The Geordies skittles team:
a short history

by Ken Wilkins & Ron Jenkins

The origin of The Geordies lies in the summer of 1961 when the first employees of ICI began to move to Thornbury from the North-East of England to prepare for the construction of ICI Severnside at Avonmouth. It soon became a custom for these few to gather at The Swan in Thornbury High Street for a Friday night drink.

Over the next several months the number of ICI workers and their families moving to Thornbury increased, as did the number of men meeting at the Swan on Friday nights. At some stage it was suggested that a team should be formed to play in the following season's Thornbury Skittles League, which then consisted of only two divisions. In the autumn of 1962, Team ICI joined the 2nd Division of the league and played throughout that season using the skittle alley at The Swan as their Home Alley. Mr & Mrs Whitehead were the landlords at that time. However, the flow of ICI men into Thornbury continued and the number wanting to play for Team ICI increased until it became very unwieldy to organise; complaints of not playing often enough were common.

At the end of that first season it was decided to form two teams from the players in Team ICI, with everyone free to join either The Lone Rangers, led by Harry Almond, or The Geordies as the new teams were named. Thus, ICI resigned from the league and the two new teams joined, but it was The Geordies who continued to use The Swan for their Home Alley. The names of all of the original players are hard to recall but most worked for ICI and among them were: -

Gerry McFarlane; Ron Halford; Bill Irwin; Stan Hudson; Derek Poole; Bill Laird; a Mr Fluck from Rudgeway; George Gibson; Ken Wilkins.

Derek Poole was the captain for the first few seasons, usually playing at anchor with George Gibson, and Stan Hudson was secretary. Mr Fluck was a local man who was drafted in to help introduce the game to a group of men who had little experience of the tactics or etiquette(?) of the game of Skittles. A guiding light! He stayed with the Geordies for a season or so and then retired. At first the team membership was fairly stable but soon new jobs and promotions within ICI meant that players left the area to go back to NE England to work at Billingham. As they left others came in to take their place, but the newcomers were not necessarily ICI men.

When Derek Poole left the team Roy Robinson became Captain and remained so for many years. There have been only three Captains since the formation of the team; when Roy retired from playing Ken Wilkins assumed the captaincy and Roy became the first Honorary Life President of The Geordies!! Stan Hudson was the Secretary in the early years, followed by Ken Wilkins, Norman Haines, Ron Jenkins and now Stan Rodliffe.

The Geordies played off a number of different alleys over the years as the Home Alley has moved from pub to pub. Included, in sequence, are: - The Swan (Thornbury); The Exchange; The Bowl (Almondsbury); The White Lion; The Black Horse; The Plough; The Swan (Tytherington); Thornbury RFC; The Swan (Thornbury) - again; and currently The Knot of Rope (aka The Exchange).

The playing record is best described as pretty average but with some high spots. In the very early years the Geordies topped their division and played off to win the Champion of Champions title, and in subsequent years have three times gained promotion - once playing off, unsuccessfully, for another Champions title. Promotion was usually followed pretty quickly by relegation, but for a couple of years the team played in the First Division with longer spells in the Second.

The Geordies have always had a good social side (and a Social Secretary to organise matters), which means that every year 'the ladies' have enjoyed an Annual Dinner at the end of each season. Bus trips were once undertaken to places such as Caldicot Castle, Birnbeck Island, Petty France to enjoy a good meal and night out, and the range of Hotels and Inns visited by The Geordies for the Annual Dinner is extensive. The tradition continues, but now with the addition of a New Year Social evening in the form of a Roll-Up.