Bainfield's Illustrious History


John Wilson - Club President 1984

A CLUB IS BORN 1924 to 1984

Although now Bainfield is a Bowling and Social Club, the origin of the Club did not stem from bowling but another well-known sport-football.

In 1919, a young man by the name of Gibby Nicholson formed a football team and named it Edinburgh Bainfield Football Team. The team entered into the Juvenile League and in season 1920-21 won the Walker and Cowan Cups. Who would have thought at that time of the honours that lay ahead for members of a Club called Bainfield, whether in football or other sports.

The name of the Club was taken from the house and surrounding fields owned by a James Bain who in 1729 is recorded as the Deacon of the Society & Fraternity of Gardeners in Gardeners Hall. He owned the lands surrounding his House (which stood until about 1882) now the site of the Fountainbridge Library. Prior to forming the team, Gibby and his friends would play football on these fields. The fields was situated in the Fountainbridge area of Edinburgh near Murdoch Terrace and the surrounding district was known as BAINSFIELD. Obviously, times change, and the site is now occupied by Scottish & Newcastle Breweries.

It is a fact that the now well-known football teams of Hearts and Hibs played a league match on this very ground prior to obtaining Tynecastle Park and Easter Road. It is also a fact that a well-known member of Bainfield and an Ex-President of the S.l.B.A. was actually at the game; although he does not recall the score, he assures me that Hearts won convincingly! The member's name has not been disclosed simply to prevent him being swamped by autograph hunters and possibly giving away his age!!!

A photograph of the football team was given to the Club which shows them winning the Cup in 1920. This photograph is a proud possession and it has at least two Founder Members in it along with the first President of Bainfield Bowling Club, MR. J. ALLISON. The two Founder Members, W. McKay and W. McKenzie still frequent the Club to this day. The President at that time was JIM McKay whose daughter is at present a member of the Ladies Section. This may give some indication of what Bainfield Bowling Club is-a Family Club with at least three generations of involvement by quite a few families.

In 1924, members of the football team knowing they were entering the age of being 'old men' in the football world, decided to form a bowling club. This was a shrewd move to come from football as 'old men' and enter bowling as 'young men'. From this it can only be said that bowling was never 'an old man's game'.

The Bainfield Bowling and Recreation Club was, therefore, founded in 1924. For reasons unknown to myself, Recreation was changed to Social and the Club is known to this day as Bainfield Bowling and Social Club.

The best known of the Founder Members are W McKay, W McKenzie D. Reith and the man who started it all, Gibby Nicholson, who I am sorry, to say died in 1984. Messrs. McKay, McKenzie and Reith, who passed on in the later years, would have been quite proud and glad they,' decided to play' bowls. Recorded in the First Minute book of the Club on 19th August 1924 are the Founder Members. G F Nicholson, Wm. McKenzie, Wm. Hall, Alex Strachan, John McNee, Wm. Cockburn, David Reith, Wm. McKay, John S McKay, Jas Mitchell, Wm. Murray, George Edwards, Wm. Manegie, Wm. Bakie, D Cumming, Jas Chapman, Andrew Geissler, Robert McKay, A Nisbet, Thos Short, C Fraser, T Stirling, J A McKay, Wm. King, H Cameron, George Barclay, J Greenhill, Jas Allison, J Farquhar, Henry Scrimger.

The first clubhouse occupied by the Club was situated at Harrison Park a public bowling green and hut occupied by the local Council. Through the years that followed, membership increased, meetings were held where premises could be found-places such as Dundee Street Public Library at Fountainbridge and the Keir Hardie Hall at Bryson Road. Funds for the running of the Club were raised through membership fees, whist drives, dominoes and cards-if there was a way to raise money, they tried it. As membership increased, it was obvious that other premises had to be obtained-grounds of their own and a clubhouse.

Wheels were set in motion, various sites were looked at but none was suitable. In 1951, the site at Hutchison Crossway was inspected but the vacant site at that time was not considered suitable for construction purposes due to the type of sub soil; but who wanted to build-all that was required was a bowling green and possibly a small clubhouse for changing.

With this in mind, the land was purchased at a total cost of £4O quite a reasonable sum. At the time of purchase, their neighbours were Cox's Glue Works and, depending on which way the wind was blowing would ascertain whether you enjoyed a game of bowls or not! Maybe this was another reason for obtaining the ground so cheaply.

The land was overgrown with plant life and had to be cleared. That's when members had to play their part. Money was tight, voluntary labour was absolutely essential. Clear it they did, a Green was laid and the first clubhouse was obtained.

The first clubhouse was an old building site hut approximately 16ft. x 8ft purchased from Burn & Baillie, the plumbers. The Treasurer at that time was Willie Thompson, a plumber with the firm. Willie was later to become the owner and a very strong link in a chain of men who were soon to provide the west of Edinburgh with a new indoor bowling stadium.

The clubhouse, small as it was, became a locker room for bowls, a games room, function hall and kitchen. The heating used for this new clubhouse was an old iron stove situated in the centre with a steel chimney through the roof. As a locker room, it had enough storage for members' bowls. As a games room, members would play cards and dominoes. (Snooker was not allowed). As a kitchen, pies were placed on old biscuit tin lids and heated on the old stove. They were then sold to members. As a function hall, the ladies at that time actually held a Burns Supper within the hut.

Although from such a small beginning it would be reasonable to assume that the clubhouse at present was funded initially from the sale of tea and pies heated on an old iron stove situated in a second-hand plumber's hut. Quite an achievement by any standards!!

The first bowling green laid at Bainfield was situated where the indoor stadium now stands. A box covered with lead and containing money, papers and other valuables was placed under the Green at the south-west corner. By placing such a box, it would appear the members expected the green to be there for a considerable time.

Who at that time would have thought that in less than 25 years the green would be lifted to make way for an indoor stadium. When the green was lifted, the box could not be found. The question is 'Who laid the box and what was in it?" Surely there could not have been something so valuable that someone would have taken it or will it be found when the indoor stadium outlives its use?

Adjacent to the club was a railway line which had a footbridge across it for access. From this footbridge the whole of the Club's grounds could be seen and it was from this bridge that the Club's lapel badge was designed. When standing on the bridge taking photographs, a member noticed that the bowling green was not square but appeared in the shape of a diamond and it was from this view that the badge was struck. The main colours of Bainfield are black and white. These colour’s were originally the football team colour’s and they played with shirts of black and white vertical stripes.

In 1952, members' thoughts turned to having larger premises, possibly a real dance hall with a bar. It was decided to purchase two huts from a farmer near Ratho. Once again, voluntary labour was required. Members travelled to and from Ratho and dismantled the huts section by section. A coal lorry was borrowed and the huts transported to Hutchison Crossway where they would be erected into a new clubhouse.

Once erected, most members must have thought they had reached the end and work was now completed. Not so, a few were dissatisfied, WHY STOP HERE ?. Thoughts turned to greater things; bigger and better premises, even INDOOR BOWLING! The majority of members thought these few to be ‘MAD’ even ‘FOOLS’ but this did not deter them, even although they knew that the ground was not suitable for building. They still wanted bigger and better premises. BUT TIME STOOD STILL...

For almost six years the members talked about a new clubhouse but no one seemed to take any action. The talk appeared to be idle talk until one Annual General Meeting a young member stood on his feet and wanted action. This man was WILLIE LEES, a well-known ‘rebel’ within the membership. Willie voiced his opinions but there were some who did not like it Without even being on Committee they made him PRESIDENT with the view that if he could do better, let him get on with it. THE YEAR-1958.

Who lit the fuse? almost like a rocket, this man took on the role of President and did so for seven consecutive years, with the exception of six months in his fourth year when, through illness, he had to give up the presidency. In stepped another stalwart, JIM. MAITLAND, Snr., who prior to assisting in this case, had already been President for twenty years from 1930-50. The good work carried on and six months later, Willie Lees resumed his role as President and did so for a further three years.

Who says a President's job is an easy one? An old saying I am losing my hair, it must be worry' was very true. Willie's illness was just that, a form of alopecia. On doctor's orders, he gave up all his work at the Club. Lo and behold, his hair grew back. Most men would have been thankful for this but not Willie. He came back and helped the Club for another three years as President

During the time Willie Lees was President, the plans for a new clubhouse were drawn up, a loan was obtained and the first brick was laid. The new clubhouse was opened by the Lord Provost of Edinburgh. What an achievement by any President, not alone, others helped, but he must have been an inspiration. From a rebel member to President and now a well respected Honorary Member. (The rebel still lurks within!!)

In 1958, instead of the idle talk, preparations were underway for a new clubhouse with indoor bowling rinks. Plans were now being drawn up by an architect from the Liberton area of Edinburgh. For almost eleven months, Willie Lees and Treasurer, Willie Thompson, travelled by tram every Monday evening for meetings with the architect. Plans were scrutinised, minor changes made and after one year, the plans were ready.

Although now the plans were ready, not enough funds were available to construct such an elaborate clubhouse. A loan was necessary and the Town Council's Finance Committee was requested to assist. A Meeting was set up for this purpose. At first, the Council was not prepared to give much assistance. Their offer of financial assistance was not enough. Despondent, but not beaten,

Willie Lees and fellow members persuaded the Council to improve the offer. Pound for pound was the agreement, for every pound the Club put in the Council would match it The project was on, but money had to be raised. The more Bainfield could raise, the more the Council would provide. Once again, voluntary labour was required but this was not to be another wooden hut This was a new brick building with intricate foundations, elaborate bars, halls, toilets, changing rooms and three indoor bowling rinks. It was obvious that the members could not do all the work. Specialists were needed especially for the foundations and steelworks.

Members rallied, tradesmen used their skills and those who were not tradesmen laboured by digging ditches, carrying bricks, moving rubbish. All worked together and achieved their goal. A MODERN CLUBHOUSE with INDOOR BOWLS.

The old clubhouse was in constant use until the new Club was ready. They built over it and round it. They had to, how else could money be made? If it had been demolished, where would the Bingo be held, Whist Drives, Dances and any other function where money could be raised. The OLD was needed to fund the NEW. Even after dismantling, the old hut was sold for £60 the price it was originally bought for.

In July 1964, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh officially opened the new Bainfield Bowling and Social Club. Imagine the members on that day, they must have been very proud, who wouldn't be a marvellous achievement by any standards.

The new clubhouse consisted of a lower floor with a Male Members only Lounge and bar, a Television Room and Lounge, Ladies and Gents toilets with a two-rink Indoor Bowling Stadium being the main area On the floor above was a single rink for Indoor Bowling and a Beer Cellar. On the next level, toilets and locker rooms. The top floor had a large function hall, kitchen facilities and a Members Lounge overlooking the Outdoor Bowling Green. The estimated end cost was reported as over £20,000 (This figure was reduced considerably by the members direct labour on sections of the work.

For a few years, members enjoyed the facilities they had worked so hard to build and indeed so did other Clubs in the west of Edinburgh. But alas, once again, some were unhappy. They wanted involved with other Clubs, Scottish League games, National competitions; to be part of Scottish Indoor Bowling was the answer but the existing rinks were not of standard size and, therefore, entry into the Association was not possible.

The members were not deterred by this. Thoughts turned to bigger rinks, even more rinks. Plans were once again being drawn up, loans obtained; and after the go-ahead from the members, work commenced, not to alter the existing but to construct A NEW 6-RINK INDOOR BOWLING STADIUM. The shell remained but that's about all. Existing rinks became the Function Halls and a Games Rooms. The outdoor green had to be lifted to make way for the new stadium. New greens were laid on unused ground to the West of the Clubhouse. Some members must have wondered if it was worthwhile, but without the foresight of a few men, a lot of bowlers would not be enjoying the game of indoor bowling.

The Club at present is as most members know it, a 6-rink indoor bowling stadium with outdoor bowling facilities, function halls, games rooms and board room. Few remember the hard work it took over many years to achieve such a large clubhouse. It was not built by the wave of a magic wand but by the voluntary labour of devoted members working long and hard hours-TOGETHER.

It would be totally wrong for anyone to write about Bainfield history without a special mention to the Ladies of Bainfield, not just to Lady Members but to members wives as well. Without the tolerance and understanding of our ladies throughout the years, I doubt very much if Bainfield would be what it is today.

From the original wooden hut to the present stadium, our ladies have worked just as hard as the men, and are a part of Bainfield with whom we could not have done without. Bainfield Ladies have a strong bowling section as they have proved throughout the years and have produced some marvellous lady bowlers. They have represented the Club by playing for Scotland, both indoor and outdoor, and have won many national and local honours for the Club. Long may it continue. Ladies have always been a part of Bainfield and I would say an asset second to none.

I say they are SPECIAL because Willie has expressed his feelings and condensed 50 years into 3 poems. These toasts could not have been written by just anyone. It had to be someone who loved his club and Willie certainly did.


There is a Toast from an old has-been,

A Toast to the layers of our bowling green,

Here's to the lads who toiled and sweated,

To them you'll agree we are deeply indebted.

Here's to the lads who answered the call

and used their skill on this wonderful hall,

Here's to the lads who belong to the back room,

and Here's to the man who made the flowers bloom.

Here's to the Committee always kept on the run,

Many thanks to them for the work they have done,

Here's to the Secretary and Treasurer too,

A million thanks to them is due.

So here's to the future, ma',' our troubles be small,

and here's to the Ladies, Cod bless them all,

So lift up your glasses, gie them a lucky wee rub,

And drink to the health of The Bainfield Club.

A song was also written for Bainfield-the words as follows:-The BAINFIELD SONG

We are members of a Bowling Club, It's known as the Bainfield,

Although we're beaten sometimes would seem we are the lads that never yield,

Our colour’s they are black and white, and we're going to sing with all our might:


The Bainfield, The Bainfield, The Bainfield forever,

the finest club in a' the toon, The Bainfield forever.

The leads they are champions,

Our seconds are steady and strong,

Our thirds they are the best in the land,

They can roll the bowls along,

Our skips they are a regular treat,

and you'll find that they are hard to beat


The Bainfield, The Bainfield, The Bainfield forever,

the finest club in a' the toon, The Bainfield forever.

Just like any other club, members participate in a little refreshment from time to time and the inevitable must happen, stories of days gone by are told, it would be impossible to tell them all-but the following can be told.

In 1952, the Bainfield First XVI were playing a league game at Balcarres Street when during the game, a telephone call was received by the players. The call was to inform them that bulldozers would arrive at the Club in the morning and it was necessary to move the section of new huts that evening. On completing the game, 15 of them WALKED WITH THEIR BOWLS BACK TO THE CLUB.

In those days, cars were not commonplace and the only means of transport from Balcarres Street was tram cars. It was necessary to use two tram cars for the journey from Balcarres Street to the Club and as time was of the utmost importance, all of them decided that walking would be quicker. Just imagine, 15 men and their bowling bags-plenty Yo-Ho-Ho but NO RUM!! Just more hard work at the end of their walk. Only one man did not make the journey. He was Joe Hannan who at that time lived in Balcarres Street Even although Joe wanted to make the journey and knowing it would be a long walk home, the others would not allow him to return with them. This is not an amusing or funny story but it does tell a story of the reason why Bainfield is not still a small wooden hut. It tells of the enthusiasm and dedication these men had, to see their new clubhouse erected after the task of dismantling. Late into the evening they worked to prevent any holdups in the erection of their new clubhouse and at the end of it all, A LONG WALK HOME!

It would be impossible to list all the members throughout the years who have assisted in the building and management of Bainfield, but special mentions can be given to those who have been awarded such by the members themselves.


Willie McKay, Davy Reith, Punter McKenzie, Gibby Nicholson, W. Thompson,

Tommy Maitland, Willie Lees, without their foresight, Bainfield would not exist. Bainfield does not give Honorary Membership to just anyone. It must be earned through hard work and service to the benefit of Bainfield. These men have earned their honours.

Although not a Founder or Honorary member, one man stands out on the indoor bowling scene at Bainfield not for bowling ability but on the official side of indoor bowling. George Williamson is a past president of Bainfield, a Past President of the Scottish Indoor Bowling Association, and is now a member of the World Bowls Council, without a doubt an honour to the Club and an asset to indoor bowling.

Throughout the years, bowlers have brought many honours to the CIub both on the outdoor scene and the Indoor scene the following are but a few:-

Scottish Indoor Singles Champion Ladies Scottish Indoor Singles Champion Men

Scottish Internationalists-Ladies Indoor Scottish Internationalists-Male Indoor

Scottish Internationalists-Ladies Outdoor Scottish Internationalists-Male Outdoor

Commonwealth Bronze Medal-Male Outdoor Schweppes League Cup Male Indoor

Scottish League Cup Ladies Indoor

Numerous Local and District Honours-both Ladies and Male

Scottish Senior Fours-Male Indoor Scottish Senior Schweppes League Cup Male Indoor

Bainfield has always tried to be a force in bowling, as these honours prove, and hopefully we will continue to be such a force for many years to come.

Although there must be more to tell of the Bainfield history, I feel that after writing this brief account, it is not really the history of Bainfield I have written but a tale of the achievements of members who, by hard work and combined effort, have at the end of the day, built one of the largest and finest Clubs in Scotland the facilities of which are enjoyed by so many people not just from Scotland or Great Britain, but from all over the world

From the walls of another Club in Edinburgh, I quote the following words which I feel are appropriate to close with ITS NOT THE HOURS YOU PUT IN IT'S WHAT YOU PUT INTO THE HOURS"


Bainfield Bowling and Social Club