Harry Reynolds: Tribute to Rugby Advertiser’s bowls correspondent of 57 years

Harry Reynolds
Harry Reynolds
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Our beloved bowls correspondent Harry Reynolds sadly died on Saturday at the age of 87.

His column was a hugely popular feature on the Advertiser sports pages every week for an incredible 57 years, from 1954 until failing eyesight forced him to retire in September 2012.

Harry suffered a heart attack back in February and had spent several weeks in hospital in both Coventry and Rugby before moving into Willow Tree nursing home in June.

Such was his dedication, that after his first heart attack in 2011 it was the only column he’d ever missed in all those years and even then he was back writing again in a matter of days.

Bowlers throughout the town and across Warwickshire will have their own fond memories of Harry, both as an extremely successful player and for 44 years from 1966 to 2010 in the role of county publicity officer. He will be greatly missed.

Married to his wife Rita since 1951, Harry was a lovely, kind and thoughtful man, who took immense pride in his work for the newspapers and was greatly appreciated for it. Readers could not begin to imagine the hours that went into every column, which was always perfectly written in his own friendly style and never a second over deadline.

He’d seen changes in technology from typewriter to email and from developing his own photographs in the kitchen at home to digital images - and took it all in his stride. We knew he would be an impossible act to follow and he has proved irreplaceable.

As sports editor I had the pleasure of knowing Harry for over 22 years and have him to thank for introducing me to playing bowls in the early 1990s when he and Ralph Nicholson gave me a lesson for a feature in the paper and encouraged me to take it up.

There must have been many more bowlers over the years similarly grateful.

At the Advertiser we could never thank or praise Harry enough for his contribution over more than half a century, which will never be matched.

As a young man he also spent his weekends taking sports photographs for us, covering Rugby Town and Rugby Lions as well as Sunday football.

Retiring from his column just after his 85th birthday he would have loved to continue, but reluctantly acknowleged he could no longer see well enough. Saying goodbye to readers at the time he said he would miss it as it had been a way of life, but that he had thoroughly enjoyed it all.

Harry was born in the little village of Prescote in Oxfordshire where his father was a farm labourer. The family moved to Rugby when he was two and his father worked for Cox’s farm at Lawford, where Harry showed his talents as a good cricketer, playing in the fields there.

On leaving St Matthew’s School Harry’s first job was delivering bread in the villages for the Co-op bakery and at 16 he started working on the railway, which he enjoyed for 24 years before taking a job at GEC Willans works, where he became an inspector.

When they were first married Harry and Rita spent seven years living in one of the little railway cottages in Old Station Square in Newbold Road before Willans bought the land and all the residents moved to Hillmorton in 1962.

Among his hobbies the younger Harry enjoyed rabbiting, fishing, darts and his allotment, but it was Rita’s father who persuaded him to have a go at bowls - and he never looked back.

As well as his unrivalled knowledge of bowls and bowlers, Harry was a formidable player himself, with an outstanding list of achievements, which could almost fill a page on their own.

For his 80th birthday in 2007 Rugby Bowling Club honoured him with a special presentation for his services to bowls and over the

years; and he was also a Life Member of the county and Thornfield Indoor Bowling Club.

Harry started bowling at Caldecott Park in 1954 and in his first year won the club’s handicap singles.

The following year he won the club championship and RBA singles and lost 21-20 on a measure in the county singles semi-final

to international Frank Watts, the eventual winner. A very talented beginner!

Harry went on to win the RBA singles five times and pairs a record six times.

Harry won the very competitive Royal Leamington Spa Tournament Singles twice, as well as the pairs and triples.

At county level, Harry won the triples and fours and played Middleton Cup for Warwickshire 70 times, as well as many games at Midland Counties League level.

He was a member of Rugby Bowling Club from 1957 to 1966, winning the club championship twice.

In 1966 he joined his works club, GEC Willans and won the championship there a record seven times, as well as being runner-up

on five occasions.

Harry also skipped one of the rinks in the Willans team that won the 1983 National Fours Championship.

Partnered by former RBC player Gordon Townsend, Harry was also runner-up in the National Over 55s pairs.

In 1974 Harry was a founder member of Thornfield Indoor Bowling Club and over the years won the pairs, triples three times and fours also three times. He was twice runner-up in the singles.

At county indoor level, Harry won the triples twice and fours and was a runner-up in the Midland Counties.

Dave Murley BEM, Chairman – Board of directors at Rugby Thornfield Indoor Bowls Club paid tribute: “Harry Reynolds, Life Member, legendary bowler of Rugby Thornfield Indoor Bowls Club will be remembered in many different ways by a great number of bowlers throughout the length and breadth of Warwickshire and the adjoining counties for the prowess that he possessed on the bowling green be it outdoors or indoors.

“That said I believe that he will be best remembered for the total lifelong commitment displayed in reporting bowls throughout the County in various newspapers for the best part of 50 years. Harry had his own style of writing and it was reported accurately and just how it happened, no embellishments whatsoever.

On the occasion when I had the privilege of presenting him with his life member certificate some four years ago, before a gathering of his peers at the Club presentation evening, I said then that I would doubt that 50 years of reporting bowls, meeting all those deadlines would ever be beaten either locally or nationally; his face lit up and he was beaming quite justifiably proud of that achievement.

His achievements will be remembered by his friends and fellow bowlers and be talked about with due reverence justly earned on the bowls greens of this county.

Harry’s funeral is at Rugby’s Rainsbrook Crematorium, Avon Chapel, on Friday, October 17, at 2pm and afterwards at Thornfield Indoor Bowls Club.