A long and chequered history
In March 1904, Mr Paul Baptise Maries arrived in Rockhampton as manager of shipping agents Howard Smith and Co. Mr Maries was so disappointed that there were no bowling clubs in Rockhampton he set himself a task to do something about it.
However, he was to find it was not going to be an easy task. A couple of years went by and in 1906 Mr Maries became more determined that he must form a bowls club. Due to lack of interest and co-operation from others, he was not having any success.
Fortunately for the Rockhampton Bowls Club, Mr Maries was not going to give up without a fight. He eventually gathered enough businessmen to meet at the Leichhardt Hotel to discuss forming a bowls club. On Friday, 29 July 1910, he was promised support in his endeavour to form the Rockhampton Bowls Club.
Mr Maries wasted no time in approaching the council for a piece of land on the riverbank. His application was not successful but the following year council elections were held and a Mr Harry Mederaf became Mayor. Mr Maries approached the Mayor and this time a lease for twenty one years was granted to build a bowling green.
The Mayor (Mr Harry Mederaf) fully supported the project and become a foundation member and Vice-President.
After much hard work the Rockhampton Bowls Club became a reality and was officially opened on 14 September 1912. It was a very proud day for Mr Maries whose persistence over eight years to form a bowls club was now achieved.
In 1927 it was realised that the clubhouse was not adequate so it was decided to move the clubhouse further back from the green and place it on high blocks. This was completed and it was officially opened on 21 April 1928.
At the club’s AGM in 1932 a motion was passed to allow women to join as Ladies Associates. The following year the ladies formed a Ladies Associate Club. This became a great boost to the finances of the club. In 1933, RBC had only 51 members whereas the ladies had 59 members.
In 1945 the clubhouse was considered to be in bad shape and needing a lot of repairs. Nine years later the clubhouse needed urgent repairs that were to be costly. The committee of the day considered the cost of a new clubhouse against the cost of repairs. It was decided to keep repair costs low and save the money for a new clubhouse but the following year a new committee spent a considerable amount of money in repairs for very little permanent improvements to the building.
By 1966 it was realised there was no option but to build a new clubhouse and a special building fund was set in place. For the next four years, the building fund grew and in 1970 plans for a new clubhouse was completed. However, in 1971 the president persuaded members not to proceed with building the new clubhouse.
The president realised that more greens would be needed in the future by the club and it may be better to relocate. The president approached the council to utilise part of Central Park so the club could build two greens and a clubhouse. Two years went by and after the council rejected the proposal the club decided to proceed with replacing the clubhouse and abandon all ideas of moving to Central Park.
In 1976 the old clubhouse was moved to near the lane and work commenced on building a new clubhouse which was officially opened on 14 November 1976.
1979 was to see the Rockhampton Bowls Club replace the green that had served the club for 67 years. At this point the club was experiencing hard financial times. Something had to be done, so club members Jim Adsett and Neil Barry came forward to run a bingo night. The Ladies Committee, led by Mabel Neven, also started earning money by catering for weddings etc.
Members were invited to invest in a club trust account to combat the 18.5% interest rate of the building loan debt.
In the late 1980s, the club reached another crisis point when short on funds. The Victoria Park Club suggested an amalgamation or takeover of the Rockhampton Bowls Club. Like other members had done in the past, Roy Chancellor and Merve Martin came forward to make up the deficit. One could say with some degree of certainty that these two members saved the Rockhampton Bowls Club from becoming a part of history.
In 1988 the club’s committee raised the matter of whether they should relocate to another site so the club could have two greens. Representatives approached the council about the possibility of relocating to Central Park. However, members were not in favour and no action was taken.
Bingo was back in 1989 and the club was well on the road of being financially viable again.
After a trip to Monto, that was disrupted by rain, an idea was born to change the green to a green gauge carpet green under a roof. This may have been considered as radical thinking at the time. However, the advantages were many:
- Games could be played all year for a steady income.
- No major expenses for a greenkeeper.
- No fertiliser so close to the river.
- Water savings.
- And most importantly, not playing in the hot sun.
Meetings were held, plans drawn, funds raised and the project became a reality on 9 January 2000.
The Rockhampton Bowls Club became the first club in Queensland to change to a synthetic green (needle punch) under a roof. Members now enjoy playing night or day, all year round.
In 2014 the club officially became one with the amalgamation of men and ladies and the unification has been very successful.
At present, the club is financially sound and has 172 members.