A potted history of the Derbyshire Individual Merit Competition
Following the formation of the Association on 9th June 1910 it was agreed to hold a competition on the Saturday of the August bank holiday at the Princes Hotel Chinley, four representatives were to be invited to participate from the eight founder clubs, the first Derbyshire Individual Merit competition. Sam Chappell from Royal Oak, Mellor won the competition he was to repeat the success in 1918.
The Princes Hotel, Chinley was again the venue for the 1911 & 1912 competitions, chosen probably for its location, adjacent to the Midland mainline railway to Manchester. In 1911 all the matches were played on The Princes Hotel green, only one round was played on each visit until the last 32 was reached. This involved much travelling especially for the participants from the clubs affiliated that year from South of the County. In order to reduce travelling, qualification for the 1912 competition was split into four sections with eight participants to qualify from each section, the greens being at New Mills, Whaley Bridge, Stapenhill & Wyggeston. Eight valuable prizes were offered, the first being of the value of £8.
The 1913 competition was played at Midland Railway Club, Derby. James Crankshaw from Osmaston defeating George Oldfield from the host club in the final that was concluded on the following Monday evening. As Saturday mornings were very much part of the working week play didn’t commence until the afternoon so a late finish was common. In 1918 at Strines Print Works, Sam Chappell’s second success in the competition, the final concluded at midnight with a white handkerchief held above the jack! No floodlighting in those days.
Qualification for the 1914 competition was further refined, four sections, pro-rata to the number of entries, similar to today. Northern section A, New Mills (12), section B, Chinley (11), Southern section A, Winshill (7) and section B, Wyggeston (2). The winner on this occasion was Walter Bradshaw, Royal Oak, Mellor.
From WW1 until 1927 the vast majority of entries were from the North of the county. In 1928 the Association was re-organised, the North (New Mills / Buxton), the South (Derby / Burton) and the East (Chesterfield). The same year, Lewis's (department stores), Liverpool, Manchester & Birmingham presented silver challenge cups for the County Individual Merit Competitions of Cheshire, Derbyshire and Lancashire. The cups presented to Cheshire and Derbyshire are still presented today. Since 1928 the competition has continued to run with a final day field of either 16 or 32, qualification based pro-rata to the number of each sections total entries. From the late 1960s the final day field has always been 32 with an 11.am start. In 1976 the final day moved from Saturday to Sunday.
The record number of wins in the competition goes to Andy Spragg with six, his three in a row nudging him past Charlie Garside’s long standing record of five wins dating back to 1936. The other outstanding multiple winner was Frank Bagguley who won it four times over a 27 year time span.
In 1991 Dougan Tubey pulled off a unique double when he won both the Derbyshire Senior and Derbyshire Junior Merits in the same year.
Probably the most unwelcome record in the competition is held by Noel Burrows who was runner up five times, although he did manage to win the competition in 1996.
Possibly the most remarkable win came in 2007 when Neil Worthington defeated four Derbyshire All England Champions on his way to the title.
The following players having reached the final stages of the Competition and thus qualifying for the British Crown Green Bowling Association Individual Merit Competition (All England) have won that competition:
1932 Charlie Garside, Fairfield C.C. at Victoria Park, Stafford.
1969 Arthur Johnson, Chesterfield M.W. at Alfred Herberts B.C., Coventry.
1978 Keith Widdowson, Littleover at Rylands Rec. Club, Warrington.
1991 Paul Chamberlain, Stretton Anglesey at Cleckheaton Sports Club, Yorkshire.
2005 Darren Smith, Stretton Anglesey at Roose Cons. Club, Barrow-in-Furness.
2006 Andrew Spragg, Old Whittington at Northenden Social Club, Manchester.
2007 Andrew Spragg, Old Whittington at Penn Fields Bowls Club, Staffordshire.