In 1989, Courtfield celebrated its 25th Race Week Tournament with prize-money equivalent to about £3,500 today. 

Ian and Stuart Airey had both made it into the Middleton Cup side and a big tournament win at South Shields, where Stuart skipped Andrew James and Stan Laybourne to a £750 first prize against England International Jim Ashman, gave notice the young player was bound for greater things.

The 80s were ending with the game overall in great shape and more and more people playing both outdoor and indoors. Little progress on the Middleton Cup front however.

Early in 1990, the county executive opted to have a six-man selection committee to be responsible for both the A and the B team. Personally, I was in favour of a one-man committee for each side so I did not consider this to be a sound move at all. The new committee’s early ideas were controversial.

In their eyes, Ron Gass was not a top six skip in Cumbria, though he was regarded as one of the top-20 players in England indoors. After pre-season trials, common sense prevailed and before the first A team game, Gass was promoted to skip. He showed how right the selectors were to change their minds when winning five of his six A team games, his only defeat being by two shots scored with the last wood of a game.

Stuart Airey was on a very upward curve at this time and underlined the point when he won the national Under-18 singles at Worthing. In the final, he defeated another very good youngster, Ian Bond of Devon 25-19. 

Yes that score is correct, singles at this time were played as 25 up. Why this rule change came into being amazed me. The game was doing well, more people were playing, if it’s not broken then don’t even try to mend it. All that it did was to create almost a new club for those who would have won a final had it been 21 up but lost the final because of the new rule. Fortunately, it did not last too long.

Stuart Airey played twice in the Junior International side but was then elevated to the full side in 1992. In that year, David Taylor had been recalled and he became the fifth Cumbrian in the national side Ian Carruthers having been selected for the first time in 1991, and John Bell and Ron Gass having retained their places.

This was the first time for more than 80 years that Cumbria had five internationals, though in 1908 there were six Cumbrians in the team.

Ian Carruthers had a good year in 1990, winning both the singles and the triples and played well in his first-ever trial to get his first cap. He went on to play in five series. 

In 1992, he also won the pairs with John Wills and they had a great run before losing in the national semi-final to Gary Smith and Andy Thomson, one of the best English pairs at that time.

There is no doubt that the emergence of so many good players in the 90s did a tremendous amount of good for bowls in Cumbria. Wigton was undoubtedly the leading club despite having only opened its new green in 1986. 

Players such as Paul Barlow, Andrew and David Baxter, Stephen Farish, Stephen Dalziel all hitting new heights with many other established players such as Bell and Gass to encourage and back them up. In 1991, Gass and Bell won the county pairs for the first time, followed that up by winning the national pairs and the following year, won the British Isles pairs. 

Stephen Farish defeated John Bell in the county singles final in 1992 and showed it was no fluke by going to Worthing and returning to Wigton unbeaten. He followed that by winning the Northern Counties. Much later more established players joined Wigton to make it the strongest club in the county, winning 16 county titles as well as three Nationals, three British Isles and five Northern Counties in this decade alone. 

Farish himself was in the Junior International side in 1992, he should have been in a year earlier but the county association did not nominate him! Not surprisingly, he was promoted to the full side in 1993.

Workington was also doing well particularly through Stuart Airey but he had the backing of his brother Ian as well as Ian Williams, Andrew James and David Gregory and, in the early 90s, his mentor Stan Laybourne who were all more than capable players.

Appleby had produced two good players in Richard and Phil Sampson, though Richard moved to Courtfield later and teamed up with Trevor Taylor and later Craig Docherty. It was much easier to move clubs by now, so much simpler than when I began playing and had to make the trip to Wigton.

Parked for a pairs semi-final on my Honda 50 with a small case between my knees containing four bowls and my shoes. Gradually all of these players, and more, began to become regulars in the Cumbria Middleton Cup side and that was when things really began to happen.

Silloth Bowls Club was formed in 1863 on a site which today is Silloth Docks. In the early days there was an annual fixture against Annan, the bowlers sailed across the Solway Firth for this game.

The club has produced many fine bowlers and won many county titles. Chris Graham won the singles in 1946 as did Jock Routledge in 1954. The pair of them collected the pairs trophy in 1954. Graham was probably an underrated bowler as Routledge, deservedly so, was given most of the credit both here in Cumbria and when he was selected to play for England in 1967 to 1970. 

Along with Alan Cairns they also won the first county triples which was played in 1946 and in 1959 Graham and Routledge were joined by Sam Maskell and Frank Easton when lifting the fours trophy.

In those early days, the club won the county cup on seven occasions, the last of those was in 1969 and it was 1996 before the next one came along.

Things went rather quiet after Maskell, Graham and Routledge won the triples in 1960 and the fours in 1965 and were no further fours successes until 2006 and 2009. It was a similar story in the triples until Adam Hocking, Ryan Orchard and Paul Wallace won this event in both 2014 and 2015. 

In between, Graeme Baty won the Two Wood Singles in both 1986 and 1988, and sandwiched between those two wins Simon Bragg won the same competition in 1987. Three in a row was the record at that time until Subscription bettered it in the 21st century, winning five times, 2004-2008.

The club originally had a fairly small green bower roughly where the outdoor toilets are today and to those who played in the 60s the Silloth Club has never seemed quite the same since the new club was opened. Time can not stand still I suppose.

In more recent times, Silloth seems to be on the up once more and it is good to see Adam Hocking having progressed to Junior International standard and Paul Wallace winning County titles.

Stanwix Bowling Club was another founder member of the County Association and moved to its present site in 1901. Before that the green had been behind the Bird in Hand Public House on the site now occupied by the Stanwix Post Office. 

The club has provided four County Presidents the most recent being Fred Brough in 1963 and G Hill was a good servant to the Count as Treasurer and Secretary from 1929 to 1945. In 1949, F Johnston won the County singles, the clubs only success in this event though Ken Johnston won the Champion of Champions in 1989 and Jeff Brown won the Two Wood Singles in 1993. 

The new bower was opened in 1952 and it was a Stanwix member Oliver Gibbings who presented the trophy for the County Cup competition in 1957 and appropriately Stanwix won it twice in the 80s. 

The early 1980s saw the peak membership of the club, 110 men and 50 ladies and the men’s singles competitions regularly had 64 plus entries. At this time the bower was extended at both ends. 

In this period the club was offered the opportunity to end its 99-year lease and purchase the freehold for a mere £3000, the offer was accepted forthwith Stanwix has always valued its friendly matches and hopes that they will continue. 

More recently, the club has tried several initiatives to increase membership and there has been some success. In the 1960s, county singles semi-finals were played there and the club is now currently engaged in a programme which will improve the playing surface.