Bowls, Beer and Rock n’ Roll: The Colourful History of Concord Bowling Club

The Inner West is full of iconic venues, none more so than Concord Bowling Club. It’s been the home of the Sydney Paralympics and the scene for iconic TV ads, not to mention a popular place for locals to enjoy, and now it is part of Canada Bay Club family.

We’re thrilled to announce that we have recently amalgamated with Concord Bowlo to offer our community even more places to connect, celebrate and socialise in the Inner West. This exciting new partnership means that our members will have access to more special events and a new outdoor space within the Canada Bay area.

Built in the 1930s and located in beautiful leafy surrounds, this Inner West institution has been a meeting place for the local community for almost a century. Read on for the fascinating history of the beloved Concord Bowling Club.

1932: Concord Bowling Club comes to life

The life of Concord Bowling Club began in 1932 when it was officially opened on 7 July by Concord Mayor Alderman H R Harrison. The Council had helped with the formation of the club by providing 1000 pounds for the building of the Clubhouse two years earlier and the build began. While the club instantly became a destination for those interested in lawn bowls, it also played an important role in the community as a social hub.

The Bowling Club was home to a number of committees that provided valuable services in the local area. For instance, the Social Committee visited the nearby Concord Hospital every Friday and distributed cakes and books to the patients. Committee notes from 1943 show they even recommended the purchase of 12 palms for the hospital wards.

Member numbers continued to grow steadily over the following decade. By 1944, there was a waiting list for Lane Cove Bowling Club, so many members started to bowl at Concord, which helped bolster numbers.

In October 1971, the first edition of the Club’s monthly newsletter went out to members. President Dave Kay wrote:

“Gentlemen, this is the first publication of the Concord Bowling Club Newsheet and I feel sure that everyone will enjoy reading it, and being kept informed of current events.”

The first newsletter had the draw for club fours, social dates for the calendar from the Entertainment Vice President, a Stop Press update that the Club would be entertaining the American Bowlers and an entertaining update on the House Committee.

“Trevor Mc had a pretty tough time of late with a shortage of bar staff – Ted Mitchell’s shoulder injury and Warren Maynord’s necessary recuperation after his recent tremendous family ordeal. There is one thing we believe, the fertility pill is not necessary around Concord way, all one needs to do is be employed by the club. Our bar manager Trevor McDonald’s wife had a son. John Yellands (our green keeper) also had a son. Then steward Warren Maynord, not to be outdone – twins, one of each! How about that? Anyway congratulations to all you folk concerned, carry on with the good work.”

1974: The women hit the green – Central Park is formed

Forty years after the Club was founded, women joined the club in 1974 with the formation of Central Park (Concord) Woman’s Bowling Club. Historical accounts from the Club detail how this important development in the Club’s history came about:

“During the evening of Friday, November 16, 1973, President Horrie Pye, requested any lady present, who was interested in the formation of a Women’s Bowling Club within the Concord Bowling Club to join him and his Committee in the Office. Nine ladies accepted the invitation and Mrs Jean Gregory, an official of the NSW Women’s Bowling Association was also present, in a non-official capacity, and gave advice on the procedure of forming a club.

A caretaker type Executive was elected with President Ida Harris, Hon. Secretary Nea Edwards and Hon. Treasurer Hilda Strathdee. This caretaker executive drew up a club constitution and it was agreed that a further meeting be held on Dec 18, 1973, for interested ladies. Seventeen ladies attended the meeting and it was decided it would be recorded as the Foundation meeting. The name of the club to be ‘Central Park (Concord) Women’s Bowling Club’ – this name being given because the Parent Club is within Central Park.”

And so, the ladies played their first game on March 19, 1974, with four newly released players Jean Bourke, Eileen Kidner, Bettina Ogilvy and Ira Warren playing pairs in what was reported to be a very hotly contested game.

1974 was also an important year for the Club, as the move was made to obtain their badge and flag. Members were offered the opportunity to present their designs at the February monthly meeting. Not long after, the winning design was decided upon, with the flag to be a pennant type in olive green with a wine-red band outside, a black bowl on the straight and the letters C.P.W.B.C in white down the centre.

The Club becomes an Inner West icon

The Jubilee Celebrations in 1984 certainly reflected the changes that have evolved for the club since inception:

“The Club has experienced many changes in its fifty years. Founded in the period of the ‘great depression, then the difficulties of the second World War, followed by post war resettlement, shortages, recessions, and currently the inflationary trend. The nature of our surrounding community has changed from an outer suburban area of principally British stock to an inner suburban area composed of an increasing ethnic community.

Through all this the Club has maintained steady progress providing much enjoyment for its members through the medium of its top class greens and attractive comfortable Club House. For this, we owe a debt of gratitude to many wonderful members of the past, who gave willingly of their time, effort and circumstance, to build our reputation to overcome financial difficulties, to ensure our comfort, and to build up our loyalty and faith in our Club.

For we who remain to enjoy their efforts, it is our responsibility to go into the future with plans to the benefit of those still unborn, to apply the same initiative as those before us, so that our Club will ever be available for the pleasure and comfort of the people of Concord.”  Concord Bowling Club Jubilee Souvenir Program 1984. More recently, the Club has celebrated its own celebrity moments. In 2018, it was the location for the Hahn Superdry commercial. You can watch the video here, shot on the green, complete with men in kilts and yes even a horse!

It hosted the Sydney Paralympic Games Bowling in 2020, and during this time, the Netherlands Paralympic team hosted their after party at the venue. What an unforgettable night in history that was!

Perhaps best known to locals though is the story of legendary musician Colin Burgess. The musician, of AC/DC Fame frequently graced the Concord Bowlo stage with his band Plan B for one special night each year and certainly helped to keep the bowlo alive in years where the future did not look as bright. Colin’s father Billy Burgess was one of the founding members of the Club and as Concord locals, the family spent many years at the club. The ARIA Hall of Fame inductee who made his name as AC/DC’s lead drummer has a strong tie to the club and had been going to the club since before they had live music.

Visit the Bowlo!

The Club now has an active membership base and often welcomes guests, including those bowlers from Tigers Five Dock. Each week there are also 2 bocce teams who play at the club on a regular basis and continue this Italian tradition.

The Club is about to have a renovation and refresh, giving it a new lease of life that will see it an important part of the local community fabric for years to come. The Bowling Club’s friendly atmosphere and operations will remain the same, but the upcoming renovation will breathe new life into this beloved venue. For now, you can bring your own snacks and nibbles to create your ideal grazing board while you play barefoot bowls out on the green and enjoy a drink from the bar. It’s also available for functions and is the perfect blank canvas to create your dream event. Why not book out the space for your next celebration? Click here for more information.

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