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‘Game over’ as Mullabrack Bowling Club announce closure after almost 70 years

The decision to close the doors has not been made lightly - the committee have explored alternative solutions but none felt quite right

Instead of preparing for their annual Easter Triples tournament, one local bowling club have announced that it’s “game over” after approximately 70 years of successful competition.

The well attended Mullabrack Bowling Club have alleged that their closure has been the direct result of being “priced out of a church hall that we were once at the heart of”.

Over the years, the club claims to have produced League, Zone, Irish and British Isles champions and routinely made use of Mullabrack Church of Ireland’s main hall for training and competition since its establishment in the 1950s.

However, they have stated that the amicability enjoyed in previous decades has, over the last 10 years, begun to disintegrate.

Speaking to Armagh I, a spokesperson for the club, explained: “My family are members of the church and it’s not a dig at the Church as a whole because it’s really a few select individuals.

“I’m involved with a number of bowling clubs and there’s never really a charge put on a church organisation for use of the hall. It’s normally in the form of a donation towards lighting and heating and that was always the case.

“I’m not sure of the exact amount but back in the day it was probably around £250-300 for the year but with a bigger hall etc we agreed to up it ourselves, but then the next thing it was upped again to a ridiculous rate.

“It was being requested rather than being suggested. We lost quite a few members at the time because people said, ‘not a chance are we being a part of something that’s doing that’ but I was young and trying to keep it together and we came up with different permutations and one of these ended up with us buying a defibrillator for the hall.

But again, the contribution of a defibrillator –which club members were convinced would benefit the entire community – did little to alleviate the fees they claim to be paying towards the hall.

“Again we were presented with our annual charge but we were only after coughing out around £1,000-1,200 for the defib,” continued the spokesperson.

Mullabrack Bowling Club winning the League and Cup Double. An achievement they enjoyed on many occasions.

The decision to close the doors has not been made lightly. The committee have explored alternative solutions but none felt quite right.

When asked whether another venue might allow the club remain functional, the spokesperson answered: “I have been down that route seven-eight years ago now when it started to get sticky and I was getting offers left, right and centre. But say for example, Manchester United got offered a stadium in London they are no longer Manchester United Football Club and Mullabrack is Mullabrack.

“I have been offered a hall in Loughbrickland but it’s not Mullabrack Bowling Club in Loughbrickland.

“When we sat down and weighed it up Mullabrack is our home and I would rather leave my home than go to someone else’s home.”

Whilst the some 25 members of Mullabrack Bowling Club will undoubtedly miss their twice weekly meet-ups, the spokesperson assures that many members will continue to play within other clubs.

Despite this, there is still an overwhelming sense of loss for “a club where young and old came together” and where a sense of community was fostered with “players at the fun bowls queued at the door before the hall was even opened.”

Armagh I contacted Mullabrack Church of Ireland for comment and a spokesperson on behalf of the church replied: “The Select Vestry of Mullabrack Parish Church does not derive a financial profit from its halls.

“There are set fees for the hire of the halls to cover its reasonable costs (such as heat, light, insurance and cleaning etc). These fees have not been increased over the last number of years despite the general increase in energy costs.

“The Select Vestry offered a discounted rate per night from the set fees, to the Bowling Club, given their more regular use of the hall, in an effort to resolve the matter. Sadly, however the Bowling Club felt unable to accept the reduced fee.

“It is unfortunate that the Bowling Club has decided to move away from Mullabrack but we hope people will understand that the Church is unable to offer free facilities for sports and leisure activities.”

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