A stellar career in bowls
MENTION the name of Harold Bodill in the bowling fraternity and most people throughout the Eastern Cape and other parts of the country will immediately know who you are talking about.
In an illustrious bowls career spanning more than 40 years, Bodill has certainly left his mark. Having been a member of all six clubs in the Eastern Areas (EA) sub-district during his career, his name boldly appears on all these honours boards. In fact, he has won every title he could under the EA banner and many at Eastern Province level.
Born in Adelaide but raised and educated in Grahamstown, Bodill was one of 12 children. While at Graeme College he was forced to play rugby. But his main love was football and he played this for a local club in the afternoons once his rugby commitments had been completed on Saturdays. His other love was fishing.
Obviously fleet-footed, Bodill showed an interest in ballroom dancing and, with one of his sisters, joined the well-known Sudano Dancing Academy in Grahamstown. Always competitive, he soon became one of their top dancers.
Meanwhile, he had joined a local plumbing firm as an apprentice. On qualifying, he worked with one of his brothers until he opened his own successful business. It was then that he met and married his wife, Meryl. The couple had one daughter and have three grandchildren.
But this marriage was to change Bodill’s life, particularly as far as his sporting activities were concerned. His wife’s parents were keen bowlers and encouraged him to take up the game. It immediately became obvious that he had a natural talent for bowls as he soon made experienced players take notice of a future star in the making. In fact, knowledgeable people in bowls throughout the country still rate Bodill as probably the best second of his time in South Africa.
Bodill soon made his mark when he won his club’s junior singles and then went on the win the EA and Eastern Province titles, all in the same year. It was immediately obvious that bigger things were to follow and, indeed, they did. A few years later while still playing for Grahamstown, he made bowling history when he won all four EA titles on offer for men. These included the singles, pairs, trips and fours, skipping the three latter teams.
While playing for the various clubs in the EA, Bodill won all the championships he could. He went on to win the following titles at both EA and EP levels: open and senior singles, the EP masters singles, men’s and mixed pairs, mixed and men’s trips and the fours on several occasions, a feat not achieved by many players.
He also won the EA champion of champions and followed this up by taking the EP title in 2010. In 2000 Bodill was invited to play in the South African Masters.
Bodill represented EA in 15 consecutive inter-district tournaments and EP about 17 times in national provincial tournaments mostly as a skip. They won these tournaments on several occasions.
His wife was also a keen bowler and represented EP on two occasions. The couple played together in mixed pairs, their most successful result being winning the EA competition.
Possibly, Bodill’s greatest achievements on the bowling greens came in 1987 and 2012.
In 1987, Springbok Rob Owsley applied to his then club to enter a team in the South African national fours, but was not permitted to enter the team of his choice. Following some ill feelings it was thus that Owsley broke away from his club and the Langholm club was formed with Owsley inviting well-known players Neil Timm, Derrick Fish and Bodill to join him.
To the bowling world’s dismay, the team went on to win the national title. The following appeared in a press report on the event: “Fledgling club Langholm, with its headquarters nestled in a valley on the farm “The Home” (owned by Timm) situated between Grahamstown and Port Alfred, caused a sensation in South African bowling circles by capturing the SA men’s fours bowls title. The last occasion an Eastern Areas team achieved this was 50 years ago by Grahamstown”.
The following year, this Langholm team defended their title, only to be narrowly beaten in the semi-final by Springbok Neil Burkett.
In May, 2012, Bodill qualified to play in the South African Senior singles championships in Port Elizabeth. Producing some of the best bowls of his career, he won his section to qualify for the final, which he went on to win in an excellent display.
Sadly, Bodill’s health does not permit him to play anymore. But he will long be remembered for his competitiveness and outstanding ability.
A TRUE CHAMPION: Harold Bodill with the trophy he was presented with on winning the South African Senior Singles bowls title in 2012