The Gloucestershire Short Mat Bowling Association came into being in June 1999. However, the origins of the association go back to 1992 when five local clubs, three from Gloucestershire and two from Herefordshire, formed a group to play the first Macmillan Charity match; Lea and Fownhope from Herefordshire with Listers, Quedgeley and Brockweir representing Gloucestershire formed this group. Brockweir were the first winners of the trophy.
These five clubs became the founding members of a joint association of Short Mat Bowling Clubs in the two counties. The rules of the English Short Mat Bowling Association at that time required a minimum of five clubs to form a county representation. Because of this, recognition of a ‘dual county’ status was sought.
Herefordshire and Gloucestershire SMBA was duly accepted by the ESMBA. The inexperience of players, coupled with limitations because of club size, restricted the group to playing friendly games in those early days. These included competitions in conjunction with Worcestershire and Shropshire. They ranged from large clubs with outdoor bowling greens to quite small clubs which met in village halls. Norman Davies of Lea SMBC (Herefordshire) was appointed as first chairman of the Herefordshire and Gloucestershire SMBA which was appropriate as he was a driving force behind the establishment and growth of Short Mat Bowling in the area.
Others on the founding committee were: Treasurer – Norman Allen of Fownhope SMBC (Herefordshire) and Secretary – Tom Hughes (Gloucestershire). Norman always held that the joint status of the original association would be temporary, however this arrangement remained until 1999. At this date, by mutual agreement, both groups decided that they were each strong enough to support individual membership of the ESMBA. This was duly acknowledged by the ESMBA. Following this rearrangement both counties were accepted for the Inter-county “A” Team competition in the millennium year.
It should be noted here that the late Norman Davies of Herefordshire was the mainstay of the original organisation and we all owe a great deal for his unstinting work for the cause……..thank you Norman.
The Gloucestershire SMBA has grown in strength year by year and, having won the “A” Team Consolation Trophy 2 years running (2003/4 and 2004/5 under Stewart Minchew’s Captaincy), the County team gained entry to the Premier Division in 2005/6 where they have remained since. In 2011/2 the GSMBA will have both a Premier Team and an “A” Team thus giving more members the chance of playing at the Inter-County level.
Links with Herefordshire still remain strong as the two counties normally play in the same Premier Division. They also play Summer matches to decide the winner of the Bill Mackie Cup – Bill was the Gloucestershire County Captain, and well known within both counties, when he unfortunately died in 2008.
Another connection, dating back to the early days of the dual counties, is the LEH Trophy. This Trophy is open to any club from the two counties and is kindly sponsored by Norman Allen (and named after his business Lifting Equipment Hire). The competition is played on a knockout basis and each round involves away and home matches – the winner is the team with the highest shot total over the two matches. Each team consists of 10 players (single, pair, triple and four) and helps clubs in both counties to keep in touch with each other.
The links with Herefordshire are still very strong but so are the links with other neighbouring counties – namely Avon, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire – as well as more distant counties such as West Midlands. The Gloucestershire and West Midlands Senior teams play for the Roy Sentance Cup – Roy sadly passed away in February 2010, when Chairman of the GSMBA, and is fondly remembered by many members of the above counties.
The GSMBA aims to continue the growth of the game as well as to maintain these friendly links for many years to come.