Oration for Tony Allcock MBE

By Dr Paul Jenkins

Our honorary graduand, Tony Allcock is no stranger to this stage.  When he was 10 years old Tony won the W D Catell Memorial Trophy for boy treble at the De Montfort Hall.  He went on to win singing competitions in Tamworth, Derby and Leicester where he sang all the classics for boy soprano. Clearly, before the age of 12 Tony had learned how to compete and be the best at anything he did.

Few players of bowls can say that they were born into the sport- but both of Tony’s parents were county bowlers and his mother became an England international.  Tony was born, in Thurmaston, Leicester.  His mother was involved in bowling competitions before and after the happy event!  Indeed Tony was taken to the 1955 Goodwood Ladies Bowling Club Championships before his first birthday!

Tony came from a close family and although he was not pushed into taking up bowls, he was to be seen when very young, playing his own version of bowls on rough ground near bowling competitions where his parents were taking part.  He quickly absorbed a sound understanding of tactics which enabled him to apply his considerable technical skills; and he enjoyed significant success as a junior.

During his teenage years Tony practised like a demon. He loved the game for its intrinsic beauty and for the outlet it provided for his competitive nature. Tony started at the Fossway bowling club in Syston, he then moved to the Goodwood bowling club, in Leicester where his parents played.  Tony soon began to compete for his county and his clear ambition was to wear the English rose on his blazer as a representative of England.

Tony’s first job was as a teacher at Millfield Day Centre in Hinckley, which was a school for adults with learning difficulties; later  at the age of 24 he was appointed a  head teacher at another school in Gloucestershire necessitating a move to Cheltenham.  Concern for the disabled has stayed with him throughout his career.

Tony won his first county bowls title in 1972 at the age of 17, and he went on to become English Junior Singles champion three times.  It was as a 30-year old in 1986 that he won the first of his 15 world titles, much to the chagrin of many in the bowling community who regarded the pipe smoking David Bryant as their favourite.  Who was this slim-hipped young whipper-snapper with the David Gower curls and tight white flannels? Tony and David Bryant were fierce rivals but also close friends.  In fact Tony and David won the World Indoor Pairs Championship six times.  Tony was voted player of the year three times by the readers of Bowls International and he was awarded the MBE in 1989 at the age of 34 for his services to Sport and the Community.   In his home village of Thurmaston  a full life bronze statue of Tony was erected. Tony is a fellow of the University of Gloucestershire, his second county and he has been awarded the freedom of Cheltenham.

When in 2003 Tony won both  the mixed and the men’s pairs titles at the World Indoor Championships, the crowd gave him two standing ovations and,  to the strains of Tina Turner singing ‘Simply the Best,’ Tony’s brilliant career came to an end.

He then moved into coaching. Always concerned to help the disabled, one of his proudest moments as a coach was when he trained 69 year old Ruth Small to win the Commonwealth Games Gold Medal for visually impaired bowlers in Manchester.  Ruth was totally blind.  When played with passion bowls can keep older minds active, and in some cases, keep the elderly out of nursing homes.

Tony then served on the governing body of the sport becoming chief executive of the English Bowling Association and of Bowls England an organisation which serves 110,000 members. Tony has written, or been co-author of, five books on bowls, and has produced a four-volume video set called Tony Allcock’s Art of Bowls.

Since leaving bowls Tony has followed another passion- dog showing, breeding and judging.  As we have established Tony needs to be the best at whatever he does.   He has bred and shown 23 English champions and he has been a judge at international dog shows.  In 2015 he was elected director of the Kennel Club and this year he was a judge at Crufts.

Tony Allcock has demonstrated that bowls is not just an old man’s sport.

David Gourlay World No 1 bowler declared that “Tony Allcock is the greatest all-round bowler in the history of the sport.”

Mr Chancellor, on the authority of the Senate and Council, I present Anthony Allcock so that you may confer on him the degree of Doctor of Laws.

Delivered by Dr Paul Jenkins on 13 July 2016

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