a new committee was formed and things turned around and we’re now up to about 60 members again.”