In the early years of the 20th Century a series of meetings were convened by a cross section of business men of the Larne area. The object of these meetings was to gauge what interest there might be in the formation of a Bowls and Tennis Club for the gentlefolk of the area.
The first recorded such meeting took place in the Larne Times office at 4, Dunluce Street, on September 5th 1907. The assembled company were advised that Mr. William Chaine D.L. had offered a fine site on the Glenarm Road at a rent of £1 per year on a 2000 year lease and in addition a rough plan for the laying out of the grounds was submitted and explained.
Over the next twelve months this provisional Committee held a number of meetings and notable among the items recorded in the minutes is a list of cash donations by numerous local people, the most significant being £500 from the estate of the late Mr. Stewart Clark and £100 from Sir Hugh Smiley Bart D.L.
It was also recorded that Mr. Daniel Leslie, a Bowling Green Contractor, of Brownswood, Bishopbriggs, Glasgow be invited, at a fee of £5, to inspect the site and to advise on the sourcing of sods for the laying of the Bowling Green.
Mr. Leslie subsequently reported that the site was an excellent one and that infilling and levelling could be commenced.
A six man sub committee were tasked with the drawing up of rules for the management of the club and after these were approved all interested parties were invited to a meeting to be held in the Victoria Hall on November 9th 1908.
It was subsequently recorded that this meeting had a “large and representative attendance” of those interested in Bowls and Lawn Tennis.
On the proposal of Rev. D.H. Hanson, B.A., seconded by Mr. William Young (Northern Bank), Mr. William Chaine, D.L. was elected President, and thus it was that the Larne Bowling & Lawn Tennis Club came into being.
Sir Hugh Smiley, Bart. D.L. and Mr. John Stewart Clark were elected vice Presidents, Mr. J.L. Joyce, Manager Belfast Banking Co. (Larne) was elected Hon. Treasurer, Mr. T.L. Price, Editor Larne Times was elected Hon. Secretary and these together with 9 Bowling and 9 Tennis representatives formed the first General (Management) Committee of the Club.
The Larne Bowling Green was laid out in 1909 by Mr. Daniel Leslie Bowling Green Contractor of Brownswood, Bishopbriggs, Glasgow, and after several sources of sods were researched and found wanting was finally constructed with West Cumberland turf laid on a diagonal pattern. The job was a good one right from the start and after the initial bedding in the Larne Green was, and with careful maintenance, remains one of the best Bowling surfaces in Ireland. It is an asset of which we in the Larne Bowling & Lawn Tennis Club are quite justifiably proud.
There is some evidence that a Tennis Club may have existed prior to the formation of the Larne Bowling & Lawn Tennis Club in 1908 in as much that in the first years accounts there is detailed a sum of money transferred from the “old Tennis club”.
However be that as it may, the founders of L.B. & L.T.C. decided that four Tennis Courts be constructed and that the surface be of red blaes as opposed to grass.
Being in the nature of things the Tennis Courts were ready for play before the ?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” ?Bowling Green and both sports proved to be extremely popular pastimes among their respective participants.
At first both sports thrived but while Bowls remained more or less consistently popular, Tennis went through numerous peaks and troughs over the years, and indeed almost folded at one time, but was doggedly kept alive by a hard core of diehards.
At the beginning of the 1980’s the Tennis Section started to enjoy something of a resurgence but the courts were proving to be quite a handicap as the traditional blaes surface had suffered from neglect over the years. It was decided that a completely new surface was required and in October 1985 work commenced on stripping away the old blaes and resurfacing the Tennis Courts with tar macadam. The new courts were officially opened at the beginning of the following season by Miss Anne Taylor, Vice President of the Ulster Lawn Tennis Association and it was then that the Tennis Section really began to take off.
The advent of coaching for children of primary school age in the rudiments of the game of Tennis was the spur which set the Tennis Section on the road to enduring success. The prime mover in this respect was Maeve Forrester, who recruited innumerable young people of primary and post primary school age, initially from the Grammar School where she was employed and later, with the Clubs backing, from other schools in the area. Not only did she coach young people to a level where they could compete in tournaments with others of their age group, but a precious few she inspired to pursue excellence in the game. Maeve worked purely on a voluntary basis and the Larne Club owe her an immense debt for her efforts over the years.
One young man in particular who came under Maeve’s influence sought his own coaching qualifications from an early age and in his turn also coached young people at Larne before pursuing a full time career in Tennis. That young man is James Watt, he who is currently Tennis Ireland’s Development Officer for Ulster & Connacht and still plays his league tennis at Larne.