ACCORDING to historic manuscripts the game of bowls once grew so popular that it faced a ban from sovereign and parliament.
Statutes forbidding bowls and other sports were enacted in the reigns of Edward III, Richard II and other monarchs who feared it may jeopardise the practice of archery, then so important in battle. And even when, on the invention of gunpowder and firearms, the bow had fallen in to disuse as a weapon of war, the prohibition was continued.
The word ‘bowls’ allegedly occurred for the first time in the statute of 1511 in which Henry III confirmed previous enactments against unlawful games. By a further act of 1541 - which was not repealed until 1845 - artificers, labourers, apprentices, servants and the like were forbidden to play bowls at any time except Christmas.
However, National Bowling Associations were established in the late 1800s and the sport has blossomed since with more than 40 countries partaking in the archaic and evolutionary art.
It’s a game of precision, balance, intelligence and measurement with competitors immersed in epic contests of wit and concentration. One man with that unequivocal talent was former Burnley bowler Ingham Gregory.
At the age of 64 he achieved the ambition of every crown green bowler by winning the premier tournament, the Greenall’s Waterloo Handicap, and a prize of £2,500 at Blackpool’s Wembley of Bowls, before a crowd of 3,000 people.
Ingham, who was a panel bowler since the age of 21, had moved to Bolton from his Rossendale Road residence where he represented the Griffin Hotel and Lowerhouse Mills.
The win qualified him to play in the prestigious Champion of Champions tournament on the same green as well as the Bass Masters competition. In the September 16th, 1988, edition of the Burnley Express, he said: “Naturally I’m delighted to have won the Waterloo, all the more because I’ve been having a very poor season. Six or seven weeks ago I decided not to enter any more handicaps, now this changes everything.”
In the final Gregory beat the joint favourite Gly Cookson from Winsford, 21-13, playing long marks to the corners with such confidence that he swept into an 18-5 lead.
In the semi-final he staged a remarkable recovery against Wigan’s Alan Broadhurst to come from 14-6 down to run out a narrow 21-20 winner, and in the quarter-finals the Burnley-born bowler beat Bass Masters champion Chris MacDonald 21-17.
Ingham added: “I’ve played in the Waterloo seven or eight times and apart from the first time in 1951 when I made the last eight, this is only the second time I’ve qualified for Finals Day.”