The greatest bowler who ever lived turned up at the Clevedon club last weekend to watch 24 boys and girls – all under 18 – parading their skills on the green where he started playing bowls exactly 70 years ago.
David Bryant, who is remembered by members of the public who know nothing about Drake’s ancient game as ‘the man with the pipe’, was born and bred in Clevedon, and won his 26 national outdoor titles out of the club at the top of Chapel Hill.
The sprightly 85-year-old was thrilled at the enthusiasm and skill on display by players of both countries, but was particularly delighted that England pulled off what looked like a comfortable 17-7 win over Wales in the annual under-18 test match.
Said Bryant: “The Clevedon green bowled as well as ever – and the young players of both sides showed outstanding skill, confirming once again that the future of our wonder- ful game is in good hands.”
The West Country was represented by Somerset duo Imogen Cracknell (West St Andrews) and Yeovil’s Emily Corner, who both made their contributions to England’s victory, and admitted afterwards that they had thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Although Cracknell is only 15, she has established herself as a regular lead in Somerset’s Johns Trophy side, while Corner has partnered the county’s performance director, Edna Bessell, through to the national championships at Royal Leamington Spa.
“It was a fabulous experience,” said Cracknell. “It was great to bond with top players from all over the country, and we developed a camaraderie with the Welsh players. I think we learnt a lot.”
Although England won eight and drew one of their individual 12 matches, the margins in most of the games were extremely small, and the result was in doubt until the very end of the final session.
In the first session on Saturday, England cruised to victory in the girls’ pairs and tied with Wales in the boy’s pairs. In the triples, the boys scored five shots on the last end to win by one, but, in a low scoring encounter, the girls lost by one shot, 12-11.
After lunch, in a series of mixed games, England won three out of four matches by three, three and four shots, and lost the fourth by two shots, 20-18.
In the final session, Ledbury’s Tom Holmes lost 21-20 to Ethan Humphreys, from Troedyrhiw, but England made sure of victory when Cambridgeshire’s Rebecca Moorbey beat the highly promising 14-year- old Lauren Gowen, 21-19 – and the two English fours added good wins.