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Brief History of Short Mat Bowling

The origins of short mat bowls remains unproven but the most feasible explanation is that it started in Northern Ireland. The story is that short mat bowling came about in 1926 when, on a rainy day, the members of the Victoria Bowling Club in Belfast found refuge in the Strand Presbyterian Church Hall. A couple of people began to roll their woods on the bare floor, soon others joined in and someone suggested that a piece of carpet would improve play.

A 1929 photograph, shows the Presbyterian Minister at Ballymacarret bowling a wood along a piece of carpet, giving credence to their claim to be the first short mat bowling club. There appears to be no reliable evidence of any development towards the game we know today, until after World War II.

Records show a growth of short mat bowls clubs throughout Northern Ireland. Belfast was the stronghold but following establishment of the first Northern Ireland league in 1951, other leagues formed from 1954 to 1961. Each league appears to have had its own set of rules, including width of carpet, fenders and markings.

By 1961, the growth of short mat bowling in Ireland demanded its recognition as a sport. Representatives from the clubs attended a meeting and selected a committee to formulate a set of rules for the conduct of the sport. Today we play by rules, which hardly vary from the original.

By 1984, there were enough short mat clubs in England to warrant forming an assoctian to govern the sport. On 10th March, representatives met in London and the English Short Mat Bowling Association was created.

The ESMBA held its first full meeting in April 1984; all clubs and players wishing to play in county league, national and international competitions must be affiliated to and play under ESMBA rules.

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