Drakes Pride - Bowling Green Bowls manufacture in
The business has the most famous bowler, Sir Francis Drake, as
their trade mark, his comments on being informed about the Armada
being in sight is recorded as saying 'finish our game' (of bowls)
is part of the great history of the sport.
An early price list showing the
and that they were official testers of the International
Bowling Board also
Standard Jack makers to all Crown Green
The picture by Seymour Lucas depicting Sir Francis Drake and
that famouse game of Bowls is shown below thanks to the National
Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London who hold the copyright . You can
see however where the idea for the design of the original trade
mark came from!
© National Maritime Museum,
The trade mark currently used is based on the original
registered by the Liverpool bowls business of Darlington's which
was established in the City in 1820. As Drakes Pride traces its
association with bowls back to Darlington's it can claim to be the
oldest surviving English bowls business and thus one of the oldest
in the World.
A very early price list
It is interesting to note the reference to Billiard Balls as
is a strong association with the game of Billiards and the
other manufactures of bowls, which
must be to do with the turning skills of the bowls makers of
the 19th & 20th Centuries.
Before moving on from the Darlington
part of the story there are some points of interest for the early
history of bowls. The old price lists and rule book published by
Darlington have some information which helps with seeing how the
bowls developed, Already mentioned is the association between bowls
and billiards and the following picture from a Darlington price
list circa 1900 shows the extent of that association.
From the same price list it is interesting to note that the range
of sizes of bowl that were being offered, they obviously like 'big'
bowls in those days, and perhaps more especially the range of
bias that you could specify!
From a later price list, circa 1930,
the range of qualities and prices for Lignum Vitae (wooden) bowls
is extensive but composition bowls must also have been
available as shown by the reference to 'imported plastic bowls' in
the section refering to engraving charges.
In their 1957 price list as part of the renovation / testing
service for 'Flat Green' bowls they list a charge for buffing
composition bowls which indicates that they were by then well
By 1971 Darlington were offering their own Drake's Pride
composition bowls. This is the first reference to the use of their
trade mark name for a model of bowl that has been found (to
The rule book published by Darlington must quite early circa
1900 and makes interesting reading the front cover and a copy of
two of the pages are shown below. (This rule book is currently on
display in the Museum of Liverpool)
The rule concerning playing in the dark is quite an interesting
one - You can just imagine a bowler standing at the jack with a
torch of some kind in his hand illuminating the 'target'!!
Darlington's were licenced testers to the International Bowling
Board and as the box label below shows, Standard Jack Makers to
ALL Crown Green Associations. We think this box
label, from a set of Crown Green Lignum Vitae Bowls, is circa 1947
although it could be earlier as the IBB stamp was introduced in
The Darlington business was acquired by E.A. Clare & Son in
the 1970's to enhance their growing renovation / refurbishment
service of Crown Green Bowls. Bill Walsh who managed the bowls
work, at 'Clare's' was a skilled wood turner having served
his time at Darlington's. Darlington's not only provided a Crown
Green service but were also licensed testers of Lawn Bowls and so
'Clare's' were able to take over this licence. At the time of the
acquisition Arthur Ayres, another highly skilled bowls turner from
Darlington's, had already joined the expanding bowls
Bill Walsh - Works manager &
Arthur Ayres -Bowls Shop Supervisor
E.A. Clare Son interest in bowls had
come about because the founder of the business was Crown Green
Bowler and felt that as bowls was a summer sport it would fit well
into his Snooker and Billiards business, which was a winter sport.
Once Darlington's was acquire Clare's offered a full testing
service for Lawn Bowls (usually called Flat Green in the Crown
Green areas), being licensed by I.B.B. (International Bowling
Board), which allowed them to use either the I.B.B. Stamp or the,
more common in the UK, B.I.B.C. (British Isles Bowls Council)
stamp. The firm was also registered as Crown Green jack makers to
the B.C.G.B.A. (British Crown Green Bowls Association).
Clare's continued to offer these service and make their own
Lignum Vitae bowls under the brand name 'Standfast' but in the mid
late 1970's it became more and more difficult to source good
quality Lignum Vitae especially as it was one of the timbers on the
U. N.'s CITES list - The United Nation's has a list of species that
are 'at risk' and so special licenses have to be obtained to deal
in species that are on the list. Also composition bowls were
becoming more and more accepted which had a knock on effect by
reducing the number of bowls that came in for renovation.
Research was carried out by Peter Clare as to the way forward
and after careful consideration it was decided that investment into
manufacture of composition bowls was required. So in 1981 Liverpool
University Computer Laboratory was used as consultants on the
project and they came up with a bowl profile. Based on this it was
obvious that the way forward was to use computer controlled lathes
to ensure accuracy of the profile rather than the traditional copy
lathes or grinding processes. Thus the Drakes Pride bowls became
the first to be produced on CNC lathes.
The installation of the CNC lathe in
1981 was no mean feat as the room for it was not only at first
floor level but was set back from the road and had to go over a
second floor. The roof of the room had to be removed and the lathe
was craned into the room through the open roof.
The lathe high in the sky!
Going through the roof!
After proving out the bowl profile the new Drakes Pride bowl was
launched in late 1982 via the Clare Bowls Centre. In November 1982
the following article appeared in that months magazine.
Tom Brophy the Works Manager,
whose picture is shown in the article was heavily involved along
with Peter Clare in the setting up the lathe and the launch
of the Drakes Pride bowl. He had been trained in the bowls
department and was a skilled turner of wooden bowls.
Up-dated trade mark used by The Clare Bowls centre
With the launch of a new composition bowl it was not easy to be
noticed against the already established bowls manufactures. However
with the help of the great Scottish Bowler Willie Wood the Drakes
Pride bowl became established.
1983 the launch of
Willie Wood professional model bowl
Norman Clare; Willie Wood; Peter Clare
The sales brochure for the
Willie Wood Professional model bowl
Granada TV in the mid 1980's promotoed
bowls with a major event telivised from their Manchester Studio. It
was call 'Superbowl' and pitted top Crown Green Bowlers against Top
lawn Bowlers playing indoor lawn bowls on a specially installed
carpet. Drakes Pride was involved and at the 1985 recording the
'Bowls International' magazine 'Spot the difference' winner had her
set of bowls presented at the studio. The picture below was used as
an advert in the December 1985 edition and shows Willie Wood
presentingJean Rose with her set of Willie Wood 'Professional'
bowls. Tom Brophy the Production manager of Drakes Pride is on the
As the Professional Model proved to be excellent on quality
outdoor greens and indoor surfaces another model was required for
slow UK outdoor greens and so the
Melbourne model was introduced.
At first the business traded as 'The
Clare Bowls Centre' with using the address of Queen Anne Street,
but as the bowls became more popular it was necessary to supply the
retail bowls outlets it was decided to call the business Drakes
Pride re-establishing the trade mark with the business name.
In the 1980's the catalogues and
adverts of that period show the address as 5-11 Springfield,
Liverpool where not only the office and stockroom were situated but
also a small trade counter.
Also at that time when Tom Brophy and Peter Clare attended bowls
matches Willie Wood not only introduced them to the officials but
also to the top players at those events. So it was that they met
Ian Dickison an up and coming New Zealand bowler who so like the
bowls he asked to be their agent in New Zealand. So once the bowls
were accepted as meeting the NZBA (New Zealand Bowls Association)
regulations the first export of Drakes Pride bowls took place. The
fact that Ian one the Singles Gold medal at the 1986 Commonwealth
Games playing with a set of the 'International' model Drakes pride
bowl was a tremendous boost in the early days.
Ian Dickison (NZ) with the gold
medal, Ian Shuback (AUS) with Silver
and Richard Corsie (Scotland) with Bronze
1986 Commonwealth Games - Edinburgh
Part of the poster promoting the
Drakes Pride bowl in New Zealand
Note - the NZBA 86 stamp on the bowl
As Drakes Pride was based in the North West of England, Crown
Green Bowls country, it was perhaps strange that the first bowls
produced were for the Lawn Bowls discipline but they soon remedy
that and the Crown green models quickly found similar success for
that discipline of the sport.
Early successes on the Waterloo
Green the Home of Crown Green Bowls
After winning the Gold medal at the
Edinburgh Games Ian Dickison was invited to play in tournaments in
Australia and was spotted at The Adelaide Masters by Elliot Beasley
a member of the Adelaide Club. He liked the way the bowls performed
and contacted Drakes Pride with a proposal for his son Geoff
Beasley to be the Australian agents.
The agency was set up but it require
the Australian Bowls Association to modify their regulations
and stipulate that bowls manufacturers licensed by the
International Bowling Board were to be used. This was as a result
of the President of the IBB Garnet Putland OAM, efforts to ensure
all Countries played to the same regulations.
Geoff Beasley, who was a South Australia State Bowler became the
Drakes Pride agent in 1986 and through his efforts and advice bowls
were designed specifically for the high quality outdoor greens
enjoyed by Australian bowlers.
Rob Parrella, a great Australian bowler & Geoff Beasley,
the Drakes Pride agent
Geoff set up State distributors - in Queensland it was
International Bowls Services run at that time by Warwick Jefferies.
He was a keen supporter of up and coming talent and so Kelvin
Kerkow and Steve Glasson were both successfully users of Drakes
Bowls whilst making their name in bowls.
Kelvin & Steve with Warwick
1994 Australian Indoor Championships at Tweeds Head Bowls
Edda Bonutto - Queensland Single Champion 1993
Edda was also a well respected International representative
for Australia and loved her Drakes Pride bowls
The distributor in Victoria was Don Sherman, a Gold medal winner
representing Australia many times at bowls and later becoming the
Manager of the bowls team. In 1996 he decided to set up a test
table in Bendigo and came over to the Drakes Pride factory for
training. Once he had completed the in house instruction he was
examined by World Bowling Board to ensure he was competent to test
bowls according to their requirements.
Alan Williams handing Don Sherman his certificate on passing
the practical training.
Rob Curran Drakes Pride
Production Manager; David Johnston WBB
Alan Williams WBB President;
Peter Clare Director DP and Don Sherman DP Victoria.
The following year Don's son,
another Don, came over to the UK and again took the training course
and was as before was examined at the end of it by representatives
L - R
Alan Williams WBB President;
Don Sherman (Jnr) DP Victoria
Peter Clare Director DP
In 1997 Thurston, the UK leading
Snooker and Billiard firm, who have been involved in the supply and
or installation of 10 or more bowls test tables, supplied and
installed the test table in Bendigo. The bowls test table was
inspected and approved by Jim Evans the WBB representative in
The New South Wales & Australia Capital Territory
distributor was Bob Bowell based at first in Canberra but he
subsequently took over the running of Bentley's bowls shop in the
suburbs of Sydney.
Bob & Robyn Bowell at
Bentley Bowls Shop - 1998
Whilst the growth in the popularity of
the Drakes Pride bowls in Australia was important the UK and rest
of the World was not forgotten.
In 1988 when the UK celebrated the
400th Anniversary of the sea battle that made Sir Francis Drake
famous the firm took advantage of the first day issue of
commemorative stamps by sending envelopes to their customers at
home and around the World.
In 1999 Drakes Pride followed up the association with their
Trade Mark of 'Sir Francis' on Plymouth Hoe' by visiting Drakes
home in Devon. Buckland Abbey in Devon was the home of Sir Francis
Drake , which is now owned and managed by The National Trust. In
1999 Drakes Pride were delighted to make a presentation to the
National Trust at Buckland Abbey of a set of bowls. The picture
shows Peter Clare Managing Director of Drakes Pride presenting the
bowls, under the watchful eye of 'Sir Francis' (Clive Simpson,
dressed as the great sailor and famous bowler, himself) to Doreen
Johnston, who was the Ladies Captain of the local Yelverton Bowls
Margaret Johnston & Tom Brophy - 1990
Many bowlers enjoyed success whilst
playing with their "Drakes", perhaps no more so that Margaret
Johnston, probably the most successful female bowler. From
the late 1980's to her retirement from International play in 2008
she was the bowler to be using her "Drakes".
Margaret at the 1990 Commonwealth Games New Zealand, She won
the bronze medal in the singles
1992 World Bowls Ayr - Margaret
- Singles Champion
2000 World Bowls - Margaret -
2004 World Bowls
Margaret Johnston took Gold ( Taking the title for the third
time) & Lorna Trigwell (South Africa) took Silver.
Both using Drakes Pride Bowls
In late 2001 the Drakes pride new Zealand agent Russ Heys
decided to offer the New Zealand bowlers the chance to have their
bowls tested in New Zealand. He travelled over to the UK to go
through the practical training in the Drakes Pride factory and on
achieving the required level of competence require by the WBB
received his certificate from John Armstrong President of WBB. Russ
also travelled to Bendigo in Australia whilst their test table was
being upgraded, by the UK Snooker business Thurston, so he could
ensure that his table was erected correctly. His test
table was inspected and his tester license granted in 2002.
Jan Khan; Marina Khan & Millie Khan
Millie and her daughters were all using Drakes Pride bowls
when they took the New Zealand National Fours Championships in
Drakes Pride bowlers have also enjoyed success indoors from the
early when Terry Sullivan won the UK Indoor Singles Championships
in 1984 and then in 1985 went on to win the World Indoor
1985 Drakes Pride advert
Bowls International March 1985
Another well know Welsh player took the title in 2000 -
Robert Weale who has represented Wales at International level on
2000 Drakes Pride advert
Another advert which appeared in
the June 2000 issue of the Queensland Bolwer announced the
introduction of 1/2 size bowls to the Australian market.
2002 Golden Nugget Champion and
Runner Up - tweeds Heads, Australian
Jenny Haaragon & Lauraine Murray - both played Drakes
In 2006 it was Mervyn King who
took the title - a great representative for England at
International level and a local hero when playing at
John Potter & Mervyn King
Photo courtesy Bowls International
recording Mark Royal winning the Welsh International
2008 advert recording Alison Merrien (Guernsey)
winning the Champion of Champions at the Warrilla Bowls Club
Kerry Packwood, who in 2007, won the World Under 25's Singles
Championship which she regained the title in 2009. Drakes Pride are
please to be associated with her bowling successes.
In 2009 Drakes Pride chalked up
another first with the introduction of the 'speckled Crown Green
Bowl'. Up to then coloured Crown Green Bowls were made from poured
resin. Poured resin material shows marks and scratches easily.
Drakes Pride therefore used the tried and tested phenolic
composition and added a bit of colour. These bowls are superior to
any solid coloured Crown Green Bowls currently available.
Picture courtesy of David
L - R
Brian - David - Robert - Stuart
The Weale brothers holding the Welsh Bowls Association National
Fours Championship Shield. Ehich as a team they won for the sixth
time in 2010. However the Weale family have in fact won the
National Fours on seven occasions when their father stepped in to
replace a brother who was unavailable. All bowl Drakes Pride
Drakes Pride have always encouraged
the playing of bowls and so were keen to introduce to the U.K. the
'Bowling Arm'. This device allows those with limited mobility to
deliver their bowls standing and also wheel chair bowlers to
deliver their bowls more easily. The 'Bowling Arm' had been used in
Australia for many years and was approved for use in that Country.
Drake Pride submitted the 'Bowling Arm' to Bowls England , who in
September 2010 approved its use.
The two main men's bowls events at the 2010 Delhi
Commonwealth Games were won by bowlers who used Drakes Pride
Rob Weale representing Wales took the single Gold medal adding
it to the Silver medal he won at the 2006 Games in
South Africa Pairs team of Gerry Baker and Shaun Addinall took
the Gold Medal and as the picture shows they were delighted with
Rob Newman from England won the
2010 Hong Kong International Classic using his size 7 Drakes Pride
Guernsey's Alsion Merrien and Nottingham's Simon Skelton,
clinched the Ptters Holidays 2011 World Mix pairs Matchplay
Championship both played Drakes Pride bowls.
Picture courtesy © Howard Harding
After finishing as runner up in 2009 and 2010 it was third time
lucky for Guernsey's Alison Merrien , who overcame Australian Karen
Murphy to take the Potters Holidays Ladies 2011 World Matchplay
Championship. (Picture courtesy © Howard Harding)
The Australian Champion of Champions was Grant Seeary from
Victoria who won the title in November of that year in Tasmania
using his Drakes Pride Excel model bowls. Kylie Whitehead a 16 year
old help Victoria juniour girls team reclaim the Bev Shannon
Shield. The rport in January Bowls Magazine reads - "Pivotal to the
success in any rink combination is the performance of the Lead and
this is where the talented Wodonga teenager Kylie Whitehead
Drakes Pride congratulated both players on their success and for
choosing Drakes Pride Bowls - the picture is the advert from the
Bowls Victoria magazine.
Mark Royal winner of the 2011 Welsh Grand Prix at the City of
Swansea Indoor Bowls Club. It was the second time he had won the
event in the last four years. Another successful bowler that
chooses Drakes Pride bowls.
David Bolt - Bowls England 2011 Singles Champion proudly showing
one of his Drakes Pride Professional bowls which help him through
out the competition.
2011 Winner WBT Scottish Open. Ian was using his Drakes Pride
Professionals to win the event beating many higher Ranked
Wales 2011 Atlanic Rim Team -
sponsored by Drakes Pride
Sivler medal in the Singles won by
Jon Tomlinson with the bronze in the Fours won by Sion Jones, Mark
Harding, Andrew Fleming and David Axon.
Alison Merrien 2012 winner of the
Women's World Cup representing Guernsey at the Warrilla Bowls Club,
Australian (phot courtesy David Allen - Editor of
In 2012 the Sherman family retired from being the Australian
agenst for Drakes Pride and so the NSW based business run by Fred
Ayoub was appointed to handle the Drakes Pride product range. In
May 2012 Mike Eggington and Peter Clare of Drakes pride flew over
to Australia to finalise the deal.
L - R
Fred Ayoub - Mike Eggington - Peter Clare - Don
Mike and Peter may look a little
'Jet Lagged' as this picture was taken at the Six Nations event
held at Holdfast Bay Club in Adelaide. They had only been in
Australia for a couple of days arriving in Sydney and then flying
to Adelaide for a 24 hours visit!
In 2012 Drakes contiunued experiments in use of coloured
material resulted in the following mix. At the time it was
considered that such a set of bowls did not meet the WB Ltd
regulations on what constitued a match set! Note add in 2014
- in 2014 similar bowls are now marketed and WB Ltd. have
allowed them as being within their rules.
In 2013 Drakes pride re designed
their logo to make it more user friendly and more modern
Advert used in the Champion of
Champion's programme recording Andy Buckley winning the 2013 Men's
Waterloo. A Drakes Pride Crown Green bowler. Picture by David
Terry Glover from Merseyside winner
of the BCGBA Champion of Champions 2013. Terry is another 'Jewel in
the Crown' bowling with Drakes Pride Crown Green Bowls picture by
Medal winners at 2014 Commonwealth
Games - Glasgow
Lorna Smith - Bowls Scotland
National Singles Champion 2014 bowling Drakes Pride. She also won
the title in 2012 and 2013. "Picture by Rob Eyton-Jones"
Drakes Pride bowlers winning
titles in both the Northern & Southern Hemispheres
Drakes Pride have claimed over the
years to be "The Bowlers Choice Worldwide" and certainly over the
years this has proved to be the case, quite often the younger
players have made there first successful steps using Drakes Pride.
Perhaps part of the reason is the care and craftsmanship that goes
into each set or pair of Drakes Pride Bowls. They have blended the
traditional bowls making skills acquired from wooden (Lignum Vitae)
bowls and transferred those skills into the making of their
composition bowls. They control everything from the selection of
the powder used to mould the blanks from which the bowls are
turned. The turning process to ensure that the profile
specifications are achieved and at all time checking to that the
bowls conform to standards better than those set down by the
licensing and governing bodies of the game - World Bowls Ltd for
Lawn Bowls and the British Crown Green Association for Standard
Jacks. To the engraving of emblems and the painting of them to the
final testing before boxing, the skill work force take a pride in
Drakes Pride have been proud to have been associated with
supplying bowls and accessories for the Commonwealth Games
(Nominated supplier to The Games in Kuala Lumpur 1998,
Manchester 2002, Delhi 2010 and galsgow 2014)) as well as the major
bowls competitions round the World.
The tradition of bowls manufacture started by Joseph Darlington
in 1820 is continuing with the Drakes Pride name as a division of
the family business of E.A. Clare & Son Ltd. with
the fourth generation now involved in the running of the
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London who have the
copyright of The picture by Seymour Lucas depicting Sir Francis
© 2009/2010/2011/2013/2018 - E.A. Clare & Son Ltd. -