Article by Pat Launders
My research took me back to my old club, Cambridge Park, which was also the club where Leonard Denny enjoyed his membership, to read once again the Denny Memorial Book, an interesting collection of facts and figures compiled by Leonards' surviving children, Victor Denny and Mrs Barbara Price, and presented to Cambridge Park at an Annual General Meeting of the English Indoor Bowling Association in 1987.
Leonard Denny was born in 1877, and although I can discover little about his early life, he obviously loved the game of bowls. He not only participated on the green, but he also wished to contribute in other ways, including administration, and he eventually became President of the Middlesex Outdoor Bowling Association. He was a friend of my grandfather, together with George Read, another giant in local bowls, and I can recall the talk about "Leonards' pipe". It's amazing to think that pipes and cigarettes were "the norm" on the green back in the '40s and '50s!
In order to appreciate just how far the indoor game has progressed, it's helpful to look back at its inception, and I quote, "Although indoor bowls had been played on a club basis from 1906 onward, it was not until 1933 that definite steps were taken to organise this activity on national lines". In these early days, the body responsible for such organisation was the E.B.A. (Indoor Section), and it was not until July of 1971 that a merger took place, and the English Indoor Bowling Association came into being. In the first year a chairman was elected, a Mr Stan Dengate, of White Rock club in Hastings, but the following year the "Chairman" was re-titled "President", and the aforementioned George Read became the first to hold this prestigious office. George was also a member of Cambridge Park, so you can begin to see the connection.
To get back to the story of the Denny Cup, it was decided, soon after the formation of the E.B.A. (Indoor Section), that some sort of competition was needed, so a National Two-rink format was agreed, one rink to play at home, and one rink away, and Leonard put up the trophy, a magnificent "gold" cup, and this trophy has remained the "object of desire" for every club in the country ever since. The only break during the past seventy-seven years was during the second world war, when many indoor bowls premises were commandeered, and used for different purposes to aid the war effort, so play did not begin again until hostilities ceased.
The change of format came about in 1971, when the E.I.B.A. took responsibility, and introduced several changes, one of which was that clubs could only enter one team, thus making the event an authentic club championship. Prior to this time, clubs had been allowed to enter teams according to their membership. These changes made a big difference to the competition, and it gradually evolved into the game we see today.
Commercialism entered the competition in 1975, and Haig Whiskey, quite appropriately from what I remember of the drinking habits of most of the participants, became the first sponsors, contributing for some ten years toward the expenses of the finalists. When Haigs' tenure ended, and alternative sponsorship was sought, McCarthy and Stone entered the scene. The Denny Cup became the National Four Rink Club Championship, and a new trophy was provided by the sponsors. As the original trophy had now become redundant, the E.I.B.A. decided to "send it home", and it was returned to Cambridge Park, where it was displayed with pride. At that time it was agreed by the E.I.B.A. that a competition should be instigated by Cambridge Park, based on the original two-rink format, to be called The Denny Cup, for which the original trophy would be presented. However, when the sponsorship deal with McCarthy and Stone came to an end, the trophy was returned to the national office, at their request, and the Denny family was approached by the club to provide another trophy for the two-rink competition, which they duly did. This trophy was named The Leonard Denny Memorial Trophy, and is played for to this day.
Egham Indoor B.C. is quite a young club, not coming on to the scene until 1985, but we have certainly made our mark, having won the championship three years in succession, 2005, '06 and '07, the first time this had been achieved since Crystal Palace won three times in the first three years, 1935, '36 and '37. Cumbria followed Egham with a three year stint 2008-2010, with City of Ely picking up the honours last year.
As I reported at the beginning, Eghams first round game is against our old friends Cambridge Park, so we can all look forward to four hours of finely-honed skills, a little bit of luck on both sides, and a game played in the spirit that the great Leonard Denny always intended.