True bowls champion Ella looks back on 100 years
The day before her 100th birthday Ella McGuinness was on the bowling green celebrating with friends.
“It’s almost a week-long birthday bash. I’ve got several birthday outings,” says New Zealand’s first national woman bowling champion. But life was not always so rosy. She vividly recalls life on the Tolaga Bay farm where she was born. When she was nine she and her six siblings lost their father to a flooded river and their lives changed forever.
“There was no social security system to fall back on,” she says.
“We took turns to milk our 20 cows by hand and drove the horse cart to the milk factory.”
Those dire circumstances between 1917 and 1922 forced Ella to leave Tolaga Bay School at 14.
By 16 she was working as a cook on Matahia Station and later with the sitting member of parliament, K C Williams.
“That early, I found my passion for cooking,” Ella says.
Her skill led her to Pentland Hospital in Devonport. Later she worked at Wakefield Hospital in Auckland from 1933 to 1935.
That year she got engaged to a man because her true love, who had been courting her for seven years, was too timid to ask for her hand in marriage.
“That timid man was my husband Lindsay. He was working on the railways and when he learned I’d got engaged, he finally came to his senses and asked me to marry him,” Ella says.
The couple married on the shortest day of 1935 – June 21. By 1942 they had two children, Beth and Doug, and bought a 10-acre farm on Ranfurly Rd in Alfriston where Joy, their third child, was born.
Lindsay died after 10 years of marriage. A widow at 36, Ella has remained single.
She and her children continued to live on the Ranfurly Rd farm.
Beth was eight, Doug six and Joy 11 months when they were left fatherless and Ella feared her early history would repeat itself.
But by tending eight cows, penned pigs and free-range chickens, the family lived contentedly.
Ella’s passion for bowling started with a casual visit to a club in 1953.
“My friend Robby Fowler invited me and I took to it like a fish to water,” she says.
She joined the Manurewa Women’s Bowling Club and was only in her fourth year of play when she won the first New Zealand LS Peters Cup Championship singles title in 1957.
She had made history as the first national women’s bowling champion at 49.
Ella was made a life member for bringing glory to the Manurewa club, now the Manurewa Cosmopolitan Bowling Club. She joined the Alfriston Indoor Bowling Club in 1956 and made her mark there as well.
Her name appears more than 20 times on the honours board at Alfriston Hall and she was made a life member there.
In 1992, at 84, Ella was awarded a gold star for winning five centre titles in Manukau.
“I continued to play until I could see the kitty no more.”
The great-great-great grandmother still lives in her own home, grows her own vegetables and still does a lot of cooking.
Her children and their families – five generations of 36 direct descendants – dote on her.
Ella still plays indoor bowls and watches sport on television.
“I am looking forward to the 2011 Rugby World Cup.”
Bowling along: Ella McGuinness, centre, celebrates her 100th birthday with bowling buddies Margaret Fletcher of Manurewa, left, and Betty Leach of Takanini at the Manurewa Cosmopolitan Club.