(page contents last reviewed 21/8/21)

The start of the Ampleforth Pairs – 1985 – John Ward with the Regalgrene Trophy
Alec Young  Ian McEvoy  Stan Woodgate  Marie Podgorski  Margaret Matthews (?)  Roy Warnock-Smith  James Raynor

THE EARLY YEARS –This article was put together by Roger Green (Secretary) for the 2010 issue of the NYSMBA Handbook.
SHORTMAT at ROWNTREES This article was put together by Elaine Gathercole of Welburn SMBC for the 2019 issue of the NYSMBA Handbook
SHORTMAT – 1964-1984 – This article was published in the Jan/Feb issue of Short Mat World.

First British Isles Keith Harris – Welcome N Yorks in the Pairs Jim Rose – 1984 Peter Walter – 1984

1984 – 1993 There is precious little documentation from the early years of Short Mat Bowling in our county and one has to rely on  the recollections of several of the original “short-matters”. They seem to be in accord that sometime in the mid 1980’s there was an initiative to promote the game as an ideal one for village halls across our predominantly rural county. Initially this involved Jim Rose of mat makers Regalgrene and the local Parish Council Associations who organized several demonstrations of the game in various locations across a wide area of the county.

As a result of this initiative several clubs came into being. Ampleforth in the north (on the edge of the North York Moors), Darley in the west (the lower Dales) and Escrick in the flat lands to the south are among several clubs that can all trace their origins to around this time. Each of these clubs subsequently generated further interest in the game in their own vicinity and the formation of more clubs soon followed. These early clubs soon felt the need for regular competition and in 1987 the Selby League (fours) was formed to the south of York. Three  years later in 1990 the Ryedale League (triples) took off with four of the clubs to the north of York.

These were also the early years of the English Short Mat Bowling Association and the idea of dividing the country into regions or zones was being tried. In the north this resulted in the setting up of the Northern Zone (renamed the Northern England Short Mat Bowling Association – NESMBA in 2004) which held its inaugural meeting in 1990. This Northern Zone immediately started organising a local inter-county league for its member Associations and it was probably a desire to enter this league that led to a meeting of several keen Ryedale League bowlers early in 1991 at the Feathers Hotel in Helmsley. At this meeting it was decided to launch our own county Association under the Chairmanship of John Colley (Ampleforth) with Jill Leckenby (Helmsley) as Secretary and John Ward (Ampleforth) as the counties representative at the Northern Zone. In that first year there were just 6  clubs with 161 registered members. For the first couple of years the affairs of the Association continued to be managed alongside those of the Ryedale League by a single committee.

1993 TO THE PRESENT – Expansion continued steadily with 16 clubs and nearly 400 members by 1993. Due to our physical size (the largest county in the country) it was soon necessary for two new leagues to be formed so that these newer clubs could enjoy regular competitive bowling without excessive travelling. These were the Scarborough League in the east and the Kyle Valley League in the west, both founded in 1993 and both of which continued the popular triples format. 1993 also sadly saw the premature death of John Colley and in 1994 a new hierarchy was elected with Fred Wood (Easingwold) as Chairman, Gordon Hanson (Easingwold) as Secretary and Ivan Topping (Easingwold) taking over from John Ward as our Northern Zone representative. In 1995 a county wide league was introduced that grouped all clubs into six regions. This Yorkshire (North) League thus enabled competition between all members in the county (now up to 600 from 24 clubs). In 1997, several clubs, already playing in the existing triples leagues but eager for even more competition, got together to form a pairs league – the Vale of York League. In 2000, a small league initially involving just four of our western most clubs started up playing a mixture of pairs and singles – the Dales League (renamed as Nidderdale League in 2004/05) However this league ceased to exist shortly thereafter. In 2003 the White Rose League – a summer only league which plays between April and September got going. Our most recent league, the Dales League was set up in 2016 as an offshoot of the Scarborough league.


As we complete our 30th year (2020/21) we look back on a year when the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc and caused the virtual write-off of any Short Mat activity. However 37 clubs and 418 members remained registered with us and we are, like most other counties, now hoping for a full recovery in both membership, league fixtures, IC matches and other competitions.