Dirleton Bowling and Social Club


History of Dirleton Bowling Club, Founded in 1882.



Bowls, next to Archery, is probably the oldest British Sport. It was one of the pastimes banned by Edward III (who reigned from  1327 to 1377) because it was feared that it  would encourage people away from Archery.

Dirleton Bowling Green is situated within the grounds of Dirleton Castle Gardens which are under the guardianship of Historic Scotland. The Bowling Green was laid out sometime in the 17th Century and remains to this day on its original site, having previously been a knot garden. James VI is said to have played bowls here although this cannot be confirmed. This must make the bowling green one of the oldest, if not the oldest green still in use in Scotland.

Although bowls must have been played for some years previously the first actual record of an organised Club in Dirleton is as follows.

"On the 17th August, 1882, after a pleasant game of bowls,T.D. Thomson, George Begbie, William Palmer, John Watt, Peter Cathie, John Lees, James Morrison, James Bisset met in the Castle Inn, when it was unanimously resolved to form a Bowling Club to be known as "Dirleton Bowling Club".

On the 19th August, 1882 a further meeting was held, again in the Castle Inn, when a committee was formed consisting of : President: Thomas D. Thomson, East Craigs (Now The Open Arms), Vice President: William Palmer, Schoolmaster, Secretary and Treasurer John Lees, in addition, George Begbie, John Watt, William McDonald and James Morrison were appointed to the Committee. At this meeting it was agreed that the club rules be on the same lines as North Berwick Bowling Club, with certain alterations. It was also agreed that the subscriptions for the first year be two shillings (lOp). As Dirleton Castle and Grounds, at this time, belonged to the local laird, Miss Mary Constance Nisbet Hamilton of Archerfield, her permission was sought and graciously given for the Club to use the Bowling Green and Miss Nisbet Hamilton graciously agreed to be the Club's first Patroness.

A committee meeting was held on 17th May, 1883 when it was agreed that the opening of the green for the season would take place on Saturday, 19th May, 1883 at 6.30 p.m. In the same year the Club joined the East Lothian Bowling Association and entered for the County Match. Miss Nisbet Hamilton presented a Silver Medal which was competed for annually, until 1947 when Mr. & Mrs. Taylor, Castle Inn presented a cup to be awarded annually to the Club Champion. The Nisbet Hamilton Medal is now awarded to the Runner-up of this competition.

The local laird now having married, her husband, Mr. Hamilton Ogilvy was appointed Patron in 1891.

At the end of 1883 the club embraced in its membership,almost all its young, and quite a number , of the old men of the village and neighbourhood, numbering in all forty five members. (It is interesting to note that at the end of the 1993 season, the total membership was also 45).

It is recorded that the Club, in 1896 had problems with non-payment of subscriptions. The treasurer was due 16/9d (84p) by members and it was laid down that no member would be allowed to play in matches or for prizes until his subscription was paid. The result - a balance of 8/Od (40p.) in 1897.

Two local worthies of the time now appear in the lists of office-bearers- in 1896 James Grant, Schoolmaster and Registrar as Secretary and in 1897 the Rev. John Kerr as Vice President.

In 1904 the first President of the Club Mr. T.D. Thomson died. Much of the origin and early success of the Club was due to his efforts.

A new President and Secretary having been appointed in 1905,they failed to turn up at the first match, were replaced on the spot.

In 1924 concern was being expressed as to what would happen when the Castle and Gardens were handed over to the Government by the laird, Col. Grant of Biel, however under the deed of guardianship Dirleton Bowling Club are entitled to the "privilege" of playing bowls there providing the Club undertake the cutting, rolling and maintenance of the bowling green. This resulted in a decision to re-lay the Green and local farmers were asked to assist in the carting of the turf.It was unanimously agreed, in 1926, that all those who had assisted in carting the materials for the new green be made honorary members of the club. These were Mr. Simpson, Castlemains, Mr. R. Mills, Ferrygate, Mr. A.B. Stevens, Queenstonbank, Col. Stoddart, Kingston, Mr. G. Moffat, Williamston, Mr. Neilson, Mr. Main and Mr. Dobson, all of Dirleton.

The new green was opened on 22nd May 1926 by Col. Grant's daughter, Margaret, who threw the first jack and bowls and was presented with a silver jack.

The first mention of ladies becoming members of the Club was in 1925 when five ladies joined. Their subscription was 2/6d (12p) compared with men's subscriptions of 5/Od (25p)

Times have changed since 1928, when a proposed new motor mower was referred to as "one of these machines". It was however, decided to delay the purchase until sufficient funds had been gathered.

The Rev. H.O. Wallace Minister of Dirleton for nearly 40 years and Club President for 36 years was heartily congratulated on being elected President of the Scottish Bowling Association in 1946.

Despite various setbacks the Club crowned theirCentenary year                        in 1982, by completing their new Club House adjacent to the                      Gree                    Green                                                                                Green.                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

This was largely due to the efforts of the President, John Moggie and a devoted group of members and tradesmen.   The Sports Council assisted with a very generous grant.


A brief summary of the trophies competed for annually is as follows:-


Club Champion.


Originally the winner of this competition was

awarded the Estate Medal which was presented to the Club

by Miss Nisbet Hamilton in 1883.   In 1947, Mr. & Mrs. Taylor

of The Castle Inn gifted a cup to be played for annually and

it was decided to award the trophy to the Singles Champion

in place of the Estate Medal which was then awarded to the

Runner-up in this competition.


Lorne Trophy.


In March 1938, James W. Duncan of Lorneville, Drem donated a cup to be competed for annually. Originally it was played for in rink competition on a knock-out basis but at the Annual General Meeting held in March, 1954 it was decided to alter this to a singles competition.


Chapman Pairs. 


In 1974 a cup, to be known as the Chapman Trophy was purchased from a donation received  from Mr. A. Chapman.  The trophy to be awarded to the winners of a Pairs competition.   The first names inscribed on the trophy were J. Forsyth and W. Main.


Club Pairs.


Sir James Wishart Thomson, Quarry Court, North Berwick, who had been a patron of the Club from 1926-1928 presented a cup in 1927. This was originally awarded to the winner of a singles competition, but by 1969 this trophy held a full complement of names. In that year J.P. Gibson of the Open Arms Hotel, on behalf of its Directors gifted a cup to replace the original trophy. It was, at this time, that the competition was changed to a Pairs Competition.


Hospice Trophy.

To celebrate the Club's Centenary, St. Columbas Hospice donated a shield in 1983 to be awarded to the winner of an annual singles competition.


President's Prize.


This prize is donated by the President of the Club to the winner of a singles competition. The runner-up receives a prize from the Vice-President.


Inter-Club Trophies.


Gullane Green opened for the first time on 13th June 1903 and Dirleton had the honour of being asked to play the opening match. Mr. & Mrs. Hamilton Ogilvy, Archerfield donated a cup to be known as the Hamilton Ogilvy Cup to be played for annually on a home and away basis between Dirleton and Gullane. This was played for on 23rd July, 1907 for the first time and was won by Gullane. By 1963 this trophy had its full comlement of names and was replaced by a trophy kindly donated by Armorer, Countess of Breadalbane, Invereil,

Dirleton and to be known as "The Breadalbane Memorial Cup in memory of her late husband the Earl of Breadalbane who had been a Patron of Dirleton Bowling Club for 12 years.


Halkett Cup.


This cup was presented by Mr. Halkett of Aberlady and although a match between Dirleton and Aberlady took place on 30th August 1886, Mr. Halkett's cup was not mentioned by name until 3rd July, 1896 when the away game was played at Aberlady, the return match being played on 21st July, when Dirleton won the cup by an overall score of 51 against Aberlady's 29. In 1899 due to an unfortunate dispute the "Halkett Cup" was not competed for, but by 1900 the unexplained dispute had been resolved and the competition was resumed when Aberlady won the cup.


Thomson Trophy.


In 1899 Mr. T.D. Thomson of East Craigs, President of Dirleton Bowling Club presented a silver loving cup to be competed for annually between Dirleton and North Berwick,on a home and away principle. The cup was presented by Mr. Thomson on the occasion of his family holding the estate of Craigville for a hundred years.

The first year of the competition resulted in Dirleton winning by four shots overall. Captain J.W. Hardie, President of North Berwick Club remarked "As the cup had been presented by a gentleman from Dirleton, the North Berwick Club considered it to be in good taste to allow it to mature somewhat before they (North Berwick) carried it away". North Berwick did not allow the cup to mature very long - they won it the next year and again the following year, however, Dirleton won it back in 1902.


In all the l33 years that Dirleton Bowling Club has been in existence there have been 19 Presidents, these are :-


1882-1904.     T.D. Thomson

1905-1907.     J. Law.

1908.              C. Smith.

1909-1921      J. Law.

1922-1923.     Rev. N.C. Keith.

1924.              W.S. Curr.

1925-1926.     J. Young.

1927.              C. Gray

1928-1929.     W. Henry

1930-1966.     Rev. H.O. Wallace.

1967-1970.     W. Purves.

1971-1972.     A. Imrie.

1973-1992.     J. Moggie.

1993-1997      D. Hunter.

1998               G. Hunter.

1998-2008     W. Richie.

2009- 2011     K. Cowan.

2011- 2015     G. Cochrane.

2015-              P. Dyson.


 It is hoped that Dirleton Bowling Club will continue to flourish as long as the CASTLE and Gardens exist.



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Open Pairs. Saturday 21st July, 2018.

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