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Commonwealth Games Throwback | Edinburgh 1986

With just 50 days to go until the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, we commence our countdown with Bowls International columnist David Rhys Jones sharing his memories of the Games through the decades.

Edinburgh, 1986, was my first real experience of the Commonwealth Games, and I can reveal that it was strange to see Willie Wood queuing up at the turnstiles to gain access to the Balgreen complex as a spectator, watching the world’s best bowlers competing for what was, in effect, his crown. Wood was not allowed to defend his title in his own country, because he had accepted the odd financial prize.

Meanwhile, just down the road at the Meadowbank Stadium, ‘amateurs’ like Seb Coe, Steve Ovett and Daley Thompson were strutting their stuff, having cleverly stashed their cash in trust funds. Ian Dickison won the men’s singles for New Zealand, emerging Aussie Ian Schuback took silver, and a young Scotsman by the name of Richard Corsie bagged bronze.

Wendy Line won the women’s singles for England. A highlight of the event – for me, anyway – came when Her Majesty the Queen knocked Senga McCrone’s hat off as she tried to hang a silver medal around the Scot’s neck.

But it was also the first time most of us had clapped eyes on Margaret Johnston, a recruit from the Irish short mat game, who skipped Freda Elliott to the women’s pairs title.

Scottish duo Grant Knox and George Adrain won the men’s pairs, and Welsh bowlers achieved a rare double when they walked off with the men’s and women’s fours titles. Robert Weale and Will Thomas formed a solid front-end for the men’s four, with Hafod Thomas and Jim Morgan providing the finishing touches, while Linda Evans, Joan Ricketts, Rita Jones and Linda Parker struck gold in the women’s event.

Two years previously, Adrain had caused a bit of a stir when, during the world outdoor championships in Aberdeen, he was called off the substitutes’ bench to replace the injured American Jim Candelet, and had the audacity to partner Skip Arculli to gold on the men’s pairs.

As an aside, Weale also featured in Aberdeen, when, at 21, he was the youngest competitor on the Westburn Park greens. Another 1986 highlight for me was witnessing a PR coup on the part of Taylor Bowls.

I was staying with my BBC colleagues at the Caledonian Hotel, where the Queen stayed overnight on her trip to the Games. It was raining as she made her way from the royal limousine to the hotel lobby, and Taylor Bowls had astutely made a stock of umbrellas available.

On the national news that undoubtedly went worldwide that evening was a lingering shot of the monarch being shielded from the elements by a Taylor Bowls brolly. One up to Taylors!

As we get nearer to the Birmingham 2022 Games, we will be sharing further Commonwealth Games memories from DRJ, along with interviews and features with other Commonwealth Games stars past and present.

Bowls International is the world’s most respected bowling magazine, available monthly in both digital and print formats. A comprehensive Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games supplement is included in July’s issue of Bowls International.

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