Its Sunday 21st April 2013 just another day in the life of yours truly – well not really as today will be a sad day for many as its our final day at Crowtree, its six in the morning and the alarms going off – wake up it’s a beautiful morning the sun is shining the birds are a singing and a big geezer is singing zip-a-dee-doo-dar, ok then that was a dream but its still six in the morning and time to drag myself out of bed.

A quick caffeine boost followed by a bit of breakfast before its time to switch into sarnie mode, a few sticks are bunged in the oven and away I go, tray after tray of sarnies are transported into the sitting room and a hundred weight of sausage rolls are shoved into the oven. Two hours later the sitting room is looking like a Gregg’s refit as trays of sarnies, sausage rolls, meat pies, corn dog square and tray’s of quiche cover the floor. The cavalry arrive as my other half appears and starts to cling film everything and cut the pies – see women can multi task, the clock seems to speed up as it hits half eight and I’m still cutting cheese blocks but a quick trip upstairs is called for and its time for the three S’s…. yep that’s right a quick shower and a shave and a…… I’ll leave you to think about the third……………………..

Still no rest for the wicked as it takes ten minutes to load everything in the car, in fact the inside of the car is like the tardis (bigger than you think) and so some three hours after getting up its time to hit the road. First stop is at Eleanor Watson’s who has been doing some British Bake Off’s  - so more space is searched for and found in the car, the glove compartment is stocked up with cheese scones and more sausage rolls - finally its off to Crowtree. Champion the bollard into Crowtree Road is down so its a chance to park up right outside the main entrance where me old mucker Jimmy's waiting, its cue for "I've got a plan captain" as Jimmy grabs the lift and locks it off, after unloading the car its a quick trip to get it parked up for the day which gives me a chance to get some cool air through me shirt.

Back at Crowtree and Jimmy's started to load the lift and yours truly unloads at base camp Two otherwise known as outside the lift, then its a case of moving the lot to the conference suite and its a job done - cue El President'e's arrival.....doh!

The time hits ten o'clock and its time to put me skates on, as the finishing touches to the bowls hall is still to do, yesterday we blew up 2 balloons with a pump before it snapped so the other 288 were done manually, lets say I’ve got a fine set of lungs, however another 36 balloons are blew up for the archway around the bowls hall entrance and another half a dozen are needed to finish off inside, El President'e is given the job of finishing off the signage on the main wall - cue first technical hitch the wall stapler packs up..... doh! it turns out I tried to put the staples in the wrong way.... what an arse. With time ticking quicker than my heartbeat its quarter past eleven and time to hoover the ends of the three rink’s which will be used for the club finals, cue the centre's ittle Henry who has done sterling service over the last six months, in fact Dad Peter has filled in adoption papers……………………..

By now I'm lathered - the final touches of setting the mats and jacks on the three rinks is done and Dad Peter is delegated the task of setting up the trophies and glasses - so one thing less for me to do, a quick check that the sound system is working as bod’s are starting to come into the place. A quarter of an hour to go and its time to get suited and booted as I've got the lasses final to mark, El President'e has the main final and Dad Peter the old fart final - second hitch El President'e ain't got a tie doh!!!! ..... a quick raid of the cupboard ends that crisis and we ring North Korea to stand down any nuclear weapons.

To my relief the place is filling up nicely and I must say the three of us looked a picture, I bet no one noticed we increased the font size for the names on the back of Gary's & Davey's shirts for the hard of hearing, anyway the two lads looked a picture, in fact all the finalist's looked a picture although in case Dad Peter thinks he got away with it socks!!!! tut tut.

Even better the Echo photographer turned up and I did tell the lad only to take photo's on the trial ends but I must have been speaking double dutch as I had to set the dogs on him after the lad Smith gave me the eye’s, anyway high noon and the three games commenced however after about ten minutes I realised their is something missing...... a full bowls hall, three finals, three manikins from Burtons and some cracking bowls..... hummmm oh aye crowd participication so I nip off the green and play Chinese whispers "pass it on Billy Mitch will give you a pound every time you clap"...... that worked a treat and a good bowl is justly rewarded.

My final was looking likely to be a quick affair as Alice Curtis raced into a 14-1 lead, I had to feel a bit for Margaret Eggleston as not only was it her first ever club final but she also had to play in front of a full house..... and that’s without the nerves. Time wise everything was going to plan in fact it was going a bit to quick, during the final I saw old Bobby Martin and it was great to see him in for the final day as was Peter the stick, the lasses final ended at twenty past one and its off the green I go to see how the names for the friendly are going..............

Billy Mitch was the man in charge although he was a bit puzzled why people were asking him for money for clapping, anyway another twenty minutes and the men's final finishes with the lad Smith running out the winner but both players deserve the applause they got.  As the old farts final continues I remember I need all the white jacks for the spider so its a quick charge up the green to collect them in, in the old fart final Joe Flett and Bobby Graham continue to slug it out and it wasn't until ten to two that Bobby sealed his first singles title - rumours have it their was a small smile under that tash but its only a rumour. More running around and a quick positioning of the sound system - cue technical hitch number 2 as the centre's piggin extension packs up...doh!!!! - but a bit of quick thinking and its sorted. A quick introduction into the presentation before handing over to El President’e to give the welcome speech, in the meantime a quick photo opportunity of the winners is missed by yours truly..... the words plate spinning come to mind, after El President'e's chosen few words are complete the mic's thrust back my way to explain the days proceedings.

At five past two all 90 players are gathered around the green for a massive spider, the prize a litre bottle of famous grouse the target the sad yellow jack currently surrounded by a dozen white ones. A quick count down and 90 bowls fly towards the jacks - now I know how General Custer must have felt, the jacks went a flying and as the yellow jack went 2 foot in the air before it landed next to Mr J.Pallas..... so the whiskey was his, sadly he did confirm he was a whiskey drinker, the next five minutes were comical as everyone played hunt the bowl. With the time at a quarter past two I have the task of rattling through the 90 names, everything went sweet until I said "Michael Duke? anyone seen Michael Duke" doh Mitch you little tinker anyway me old mate Tommy Turnbull offered to play and I was pleased to see the lad on the green as he has been one of the clubs keenest supporters, meanwhile Michael Duke ...tut tut tut.

So a surreal sight of 45 a side take to the green, still no peace as the sound system is wheeled off the green then its time to hand out the ittle key ring gift to the players, Billy Mitch takes a batch so that saves me a job.  As with previous friendlies we offer the alcoholic toucher incentive and as everyone knows a bowler and booze is like a chocolate biscuit to George Brown, I delegate Arty Baker as the toucher chief, well after a trip around every rink its half two and I'm knackered already but things are going swimmingly.

Another emergency is averted as a quick check on the old boiler we borrowed from Barnes Park ladies … that is the tea boiler not  you know what…….and its nearly boiled dry....... so a quick fill up is needed..... talk about hands.Time gets to quarter to three and time to get the buffet out, first the convoy of tables followed by the parachutists with the table covers, poor Peter the stick just got settled and I moved him not once but twice. Reinforcements arrive as the missus and the bairn turn up and are straight away handed stuff to take out, I also comm-endear Lady Forster of Humbledon Castle and with space at a premium an extra table is wheeled out, the old boiler we borrowed from Barnes is a boiling but will need to issue the kids with a health warning as we only have paper cups due to the centre shipping out all the cutlery.  Finally the buffets out or more like we've run out of space and at twenty past three El President'e asks "if we should pull them off" my reply "lets open the buffet first"........ I know its childish but I couldn't resist it. Anyway the hungry hoardes descend on the buffet like a swarm of locusts as plates and servettes go everyway.

Traffic reports indicate a blockage in the tea & coffee area as poor Dad Peter is getting stressed as the queue is reaching the Bridges but I jump in and give him a hand and we eventually get it sorted. After half an hour we prompt everyone back onto the green and its time to condense the buffet down a bit and shift a few tables, Lady Forster takes a food parcel to Gordon the attendant cos she's a real star.

Dad Peter is knackered and I point him in the direction of a seat and a some scran meanwhile my plates of meat are barking but battle on. Its funny cos as I take a minute to look around at everyone on the green and in the seating area I feel a lump in my throat as the end is near.

At twenty past four El President'e advises everyone its the last ends and yours truly is ferrying more food this time the cake, when everyone is off the green its time for one last group photo as everyone gathers one last time, the laughs continue as me old mucker Davey Morgan and Billy Mitch sit down on the green for the photo shot and when asked to shuffle along well the two of them just couldn’t shuffle for shuffling sake…..with over a 100 bods the Echo photographer would have had to knock the honours boards wall down to get everyone in one shot so its a four shot effort. Looking back I wish I had taken a photo. Mind you I didn't think I would be saying these words "Shiela Moody you'll have to get Bobby's head from between your legs" but its just one of those days, then its time to hand over to El President'e to make the closing speech - finally I grab a seat and park the bus for a few minutes.

The speech is Churchillan est and I must say El President'e did the club proud but don't tell him he was a bit echoy. Back on me feet as I nip on the green with a small surprise, anyway its time to reveal the club legend who will bowl the last bowl- it was always only going to be one person and it was James William Lambert....

El President'e pays a smashing tribute to the lad before he invites Jimmy to deliver the final bowl down rink 4, luckily Jimmy tells the photographer to get out of the line otherwise it would have been a youtube jobby.

As the final bowl makes its way down the green applause rings out, one nice touch was the hug Jimmy got off Ritchie Jobling.

There was one final act for El President'e to do and that was to present Jimmy with a framed collection of some of the lads best memories from Crowtree, just for the record it had the Denny Cup final squad, the national triples winners, a club badge, an engraved plaque and of course the big lad..... Norman....... it was that which set the tears flowing and it was at that moment even big old me had to turn away as both Jimmy, the El President'e and many more showed its good to shed a tear or two, after pulling myself together a quick hug with Jimbo and a big "well done mate" and a kiss on the head for my hero............ that was that - the end………………………, the only thing left was to shove on the closing music which opened with Kenneth Wolstenholme's immortal "there’s some people on the pitch they think its all over... it is now" line followed by Monty Python's "Always look on the bright side of life" as everyone started to stream out many with tears in the eyes, hands were shaken, backs were slapped and memories were ..... well …………remembered, god bless the old girl.

So that was the end for nearly everyone except yours truly and the Mac clan as the clean up operation was in full swing, as the final table was cleared and the various boxes knocked together at a quarter to six I was left by myself in the bowls hall……. this was my chance to have a final moment with a place that I have grown up alongside, memories of playing alongside some of the best bowlers around and a chance to remember the shed load of characters I’ve encountered during my time and of the many friends no longer with us - Big Norman for one - its a sad moment for me.

I always said I would be last man out and at five past six I may have been absolutely shattered physically and emotionally drained but I did turn the lights out for the final time



RIP - Crowtree Leisure Centre

The home of The City Of Sunderland Indoor Bowling Club - (August 1977 - April 2013)

"Have faith this isn't the end it's a new start"

Watch Jimmy Lambert deliver the last ever bowl at Crowtree - link

The final view (2013)

The view of the Crowtree site now (2014)



Site last updated : Wednesday October 3, 2018 0:17 AM