Over 100 years of history

In April 1913, members of the proposed Morwell Bowling Club waited patiently for the arrival of the train from Melbourne. They had an appointment with the Victorian Railway Commissioners who were on their annual inspection of railway facilities in Gippsland. Some time earlier a meeting had been held at which it was agreed to form a Bowling Club in Morwell but they needed land on which to lay out the greens and railway land along Commercial Road seemed the ideal location. The Alexandra Gardens had been opened in 1904 (2 M Adv Aug 5 1904) on railway land so it seemed reasonable to extend the gardens by adding a bowling green. Their appointment with the Commissioners was the last one to be granted that day. They intended to ask for sufficient land to build 4 rinks. The Morwell Advertiser reported that the Commissioners were apparently in a good mood and stated, ‘.there would be no objection whatever to the request being complied with.’

Very early group of bowlers at the Morwell Bowling Club pavilion.

Mr Aherin, had undertaken the task of approaching prospective members to establish whether or not there would be sufficient interest and there was. As the Manager of the Bank Australasia, his contacts with the community put him in a good position to know who to approach. He also had a strong interest in community affairs so the task fell naturally to him.
Um, said neighbour, as he reached for a new subject, thoughtfully stroking his beard, “I see Mr Aherin has applied for a bit of the Park to play bowls on. Tis a game I never saw. Is it anything like hurley?”

Again Dad lifted his head with scorn gleaming in his eyes. “Get wise, neighbour, get wise. Tis a scientific game. You spin a little white ball up the green and the one that gets nearest it takes the pool.” Evidently Mr Aherin’sefforts to attract members was having an impact in the community. He was mentioned again in April when it read, “If you are such a success as a footballer, why not come up as a coach where we kick every night?”

“I would,” said Dad, “I would, but I saw me Aherin and joined the bowling club.”
It was not the first Club in the area. Traralgon had been formed in 1907 and Boolarra was also operating. Bairnsdale had started in 1901.They would be competing with some well practised players who would challenge their skills.

Having received a positive response from the Commissioners, the men then arranged for a public meeting on May 2nd 1913 where they would formally establish the Club and start work on the greens. By this time there were 41 members interested in joining. At the meeting held in the Morwell Mechanics Hall, Mr Aherin declined to take the secretary’s position in the Club despite his strong interest but went on to be the treasurer, a fitting position for a bank manager. Mr Tatterson was elected president and Mr N Gill secretary. Membership dues brought in £69 (2011 value $7,420.00 some members paid in two instalments, hence the lesser amount showing in the account). The fee had been set at £2.2.0 which would equal $225 today. At a time when the average factory worker earned approximately £3 per week or a manager or clerk around £5, this was a significant cost to join.

The population of Morwell around this time was just approaching 1100. The previous 10 years had been good years for Morwell with much building taking place a new State School, new Catholic Church and Catholic School, new Bank of Australasia, some new shops and a renovated Mechanics Institute. The new Club was to compete against the Golf Club for members, which was established in 1908.

In August a meeting was called to organise the finances of the club now that the greens had been started. An additional £100 was needed so it was agreed that debentures be issued at a value of £5 each to the total of £100 to have sufficient funds available.
At the meeting held to form the Club, a range of matters were discussed. The interim committee secretary, Mr Aherin, had written to the RVBA and secured the services of an expert to help build the greens. Mr Casey of Port Melbourne had been engaged at a cost of two guineas plus travelling expenses to recommend the best way to build the best greens. Mr Casey also offered to undertake the work at a cost of £80 to £90. It would take him 15 days at £6 per day plus expenses. In the end, Mr Casey decided not to do the work but did offer to act as an advisor to the club if they to built the rinks. This was agreed to but unfortunately, Mr Casey was not very clear in his instructions and after Mr Casey had left the club, leaving behind a set of instructions, a difference of opinion emerged on how best to proceed.

Mr Tulloch differed from the three other members of the committee on how the work should be done. Mr Tulloch had inspected other greens and believed he was correct. So it was agreed that a letter be sent to Mr Casey which, when answered, showed Mr Tulloch to be correct.

In the meantime the Secretary was asked to write to the Railway Department to secure the land on which the greens were to be constructed. The chairman stated that a letter to the Public Works Department was also required as part of the rink would be on land currently reserved for road purposes. Permission was obtained from the Railway Commissioners at a rental of 5/- per year ($26.89 today) and the greens could now be built. However, due to labour shortages and poor weather, the works were delayed by three months. The paper also reported difficulty in obtaining an adequate supply of cinders which were used to improve the drainage of the greens. With the assistance of Mr Livingston, State Member of Parliament, they were able to obtain two trucks per week from the Victorian Railway Commissioners for six weeks which enabled the greens preparations to proceed.

The paper reported on October 31st 1913 –
‘The laying down of the local Bowling Greens is now almost completed. Mr Casey, an expert from Melbourne, arrived during the week to put on the finishing touches and we understand he has almost completed his task. Mr Casey was highly pleased with the work carried out under the supervision of Mr Tulloch, and his opinion is that the green will be second to none in Gippsland.’
By November 7th the Morwell Advertiser was reporting that ‘The finishing of the local bowling green has also been interfered with, the ‘green’ being at present under water. We understand however, that a good flooding will do the green more good than harm, although it will delay the work some time.’

A shelter was also built with one side open to the greens. This can be seen in the photos.
The Club held its first games in 1914. Perhaps fortunately, the previous December had seen the turning on of the Morwell water supply which would have helped with managing the greens.

They were soon to compete against other clubs and visits to and from Traralgon, Warragul, Trafalgar, Sale and Bairnsdale took place. So important was the opening of the season, it was not considered out of the ordinary to ask a politician to attend.
It was keenly followed as a leisure activity by men who sought a means of recreation either in retirement or after work. Now it was in Morwell. The game was played according to a strict set of rules, not only the game itself but the way in which players had to present themselves for the game. Correct clothing was obligatory and the rules were keenly enforced. The Club would now settle into a routine of games, committe meetings, annual meetings, election of office bearers, purchase of equipment, working bees and so on to maintain the good order of the club. There were 41 members to call on.

In 1919 the influenza epidemic broke out and the Shire took over the State School across the road from the greens, to treat victims. At a time when the flu was difficult to treat, members may have been cautious about attending the greens.
There are few records remaining of these early years so we depend on the Morwell Advertiser newspaper reports for developments in the club.