AYR INDOOR BOWLING CLUB
On a cold wet day in October 1935 Scotland's first indoor bowling stadium was opened in Ayr...by a belgian gentleman called Edouard Ecrepont.
He had arrived in Britain around 1917 to recover from injuries received in the First World War.
And he was to stay....to marry...to build 1000 quality houses in Ayr....and to fulfill a burning ambition to create his own indoor bowling arena.
It is not certain where Mr. Ecrepont's deep love of bowling developed. But once he had decided that the British weather was not going to decree that his game would end when the rains came,
it was only a matter of time before he set about building Scotland's first indoor stadium.
His roots in Britain were first set down in the North of England when he arrived to recuperate. He eventually took employment in a factory and met Lilly, the English lady who was to become his wife.
After they were married, Edouard set up an agency in the North of England for selling Belgian roof tiles and in 1920 the couple moved to Scotland and set up a roofing contractors' business. From there the effervescent Edouard set up his own house building firm in Ayr and Prestwick.
By this time a bowling stadium was an absolute must in his mind and Ayr was to be its location. Indeed it was to be built right in the heart of a vast area where Edouard was building houses.
Sometime earlier he had planned along with two Glasgow businessmen to build such a stadium. But the other two had subsequently backed out much to the annoyance of Ecrepont. And he had vowed to go it alone next time.
Edouard was a fanatic about bowls. He wanted to bowl all year round and he knew many others who longed for a game during the "closed" season. He had the foresight to realise the business potential of an indoor facility and in the midst of creating a building business which was to
become one of the most reputable in the West of Scotland, he set about constructing a three rink indoor stadium.
Of course he had the materials. His builders business saw to that. And he had the men. His builders business saw to that too ! And so finally the dream came true on October 30, 1935 when Ayr Indoor Bowling Club was officially opened by Sir Thomas Moore MP.
During the Second World War there was a hiccup in activity when the stadium was taken over by the Ministry of Food & Agriculture as a grain store. It had only been open as a bowling green for four years.
But in early 1946 it was restored for bowling as the popularity of the game returned once again to Ayr.
The British Home Countries Championships were held at Ayr in 1951 and in 1954 players from Ayr were in the Scottish team.
Since the opening in 1935, Ayr has provided well over 50 internationalists, male and female.
Due to the popularity of the stadium, an extension was built on 1965 when two additional rinks were added to the original three rinks, and a lounge bar was added in 1970.
The stadium and business was subsequently handed down two generations to Edward Ecrepont jnr. who ran the stadium and club as a business for a long number of years until 19th January 2001 when it was sold to yet another local builder Gordon Neil of R.H. Neil & Sons who himself was no stranger to the Scottish bowling scene having won several local titles
and a number of caps at international level at junior, gent and senior levels, and latterly an SBA district representative and Team Manager.
Today the club has a membership of around 500, but which is steadily increasing over the last few years, gaining members from the nearby clubs at Prestwick, Irvine, Auchinleck and the Galleon in Kilmarnock thanks to the recent efforts of Gordon Neil with an ongoing programme of refurbishment, repair and improvements to the club including new floor and carpet, lockers, committee rooms, bar, restaurant, rink office, entrance, heating and lighting systems etc. to name but a few.
His efforts have been very worthwhile though, as the club continues to improve and become a lively and comfortable facility.
Ayr Indoor Bowling Club was created thanks to the determination of one very keen bowler, a vision continued by another, its current owner, and it has maintained its prosperity thanks to the love of the game by hundreds of others.