When a handful of bowlers met at the Methodist Hall in Ketton on Tuesday, September 17, 1974, it was the start of an association with the sport in the village that has blossomed over 43 years. Now the club fields seven teams during most weeks of the summer, including three each in the Stamford and Peterborough Leagues and occasional friendlies.
Among those there on that autumn night with his wife Wyn, was Ivan Thurlby already an accomplished player on the county circuit but keen to establish bowls in his local community.
Sadly after a long illness, ‘Ike’ as he was known to his bowling friends, died in 2016 aged 94 but often spoke about those early days of the club’s emergence.
“There were just ten of us there and to be honest none of us were totally sure that there was enough support to form a club, ” he recalled. “But we were pretty determined and on the night raised £90 towards the club’s first finances.”
Local bowler Tony Brookes was appointed chairman and outlined the intention to form a club as part of the then Ketton Sports Association and charge 50p per year as founder members.
Within a couple of years, space was provided for tennis courts and a bowling green at the Pit Lane complex with three Ketton teams. Two men’s and a Ketton Ladies join the Stamford and District League.
“The original idea was to have the bowling green on higher ground but the tennis club beat us to it, ” recalled Ivan, by then a highly respected player in the Northants Bowling Federation’s Newton and Adams county teams having already made a big impression at the West Ward and Wittering clubs.
The Ketton green was soon recognised as one of the best kept, fastest and smoothest in the area but not everyone appreciated its quality.
“Originally we wanted to affiliate to Leicestershire County Bowling Association, ” he said. “But they were sceptical of its condition. It wasn’t until two officials came to try out the green and discovered how fast and smooth it was, that they agreed to let us in.”
Later, however, with Ketton the most easterly in the county set-up, travel became too much of a burden and Ketton withdrew, eventually concentrating their efforts with the more local Northants Federation, centred around Peterborough, Whittlesey and Stamford.
Ivan also served his time as a volunteer greenkeeper and was a member of the Ketton A team that won the Stamford & District League First Division successively between 1983 and 1985 and then again in 1989.
But what, he was asked, was his greatest achievement?
“Nothing for me personally but in my 90s I had the chance to sit in a chair by the green in the shade of an umbrella and think to myself ‘this is what I helped to create.’ It gave me a lot of satisfaction.”