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Tribute to David Bryant-from his old friend David Rhys Jones

BORN 27 October, 1931 – DIED 26 August, 2020

Bowlers everywhere will be saddened to learn that David John Bryant, CBE, an iconic figure in the sport of bowls, passed away in a Care Home in Clevedon (Somerset) yesterday.

He was universally recognised as the greatest bowls player who ever lived.
Clevedon was the town where he was born and bred, and where he took up bowls as a teenager in the 1940’s. And it was as a member of the Clevedon Bowls Club at the top of Chapel Hill that he amassed the vast number of trophies at international level.

He won the world outdoor singles title three times, the world outdoor triples title once, and claimed five gold medals (four of them in the singles) at the Commonwealth Games between 1962 and 1980. He also teamed up with Tony Allcock, who recently retired as CEO of Bowls England, to win the world indoor pairs title six times.

At national level, he was England singles champion outdoors on six occasions, and won the England indoor singles title nine times. He also won the national outdoor fours title four times, the triples and pairs three times apiece.

He was awarded the MBE in 1969, and the CBE in 1980, but perhaps the honour that he most treasured came when he was installed as Pipeman of the Year. Even millions of people who know nothing about bowls, but who caught a glimpse of the sport on TV in the 1980’s, will remember him affectionately as ‘The Man with the Pipe’.

A keen fisherman, rose-grower, and a dedicated family man, David Bryant enthusiastically endorsed the idea that bowls is a sport with high standards of behaviour, was well known for his good sportsmanship, and, when he lost, always did so with grace.

David is survived by his wife Ruth, his two daughters Jackie and Carol, and by a number of grandchildren and great grandchildren.The words ‘legend’ and ‘end of an era’ are often over-used, but they certainly apply in this case: there was only one David Bryant, and his passing will send shock waves through the sport of bowls.

On a personal level, as someone who was fortunate to play alongside the great man for almost thirty years, I owe David a great deal, and feel truly blessed to have known him and to have counted him as a friend. I will miss him, and the world of bowls will never be the same without him.