The following was prepared for the 75th anniversary of the Club in 1986.
In 1911 Malvern was a thriving suburb enjoying considerable prosperity. It was declared a city in March of that year, and the tramline along Dandenong Road was opened. There was talk of constructing another line along Glenferrie Road to link Malvern and Kew.
A bowling green (probably the first in Victoria) had been put down in 1862, beside the Gardiner Hotel at the corner of Dandenong and Glenferrie Roads; but this was mainly for the benefit of “gentlemen who are desirous of practice at cricket, bowls or pigeon shooting” and who were patrons of the hotel.
The first club in Victoria was the Melbourne Bowling Club which began in 1864 at Windsor with 182 members.
A number of prominent Malvern citizens decided to form a club, but little progress was made until the Hon. F. Hagelthorn gave a portion of his land, known as the Coonil Estate, for the use of the club. This generous gift enabled the club to provide a green and a pavilion and on 20 October 1911 the Malvern Bowling Club was given official registration as a club with its own Constitution.
The first committee consisted of the following: F. Hagelthorn (President), C S Clarke (Hon. Sec.), E Potts (Hon. Treasurer), L J Flannagan, W H Mclennan (Vice-Presidents), J Madder, T R H Willis, C A Norris and Dr Lee.
It was stated in the First Annual Report that the committee had held 42 meetings.
The club began with 119 members and the annual subscription was two guineas. At the first Annual General Meeting of the Club on 14th February 1912, the President reported that “a handsome and commodious pavilion has been erected at a cost of £402”. He specially thanked VP Leonard Flanagan (an architect) for the planning and supervision of its construction. It was intended that a billiard room be added later.
The Club joined the then Victorian Bowling Association and entered one team for pennant and tied with the Brighton Club for second place in the section.
The following report appeared in “The Prahran Telegraph, with which are incorporated the St Kilda Advertiser and the Malvern Argus” on Saturday 2nd December 1911.
Malvern Bowling Club
The pretty green in Coonil Estate belonging to the Malvern Bowling Club was opened on Saturday last by Mr J Murray (Premier) assisted by Mr W A Watt, Miss Janette Murray, daughter of the Premier, sent up sent up the jack, and Mrs W A White rolled up the first ball [sic] which was one of a pair afterwards presented by the members of the club to their first president, Mr F Hagelthorn MLC. The presentation was made by Mr Leonard Flanagan, Vice President and Hon. Architect to the club. The handsome pavilion was much admired during the afternoon. Mr Simon Nathan (President of the Victorian Bowling Association) made a short speech and, admidst cheers, ran the club flag up the pole on the pavilion and hoped the VBA pennant would someday be there also. The visitors were then invited across the road to partake of refreshments at “Mangoplan”, the town residence of the President. About 400 assembled on the spacious lawns. Mr JM Davis MLC, Sir Frank and Lady Madden, Mr Kelly(VP of the VBA) and others were also present, as well as a great number of prominent bowlers from other clubs. The latter afterwards formed themselves into rinks, and had a pleasant time on the new green, the verdict, from a bowler’s point of view, being “very good for a young ‘un”. A strong band was present, which added to the pleasure of the guests.
As we turn back the pages of the years we note people and events that have been important in the story of our club.
The first President and first Life Member of the club was the Hon. F Hagelthorn MLC. He was a man who rose from humble beginnings to a responsible ministerial position in the Victorian Parliament. He was born in 1864 at Sebastopol and after leaving school at 14 worked as a “whim boy” at the gold mine. After a few years he had saved enough to start a small general store. He prospered and built up a large and successful business as a land agent with headquarters in Horsham. He had a lifelong interest in the Mallee and Wimmera and on entering the Parliament worked hard to help the wheat farmers of these regions. In 1913 he became Minister for Public Works, but retired from Parliament six years later. Frederick Hagelthorn was a man of great integrity and honesty and was widely respected. The late Sir Robert Menzies said of him “I honour the name of a great Australian”. His home “Mangoplan” was situated where Cabrini Hospital now stands. He lived there until 1920 but moved away from Malvern and died in 1943.
In 1912 the club membership rose to 141 but then declined until 1918 when it was 76. For the next 20 years it remained at about 80 members. In 1920 the pavilion was extended to include a billiard room and two billiard tables were purchased. Electric lights were installed over the green. Six lamps at a total cost of £87:10/- were put up. Wednesday games were started. Annual subscriptions were raised to 3 guineas. The following year, 1921, Malvern was selected as the green for an interstate game. The 1920s saw the beginning of visits to other clubs as far afield as Mount Gambier, Albury and Wangaratta. What was described in the Annual Report by the President Mr LEP Moran as one of the most delightful and memorable days in the history of the Malvern Bowling Club was 18 November 1925 when Malvern acted as hosts to 25 members of a visiting British team, the first to visit Australia. 150 members and friends gathered to play or watch in delightful weather. The visitors won by five points.
In 1933 Mr AR Burns was elected Vice President and the following year became President. No history of the Malvern Bowling Club would be complete without reference to the great contribution to the club made by A R (Bob) Burns. In 1938 he became Club Secretary, and retained that position for 34 years. He was club champion in 1939/40 and for several years was Green Director. Up until the time of his death he retained his great interest in the club to which he was so devoted.
The club champion in 1935/36 was FW (Frank) Clark. He was to win the championship 15 times, the last being in 1969/70. For 35 years Frank Clark was the outstanding bowler in the club and he had a great record as Captain of the No. 1 pennant team. In the 1937/38 season the team captained by Frank Clark in Division 2 played 17 matches and was undefeated with 199 shots up, a result unequalled by any other side in the competition. In addition to his prowess as a bowler, he was a great coach and many players benefited from his knowledge of the game. He will be remembered with respect as a bowler and man.
The year 1959 was a very significant one because in that year, ladies were admitted to the club as Associate Members. The first president of the associates was Mrs G Kerry. Mrs A K Anderson was the first Hon. Secretary and the first Lady Club Champion was Mrs AW Thomas. With the coming of the ladies the club entered upon a new phase. Not only were we now able to enjoy the company of the ladies on the green but their enthusiastic support has been of tremendous value to the club in ever so many ways.
Also in 1959 a major project was undertaken in the rebuilding of the clubhouse and the new premises were officially opened in August 1961. Over the years much work has been done to improve the green and the club amenities and today we have a club of which we can all be proud.
Whilst acknowledging the achievements of the past 75 years we look forward confidently to the future and many more happy days of good bowling in the years ahead.