The Modern Era Top Ten
In 1988 Albany Bowls Club split in two becoming Albany Tile Hill and Albany Butts. We are the latter and when the former became Old Covents, we reverted to being called Albany. While there are plenty of Legends before 1988, here we concentrate on ones from that date; the 'modern era'...
7. John Snelson (Points 49, 7 Aggregates wins, 1 Bill Price, 2 Harry Weston, 1 Other. 1988 - 2003)
8. Dave Snelson (Points 47, 5 Aggregates wins, 1 Bill Price, 1 Harry Weston, 2 Other, 2 Bowler of the Year. 1992 - 2002)
9. Ken Dodwell (Points 31, 3 Bill Price, 2 Others. 1988 - 2000)
10. Les Atkins (Points 30, 2 Aggregates wins, 3(*) Harry Weston, 2 Others. 1988 - 1995)
(*) Harry Weston wins between 1982 and 1987 included
Current Players in top 30: 13. Paul Kelly, 14. Tom Collins, 15. Steve Hine, 20. Damon Naile, 22. Al Checklin, 26. Dave Chater, 30. Tony Winter
Other Notable People
Bill was a dour Lancastrian on the surface but he was a smashing chap who was always keen to help new bowlers. He used to play 19m marks with accuracy but was adaptable when, or should that be if, his opponent got the jack.
He took a break from the game for a couple of years to help look after a friend, this was the mark of the man, but sadly just as he was preparing to come back he passed away in 1992.
Howard regards him as the finest bowler Albany have ever had. Each year we play for the Cup (donated by his family) in his name in a non-handicap (he couldn't abide handicaps) knockout format, 21 up. Simple pure competition, just how he would have liked it. The Bill Price Cup is the most important internal cup we play; the one everyone wants to win and it is an incredibly proud moment to be one of those few
We hope we do justice to the memory of an exceptional bowler and person.
Reg started at Standard before moving to Albany in 1958 where he won the M&B Cup and the CIU merits the folowing year. He was longest serving member of the North Midlands County Team from Albany, playing frequently for the County between 1960 and 1974. He reached the semi-final of the BCGABA Merits final ("the All England") in 1960, won the Wickman Invitational (1967) in a thrilling final against Bill Price (then playing for Rootes) and the North Midlands Senior Merit (1969) before switching to Lime Tree in 1972. There he reached the finals of the BBC 'Top Crown' competition. Before switching to Alvis in 1978.
Unfortunately no Club records are currently known to exist, but it is highly likely that he won aggregates or the Harry Weston Cup in his time. Although he played for other Clubs - Lime Tree and Alvis, two Clubs we still have strong links with - his importance to our Club was evidenced by an Open Cup created in his name in 1986. This ran for ten seasons with his widow (always referred to as Mrs Skidmore - pictured right) presenting the award.
Graham was the last remaining 'founding father' of our modern Club, sadly passing away on the 23rd November 2020. He was a dependable member of the team over the years, and won the Harry Weston Cup in 2013 (in outrageous style I might add), but it is perhaps his contribution behind the scenes which is most remarkable.
Graham started as Club Secretary in 1991 and has since been Chairman, Captain and Competition Secretary but it is surely as Treasurer that he will be most remembered. In 2004 he took on the role in difficult circumstances and carried on doing a fantastic job until he decided to stand down in 2017. He was also Chairman for most of that period and without his dedication, especially during that most difficult period for the Club, I doubt whether we would still exist today.
Graham always did what wass best for the Club and the people associated with it, always there volunteering to help out in everything we do, often to the detriment of his own bowls, and we are grateful that he chose us to bowl for. In the years following his 26 years on the Committee, he let his bowls do his talking. In 2018, he broke our record for longest gap between winning a team Aggregate, coming top in Thursday B just the 28 years after winning Midweek B in 1990.
Whether it was the oversized bowls bag he used, his quasi Australian hat (minus the corks) that he wore on hot days, or the can of Coke he sipped after the game (with his back to the football), he was an absolutely unique individual, in the most fabulous way. He was dependable, dutiful (down to giving the Captain a list of dates he was available at the start of each), ready to give things a go, and just a thoroughly honourable, lovely person. He also had a seemingly limitless and encyclopaedic knowledge of the of the history and development of crown green bowls in and around the city, and this, together with his record keeping, has keep our history alive to this day.
And we will repay all that he did by keeping his memory alive.
George fell in love with bowls in 1913 while visiting Yarmouth. After this he played for the Liberal Club and helped found the Kenilworth & Warwick League, becoming it's first Chairman.
He joined us when we were still Rover in 1929, playing in the Thursday League and managed to go through his first two seasons only losing three games (and then to 20 and 19 twice!). He helped Rover to the title in 1930, ironically against the Liberal Club in a play off at The Gas, won the merit competition and in 1933 won the League Averages.
He was President of Coventry & District Thursday League in 1936, the same year we became Albany Social. He continued in the role until 1939.
After the war, George did not continue to be involved in bowls. It is not known why, but given his love for the game, one possibly reason is an injury sustained during the Blitz. He died, aged 69 in June 1952. He was a fine bowler; in his prime he played the very best bowlers in Coventry, very rarely losing home or away, and helped promote our sport tirelessly.
Frutos Manuel Fernandez Montez, or Monty as we knew him, was born and grew up in the same village as the later Dictator Franco and knew him, although not of the same age by several years. In later years and due to the political changes in Spain, Monty found himself in a rebel 'army' strongly opposed to Franco. Under this regime, at the age of 14, he was arrested and thrown into one of Franco’s fouler jails. Here he had to learn to survive by his own hands, with food being supplied to the cell and not to individuals. This lifestyle was the roots of his later behaviour beloved in the folk tales.
After he left the jail he joined the Republican army opposed to Franco, but decided to leave Spain, making his way to England where he joined the army achieving the rank of sargent.
Graham first encountered him when he was working for Morris Motors (BMC) at Courthouse Green, where he played, and was surprised at how little respect was shown to him by junior bowlers. Later encounters had similar results with many bowlers knowing how to wind him up by suggesting he 'took a holiday to Spain'. A cruel jibe indeed as Monty could not return to his beloved homeland as the Franco regime still had a price on his head.
With the death of Franco and the return of King Carlos as head of government in 1975 a full amnesty was declared. This meant Monty was able to return to Spain for holiday, the first times to visit his dad and dance on Franco's grave, and later could even enjoy government subsidised holidays for pensioners. Ray Hancox, another bowler became good friends with Monty, due in part of a joint love of Spanish holidaying. Ray took a caravan to Spain early season and went as often he could during the summer. Ray and his wife, invited Monty to join him in the caravan and they did this for several years.
He was a long time member of the local Labour Party and received and attended an invitation for tea and biscuits with Tony Blair in 10 Downing Street. Dave Chater (Albany's Chair) remembers Monty fondly; "He told me when he finished playing [football] he became a referee in the local leagues. I looked at him and realised that he had once sent me off for arguing with him about yet another crap decision. Easily the worst ref who ever wore the black! Loved this guy to bits."
He retired from bowls at the end of the 2002 season with a decent record for us, but unfortunately his mental health started to decline, suffering flashbacks to his time in jail when he was just a child. Back when he was first imprisoned, he only survived being put before a firing squad due to his age. Had he been two years older he too might be lying in Valle de los Caídos, the monument to those who died in the brutal Spanish Civil War. He was in his nineties when he died and a fair number of bowlers attended his funeral.
Monty was a very knowledgeable and interesting man, with an astonishing life story but permanently scarred by the turmoil of the Spanish Civil War. It is unlikely we will ever meet anyone quite like him again.