Drakes Pride bowls became the first to be produced on CNC lathes
The Darlington business was acquired by E.A. Clare & Son in the 1970's to enhance their growing renovation / refurbishment service of Crown Green Bowls. Bill Walsh who managed the bowls work, at ‘Clare’s’ was a skilled wood turner having served his time at Darlington's. Darlington's not only provided a Crown Green service but were also licensed testers of Lawn Bowls and so 'Clare's' were able to take over this licence. At the time of the acquisition Arthur Ayres, another highly skilled bowls turner from Darlington's, had already joined the expanding bowls business.
Bill Walsh - Works manager & Arthur Ayres -Bowls Shop
E.A. Clare Son interest in bowls had come about because the founder of the business was Crown Green Bowler and felt that as bowls was a summer sport it would fit well into his Snooker and Billiards business, which was a winter sport. Once Darlington's was acquire Clare's offered a full testing service for Lawn Bowls (usually called Flat Green in the Crown Green areas), being licensed by I.B.B. (International Bowling Board), which allowed them to use either the I.B.B. Stamp or the, more common in the UK, B.I.B.C. (British Isles Bowls Council) stamp. The firm was also registered as Crown Green jack makers to the B.C.G.B.A. (British Crown Green Bowls Association).
Clare's continued to offer these service and make their own Lignum Vitae bowls under the brand name 'Standfast' but in the mid late 1970's it became more and more difficult to source good quality Lignum Vitae especially as it was one of the timbers on the U. N.'s CITES list - The United Nation's has a list of species that are 'at risk' and so special licenses have to be obtained to deal in species that are on the list. Also composition bowls were becoming more and more accepted which had a knock on effect by reducing the number of bowls that came in for renovation.
Research was carried out by Peter Clare as to the way forward and after careful consideration it was decided that investment into manufacture of composition bowls was required. So in 1981 Liverpool University Computer Laboratory was used as consultants on the project and they came up with a bowl profile. Based on this it was obvious that the way forward was to use computer controlled lathes to ensure accuracy of the profile rather than the traditional copy lathes or grinding processes. Thus the Drakes Pride bowls became the first to be produced on CNC lathes.
The installation of the CNC lathe in 1981 was no mean feat as the room for it was not only at first floor level but was set back from the road and had to go over a second floor. The roof of the room had to be removed and the lathe was craned into the room through the open roof.
The lathe high in the sky!
Going through the roof!
After proving out the bowl profile the new Drakes Pride bowl was launched in late 1982 via the Clare Bowls Centre. In November 1982 the following article appeared in that months magazine.
Tom Brophy the Works Manager, whose picture is shown in the article was heavily involved along with Peter Clare in the setting up the lathe and the launch of the Drakes Pride bowl. He had been trained in the bowls department and was a skilled turner of wooden bowls.
Up-dated trade mark used by The Clare Bowls centre