The Johns Trophy


The Founder President of the English Women’s Bowling Association, Mrs Clara Johns (Sussex) was a little lady, vivacious with dark twinkling eyes, and a good sense of humour.

Dedicated to the progress of the Association – and no one supported the players better than she did – she never missed an International Series and was one of the first on the stage at the Farewell Party Night.  Her pet song was “Found a Peanut” and at the end produced the peanut which was one of her bowls!

When it was her Silver Wedding Anniversary, her husband asked her what she would like as a present.  Her reply “a piece of silver that we can use as a National Trophy for the girls”.  So that was how the Johns Trophy Inter-County competition was born – and keenly contested every year by all the affiliated counties.

There have been several suggestions over the years to change the rules but her family have been very insistent that it is still played under the guidelines stipulated by Mrs Johns:

  • 24 County badged players plus two badged reserves and on a knock-out basis in the four groups
  • Failure to carry on with these rules will see the Johns Trophy returned to Sussex as requested by the family

Before the finals were played at Royal Leamington Spa, the holders had to take the trophy with them and pass it on to their opponents if they lost!  It is certainly much easier and safer to bring it to Leamington ready for the Presentation and means we have more spectators and support.

This was written by courtesy of Nancie Colling MBE – December 2006

Life Member of the English Women’s Bowling Association and Life Member of World Bowls Limited


Since then of course and with agreement of the family, the Rules have been amended and the Counties play a round-robin competition prior to the finals held at Leamington.


Background to the Walker Cup


“During the summer of 1955 a South African Women’s Team visited our shores and played matches against 28 of our counties as well as visiting Scotland and Wales.  In total our visitors played 36 games winning 28 of them – quite a formidable achievement when the team arrived without one champion!  How did all this come about?  Much of the credit goes to Miss A M Walker, our EWBA President in 1954.  Whilst on a visit to South Africa she set about interesting bowlers out there to form a team to tour England.  Her enthusiasm was infectious and she had a strong supporter in Mrs Betty Friend, the South African Vice-President.  The thirteen districts administering the game from Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to the Cape were asked to contact their clubs so that names of skilled bowlers, interested in the idea, would come forward; and forward they came!


The South Africans arrived and played their first match against Hampshire on 6 June.  They covered counties from Cornwall to Northumberland to Lincolnshire and Kent.  The final game was against the EWBA on 19 August with a 9 shot victory to the South African side.  Miss Walker capped all her efforts towards the tour by donating the Walker Cup to the English Executive for presentation to the South Africans.  Betty Friend asked permission for the cup to be inscribed “South African Tour 1955” and added that South Africa would like an English touring team to visit soon to try and win the trophy back!  Another suggestion was that a visiting team be selected to represent England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland and she urged that Commonwealth tours be considered.


Miss Walker, who married very late in life and became Lady Hall, was a very exceptional woman.  She ran a very large and prosperous transport business in Blaby, Leicestershire.  If there was not a man available to move a lorry, it was nothing for her to jump into the cab and drive it herself!


We understand that she owned quite a lot of property including a bungalow in Bournemouth and a hotel in Llandudno – but more details are not known.


Every year she took all the dustbin men of Leicester and their wives out for the day, a trip she certainly enjoyed.  She also entertained the Councillors of Leicester and their wives for the day but the other outing gave her the most pleasure!


When her housekeeper and companion of many years died, Lady Hall had a new organ installed in her memory

in Blaby Church.


She was a great supporter of the EWBA and President in 1954.  A lady of great charm, always immaculately dressed, beautiful tailored suits, silk shirts, tie with a wonderful diamond tiepin, flat lace-up shoes and a pork pie style of hat.  She once passed the remark that “one could tell she was a square – you only had to look at her clothes!”


At the EWBA Annual Dinner she still wore a tailored suit!  She was a beautiful dancer and spoke to almost everyone who attended, a host in herself.


When she became poorly she had a day and night nurse and was brought in a wheelchair to bowls events.  She eventually went into a nursing home.


Her funeral service took place at Blaby and the County and many friends turned out in force to pay their respects.  One of the “old school”, highly respected and sadly missed.


She was a staunch Conservative and her husband was a Labour Peer!


Regretfully, what happened between the summer of 1955 and 1958 when the Inter County Double Rink Championship was first played we do not know.


Pauline Biddlecombe 2013

(Information obtained from “British Bowls” October 1955 and Mrs Nancie Colling MBE, Hon Secretary of the English Women’s Bowling Association November 1980 – 2002 and Life Member of that Association and Life Member of World Bowls.  Nancie is also a past International Player, Past President of the EWBA (1976) and Past President of the International Women’s Bowling Board (1996).