Albany Legends

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'...

1. Ken Fowler (96 points, 11 Aggregate wins, 5 Bill Price, 1 Harry Weston, 6 Bowler of the Year)

Most likely to be seen: On holiday

Years Active: 2001 - 

Modest and brilliant in equal measures, Ken is a stalwart of the Albany Bowling Club; a one Club bowler.

He started bowling in 2001 and quickly made an impression. The early years saw an epic battle with the then best Club bowler Howard before between 2004 and 2007 he won pretty much everything. After that followed further battles with the new generation against Scott and Steve Hine but after 2010 it seemed that maybe the glory days were in the past.

He proved this notion false, and with some style. He won the Thursday aggregates in 2012, the doubles in 2013, the Bill Price in 2015 and Harry Weston for the first time in 2017 playing the Quarters, Semis and Final back to back. He is still rightly regarded as one of our best bowlers, winning well over 70% of all his league matches. If you watch him play a match you'd be hard pushed to tell from his body language whether he was winning or losing, but personally I'd always put my money on the former.

In fact since 2001, he has only failed to pick up at least one honour in three years; 2008 (3rd overall), 2011 (2nd overall) and 2016. His tally of five Bill Price victories, six Bowler of the Year awards, five Midweek A Aggregates and six Thursday Aggregates (five of those in a row) is a benchmark that will stand for many, many years. Legend.

2. Howard Tucker (88 points, 15 Aggregates wins, 2 Harry Weston, 5 Bowler of the Year)

Nickname: H-Bomb

Years Active: 1990 - 2018

Whether it was on the green or while recanting one of his many outlandish tales of his youth, Howard was a complete legend. His exploits on the green are legion; Bowler of the Year five years on the trot between 1999 and 2003, our most capped player with well over 1000 matches and he holds the most Sunday A aggregate wins (four). His favourite mark is affectionally known as Howard's Way - and no-one bowled it better.

No-one has won more team aggregates than Howard; the first of the 15 came in 1991 with the most recent being 2017. He was a prime example of why this sport is so great; what you might lose a little of with age can be cancelled out by green knowledge and nous. And few had more of that than Howard.

Sadly Howard passed away on the 9th February 2020, taken from us far too soon. He was a kind, generous and gentle soul who helped and entertained us in equal measure. His shout of "Now you're bowling!" was a perfect pick me up to those on the green. His ultra competitive but good natured affable manner meant that everyone knew Howard, and every one who knew him loved him. The one word that keeps cropping up from those who knew him from within or outside our Club is 'gentleman'. He was a fine bowler yes, but a finer person. It was a privilege to know him; we will miss him dearly.

3. Dave Lanchbury (68 points, 11 Aggregates wins, 3 Harry Weston (*), 2 Others)

Years Active: 1988 - 1995

Between 1988 and 1995 Dave went on a rampage, accumulating 11 A team aggregates, two Harry Weston victories, a doubles title and also the Reg Skidmore Memorial Cup. He never won the Bill Price, although he was runner up in the first edition of the cup in 1993. 
 

4. Martin Ingram (Points 66, 10 Aggregates wins, 1 Bill Price, 1 Harry Weston, 4 Bowler of the Year)

Years Active: 2012 -

Martin was lured from the 'other' code of bowls and played in the final game of the 2012 season. This marked the start of an unbeaten home run of a year, and so much more. 2013 saw him take the first of three Mid-Week Aggregates and the following year a run of four straight Thursdays. To top it off he won the Harry Weston followed by the Bill Price in 2016, completing an Albany Grand Slam in less than four years. He also found the time to marshal the Sunday A team to D1 and the Mid-Week A to D2 as Captain.

Known for his Andy Murray-esque bursts of frustration at himself, he has arguably been our best bowler since 2014. He is also our only Captain to marshal a team to the top flight of a league. Thrice.

5. Scott Crowther (63 Points, 6 Aggregates wins, 4 Bill Price, 1 Harry Weston, 4 Bowler of the Year

Years Active: 2005 -

Drinks: Mild

Snack: Malt Loaf

Scott doesn't get much time on the green as bowls comes a distant second to his young family, but when he does you better watch out. His tally of four Bill Prices is only bettered by Ken and he has now won it back to back not once but twice. As well as the six Aggregates, he's also picked up seven runners up spots, often playing fewer games than the winners. Add to that he has won over 73% of his games for us and you can see how it easy to suggest he one the finest bowlers to have graced our Club this Century, and possibly longer.

While all this is important, Scott's main drive is to keep the sport moving and ensure it is still there for his kids to play. It's safe to say that if fate hadn't delivered him to the Club in 2005 (Coundon rejected him and sent him to us - we will always love them for that!), Albany would not exist now. Not only do we have more members than we have had in decades, many of those bowlers are enjoying Crown because of one of Scott's initiatives. He is an absolute legend both on and off the green.

6. Wal Pashley (Points 57, 5 Aggregates wins, 1 Bill Price, 4 Harry Weston, 3 Others)

Years Active: 1988 - 1995

It's safe to say Wal loved The Butts green where we played until the end of 1995, bagging four Harry Weston Cup victories between 1989 and 95. No-one else has won more than two! He also played for Coundon until 2012.

Please reload

 
 

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 Price

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 Skidmore

Mrs Skidmore presenting the last winner (Liam Bench) of the Reg Skidmore Cup

Reg was longest serving member of the North Midlands County Team from Albany. He played frequently for the County between 1960 and 1967 and reached the semi-final of the BCGABA Merits final ("the All England") in 1960. 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. His importance to the Club was evident as we started an Open Cup in his name in 1986. This ran for ten seasons with his widow (always referred to as Mrs Skidmore - pictured left) presenting the award.

 
 

Graham Burden

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.

Monty

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.

​​

B46 1 3.jpg

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.