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MBE for Maggy, who ‘fights hard to ensure that opportunities exist for all’

Margaret Smith, who has been involved in disability bowls for more than 25 years in significant and influential roles that have had worldwide impact, has been awarded an MBE.

She was so shocked that she initially thought it was a scam when she found out she had been named in the Queen’s honours list.

Margaret said: “It was the beginning of COVID when people had started working from home I had a call from a young lady saying she was from the Cabinet Office and she wanted my email address. No explanation.

“I was a bit puzzled and wondered if I’d done the right thing giving my details out without know what for. 

“I think normally you would receive an official letter through the post but of coarse due to COVID everything was done by email.

“It was difficult to keep it quiet, although I found it awkward telling people after it was announced! For all of my ‘outgoing’ personality, I am basically quite shy! 

“My husband knew because I had told him about the email and thinking it was a scam.

“Then the first person I rang was Kath Smith from Gedling IBC as she was the only person I could think of that may have nominated me, as remembered her asking me some questions way back, about my early involvement in disability bowls. It turned out not to be Kath but Bob Love, one of our DBE members who did the nomination. 

“I then rang Mo Monkton, Steve Watson from DBE and Shirley Hughes OBE. Shirley is a long standing friend from CP Sport.

“Sadly, the only close family we have left now are our two grandsons Jamie, 18 and Nathan, 22 who have both helped at the disability bowling events in the past pushing wheelchairs etc. 

“They, ‘ being young’ aren’t really clued up on such awards and wanted know if they had to bow in my presence. My husband wanted to know if I would get a ‘pension’ Ha Ha !

“I have had lot’s of lovely emails and some beautiful flowers.”

Margaret says her greatest achievements include seeing bowlers with disability integrated into and accepted by clubs both indoors and out.

She said: “For many years this wasn’t the case.

“Another great moment was being part of the support/coach team for the GB Bowls Squad in the Paralympic Games in Atlanta in 1996.  We brought back six of the seven Gold medals, three silver and two bronze. 

“Sadly, when the team went out there to compete we knew this would be the last time bowls would be included in the Paralympics.”

Margaret was also part of the working party who set up and formed International Bowls for the Disabled and she was voted by the nations into the position of Vice President .

At the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002 she was appointed Technical Officer for the Disability Bowls event by IBD and also appointed by Tony Allcock to the England team of bowlers with disability.

In England, she has been responsible for getting the different disability specific sports groups to bring together their bowls squads to form Disability Bowls England, initially for communication, training and competition purposes both at a domestic and international level.

Margaret said: “There have been many things I have done which I would never would have imagined I would do when I first started out. I am not an academic person but, I am a ‘DOER’ and bowlers used to say to me , ‘We have never done’ whatever and I would reply, ‘okay, let’s do it’ and that’s always been my philosophy ‘ If it’s needed and not happening , then make it happen.’”

Margaret has always loved sport, competing in netball and athletics at school while her husband loved cricket.

She recalled: “I played netball into my thirties and gave up after a bad knee injury. 

“Our children had grown up and we were looking for something we could do together. There was a bowling club close to where we lived and so we had a stroll round to see what it was all about. 

“It turned out that my very first boss June Cash and her husband Bill were the club presidents and welcomed us with open arms. This was in about 1984. We were hooked! In 1987 Gedling IBC was built and we joined the following year. 

“A couple of years after that I noticed a group of bowlers with cerebral palsy playing and offered to help push wheelchairs etc. “At that time, we had to put sheets of hardboard down for the wheelchairs to stand on whilst they delivered the bowls, there were no ‘special’ bowling chairs with broad wheels. 

“We had to take the bowlers off the green, wheel along the side and then back on to the boards at the other end. 

“This group used to come to Gedling three or four times a year to get together as CP Sport main office was based in Nottingham and all of the sports groups would come along to train, athletics, football, boccia, swimming and bowls.

“This was the beginning for me!

“Bowls is the most inclusive sport that I can think of. Anyone can play.

“You can compete with and against anyone irrelevant of age, gender and disability, you can play at any level depending on your ability. It’s a great social pastime and played by usually, lovely people!

“Bowls is good for mind and body and social interaction.

“The fact that disability bowls is seen to be worthy of such an award as this should endorse this as a ‘Sport for All’ and hopefully, bowls participation will grow.

“I would like to thank my husband for his patience and support over the years. Without that I couldn’t have done everyhting that I have.

“Also, I would like to thank Gedling IBC for their help on and off of the green with all of the disability events we have run over the many years including national, home nations and International events. The band of helpers we have there are great!”

Bob Love, who put in the application for the MBE for Margaret, said: “Maggy has been organiser, fundraiser and administrator for many competitions regionally, nationally and internationally. 

“In 2012 she was awarded the Order of Merit by the International Bowls for the Disabled, the governing body for disabled bowlers, (first international award of the organisations) 

“She was the Disability Bowls Co-ordinator for the England Bowls Team for the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002. Maggy is one of those, often, unsung people who, despite their own personal problems continue to thrive to provide high quality competitions for bowlers with a disability.  

“She fights hard to ensure that opportunities exist for all, irrespective of impairment, individual circumstances and backgrounds and she will never settle for second best. She is one of the most respected people and this award is proof of her never ending commitment to this great sport of ours.”

Steve Watson, Disability Bowls England Chairman said: “We at the DBE Charity Trust and everyone involved with Disability Sport around the world are very proud that Maggy has been awarded the MBE in the Queens honours list and to use her own words, ‘She felt very proud  that she was nominated by a Disability Bowls player to say thank you for all the hard work and time that her and husband Colin have given to our sport over the past 35 years.’

“Maggy has been the heart and soul for Disability Bowls and the driving force behind the formation of Disability Bowls England for bowls to become an inclusive ‘Sport for All’ at all levels of the game.

 ‘When I took over as Chairman of DBE back in May the first person I turned to help and advice was Maggy for her wealth of knowledge about disability bowls, classifications procedures and how best to run a competition is second to none. 

“Maggy has decided to step down as secretary of the DBE after 16 years in post and will remain as a Trustee of the Charity Trust, but more importantly, She will always be the matriarch for disabled bowlers young and old around the world.”