Ulster Transport Bowling and Tennis Club was formed in 1944 as the LMS Bowling Club and shared the bowling green at Grove Park in Belfast.
At the end of the Second World War, the club’s members approached the LMS to ask for financial assistance to help provide a private bowling green, tennis courts and a clubhouse for the staff of the company. This was agreed to and work began on the facilities almost immediately.
Commenting on the club’s early years, secretary Liz Jones said: “The full name of the club is Ulster Transport Bowling and Tennis Club and we’re situated at Lynda Avenue in Jordanstown. The land where we are situated belonged to farmer Johnny Jenkins and talks began to purchase the land. The Jenkins family still have ties to Ulster Transport to this day with his grandsons John and Trevor Hanvey both active members of the club. John is also a past president of the club.
“In 1946 the tennis courts were opened and July 1948 saw the opening of the bowling green by Lord Masserene and Mrs F A Pope. With the advent of the newly formed Ulster Transport Authority, the club changed its name and all employees were able to join. At that time membership fees were deducted from their wages. From 1971 membership was open to all.”
Developments have occurred during the club’s existence, including the formation of a ladies’ section.
Liz explained: “The club has grown over the years, with improvements being made to the clubhouse and bowling green and still is an ongoing process. Unfortunately, the tennis courts have disappeared and the area is now a car park.
“The ladies’ section was formed in 1965 and they were known as Jordanstown Ladies BC, but this was integrated into the main club in 1990 as up until that time ladies could not become full members.”
Detailing the club’s involvement in competitions, Liz stated: “UTBC are affiliated to the Northern Ireland Private Green League (NIPGL) and Irish Bowling Association (IBA) and Northern Ireland Women’s Private Greens League (NIWPGL).
“During the bowling season we field three teams in the NIPGL senior team, junior team and midweek. Two teams participate in the Veterans’ League and the women play in the Senior Division of the NIWPGL.
“We have 100 bowling members and a thriving associate membership. Under 18s can join the club as a ‘Junior Member.’
“We also participate in various cup competitions run by the governing bodies and club competitions. Open days are also held throughout the season and these are very well supported.”
Throughout the club’s almost eight decades as part of the Newtownabbey community, success has been had both on the bowling green as well as in terms of members reaching esteemed levels of office in the sport’s governing body.
Liz continued: “Over the years honours have come to the club in various competitions. We’ve been the winners of the PGL Senior Cup on two occasions.
“We’ve also had many PGL champions in competitions held every season. A number of club members have represented the club as full Irish internationals, including Paul Daly and Brendan Thompson. U25 internationals Stephen McKinley and David Coulter and Ladies internationals Margaret Hanvey (daughter of Johnny Jenkins who sold the club the land) and Roberta Tinsley.
“David Irvine joined the club in 1954 and held club presidency in 1976 and 2014. He was also honorary secretary 1989-1995. He was honorary competitions secretary for PGL for over 20 years and also served on the council of the IBA.
“This year club member Peter McKnight will be president of the PGL and this will mean many representative matches, cup finals and championships will be held at Ulster Transport during his presidency. Anne Phillips is also honorary treasurer of the NIWPGL. In 1982 the late Meta Wilson was president of the WIBA.”
As with many sporting and community organisations across the province, the club’s activities were curtailed at the height of Coronavirus restrictions.
Liz explained: “Covid-19 meant we were closed 60 per cent of the time since March 2020, but during the summer outdoor bowls could take place in 2020 and 2021 with mitigations in place. Members contiued to pay their dues, even with limited use of the club.
“Indoor bowls are played during the winter and we compete in two leagues, but for the past two years all league and cup competitions have been put on hold.”
The community-orientated club is much more than just a sporting body, with a lively range of social activities provided too.
Liz said: “As well as bowling, we have a lively social side to the club, Quiz Nights, bingo, line dancing, live music on a Saturday night, snooker and pool, although these activities have been limited due to the Covid pandemic. Bar meals are also served on a Saturday evening. We have a large function hall for larger club events and we also hire it out for parties, wedding receptions, society meetings and dance classes.”
As restrictions ease and full activities return, the club is hopeful of attracting more members, particularly young people.
Explaining the club’s aspirations for the year ahead, Liz concluded: “This coming year we’re hoping to encourage new members particularly younger bowling members. We are also hoping to undertake an upgrade of our lounge bar. Since 1948 the club has evolved with many improvements, thanks to the foresight of many people. We hope to continue this process for future generations, so onwards and upwards.”
Anyone interested in membership is asked to email [email protected]