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Bowls On Wheels – National honour for Peter Bradshaw

When visiting an indoor bowls club, you may have spotted a contraption with wide, drum-like wheels parked in a corner, and wondered what it could be. Chances are itโ€™s a Bradshaw Bowls Buggy, which enables wheelchair bowlers to play on equal terms with their able-bodied friends and rivals.

In the 1980s, people in wheelchairs played a very restricted game. They played off hardboard platforms, normally on an end rink, and were often expected to play in just one direction. The arrival of the BBB gave them the freedom of the green.

The man who invented, designed, developed and manufactured the buggy was Peter Bradshaw, who made more than 1,000 of them at his home in Portishead, near Bristol. An art teacher at Gordano Comprehensive School for more than 30 years, he is now 84, and recently gave up making buggies.

Peterโ€™s unique contribution to the sport of bowls was recognised in July, when, in an upbeat ceremony at the Association of Portishead Bowls Clubs, attended by a full clubhouse of spectators, the ingenious inventor was presented with a service of merit award by Peter Thompson, the CEO of the English Indoor Bowling Association.

Bowls International correspondent David Rhys Jones says: โ€œAs a longstanding friend of Peter โ€“ we first met in 1963, and were teaching colleagues for more than 20 years โ€“ I claim some credit, because I introduced him to bowls!โ€

DRJ adds: โ€œJust a few weeks later, Peter met a bowler in a wheelchair, and noted that he was being denied the chance to play the proper game. He immediately promised to design a bowls chair for Doctor David Peacock, who was secretary of the Northavon Indoor Bowls Club in Thornbury.โ€

The good doctor was sceptical โ€“ he had heard such suggestions before โ€“ but the enterprising art teacher, who had the mind of an engineer, came up trumps. And, after several experimental attempts at building a chair, the Bradshaw Bowls Buggy was born.

Ian Blackmore, president of the British Wheelchair Bowls Association (BWBA), whose video tribute to Peter was played at the award ceremony, said: โ€œIt was a game-changer. At last, people in wheelchairs could play the game properly with virtually no concessions being made.โ€

Ian added: โ€œI bought my buggy in 1990, and itโ€™s still going strong. These days, most indoor clubs in the UK now have at least one Buggy for the use of visitors. Many wheelchair bowlers enter national competitions and some have even won national titles. Others have joined the Professional Bowls Association to bid for places on World Bowls Tour events.โ€

So, how did Peter react to getting his award?

โ€œThe usual Friday lunchtime session had been billed as โ€˜a special event,โ€™โ€ he said. โ€œI was wondering what we had in store, but couldnโ€™t believe it when my name was mentioned. Bowled over? โ€“ I was quite overwhelmed.โ€

Peter was quick to give credit to his wife Annie, who helped him every step of the way. โ€œIt wasnโ€™t just me,โ€ he insisted. โ€œThere were other people involved in the project who helped me turn a dream into a reality โ€“ and itโ€™s heart-warming to see how it all turned out.โ€


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