In 2023, membership of our Club continued to grow, to 44, the largest number since the early days of some 30+ years ago. We have enjoyed another very successful year in terms of attendances on Tuesdays and participation in competitions and have welcomed new members Franck Breteche, Jimmy French, Tom Savage, Stuart and Elaine Robb and Desmond and Elaine Howell. 

While welcoming our new members, I also think it appropriate, after more than 3 decades, to mention those who have been in membership since the early days including, in no particular order, John Angus, Pat McCarthy, Paul Maidment, Ciaran McFerran, John and Peggy Hennessy, Norman Glover, Humberto Tavares, Alex Mornin and George Davidson. In the intervening years, while some hair may have disappeared, what hair is left may have changed colour and various joints are complaining much more than they used to, friendships and commitment have remained constant. Those same qualities are evident in those who have joined and remained over subsequent years. Regrettably, some of our earliest members have now passed on, but they are fondly remembered and pictured on our website.  

Lastly, Denis Nightingale, who has constant back problems, has signalled that he is unlikely to resume membership, having played very little over the last 7 years. In addition, Ray and Elizabeth Blair will not be renewing their membership due to commitments at Pickie BC which have curtailed their attendance in recent times. I will write to all 3 with best wishes and thanking them for their time with us. 


The improvement in attendances on Tuesdays reported to last year’s AGM continued in 2023 with numbers around the mark 20 appearing on several occasions. The arrangement whereby we meet in early afternoon in autumn and winter and in the evening during Spring and Summer also continues to work well with attendances unaffected, by and large. For several reasons, it was July before our programme of 9 competitions started, a bit later than usual. Bad weather precluded the completion of the ‘2 in 1‘competition, however, the remaining 8 events were well supported and enjoyed with 9 different winners including first wins for Linda Montgomery and Des Donnelly.  

The John Paton Memorial trophy has been AWOL for a few years now, despite searches in all the obvious places. The incoming Committee will need to consider if we continue with that competition or find another solution.  

Finally, congratulations to Ciaran McFerran and Bob Knox on reaching the semi-final stage of the Downpatrick Doubles competition, which continues to attract support from our membership. 


In terms of outreach, our efforts were somewhat frustrated in 2023. We had hoped to include a visit to Cavan PC in our programme, however, although there was an appetite for such an event within our membership, the lack of suitable accommodation in Cavan and its environs meant a postponement. It remains to be seen if firstly, sufficient suitable accommodation will become available and secondly, if another invitation is forthcoming. 

In late June, some of our members attended an official event at Blackstaff Square, in Belfast, where a small piste has been created, as part of a much grander development. This was the second occasion on which we had visited the location to demonstrate the game and, hopefully, generate interest for the future. From the earliest stage of development, I had liaised directly with the ‘powers that be’, undertaking to provide personnel and personal assistance, in progressing the petanque element. In the full knowledge of my involvement, and without warning or contact with me, I learnt that a representative of the Irish Petanque Association (IPA) had become involved. I took exception to that discourteous intrusion and informed the developer’s representative that I, personally, would provide no further assistance. Should any of our members wish to find out more about the development, they must do so through a source other than myself. 

While there is an open invitation to the local U3A, who visited our Club on an evening in 2022, the offer was not taken up in 2023. 

Lastly, following on from a successful innovation in 2022, Bob Knox again took the lead in organising an enjoyable open-air picnic-type ‘get together’ for members, wives and friends. 


As usual, we are thankful to those who, on several occasions during the year, carried out weeding and a general re-distribution of the top surface of the piste, when required. This, together with the marking out of 8 ‘lanes’, was particularly necessary for the playing of the Celtic Challenge in late April, more of which later. Thanks also to Gerry Thompson for his work on the electricity supply to the new shed. Several benches gifted to us by Pickie Bowling club have already benefited from Ciaran’s repair skills. The remainder could do with re-painting and general maintenance and the Committee hopes that the membership will get involved in the work required. Gerry Thompson has already embarked on this and can demonstrate the use of a brush and paint to those unfamiliar with the concept. Finally, in recognition that the new shed would not provide shelter for too many bodies, the Club purchased a simple-to-erect gazebo to be used, mainly, as shelter at lunch times and inclement weather during competitions. Thanks go to Gil Grummitt for his foresight and sourcing of this very useful addition to the Club’s resources.  


Members may recall that, in 2022, at a relatively modest annual cost of £25, our Club joined the North Down Sports Forum. Unashamedly, the main purpose was the possibility that we might attract grant-aid for the afore-mentioned new shed. Our application for grant-aid failed on the basis that the governing body of our game, the IPA, was not recognised by NI Sport. With no other foreseeable benefit to our Club, the Committee decided not to renew membership of the North Down Sports Forum in 2023. 


As with most years, the Committee’s workload was relatively routine.  Main outcomes were 

(a) the design, approval and management of the competition programme and the provision of awards; 

(b) the organising of piste maintenance; 

(c) the purchase of the afore-mentioned gazebo; 

(d) revision of our Constitution for ratification at the AGM; and 

(e) up-dating of our Conduct, Courtesy and Etiquette policy.  


The 2023 Celtic Challenge, involving Ireland, Scotland and Wales was held at our ‘home’ at the end of April last. The Ireland ‘A’ team comprised no less than 7 members of our Club, Sylver, Franck and Gilles Breteche, Kevin McBrien, Pat McCarthy, John Hennessy and George Davidson. Our contingent made a significant contribution to an Ireland win, the first such outcome for 17 years.  

Our Committee offers sincere thanks to those Club members who took all the responsibility for piste preparation, daytime catering, transport arrangements, sourcing accommodation, competition administration, liaison with the local Council and arrangements for the celebration dinner. Our landlord, Pickie Bowling Club, was most generous in providing their premises, at no cost, for the end-of-event celebration dinner, together with preferential rates for refreshments. Visitors were fulsome in their appreciation of all our efforts, as, seemingly, was the IPA, although their appreciation was short-lived, as I shall now explain.  


Our Club has been affiliated to the IPA since the inception of both organisations. The sole, tangible benefit of affiliation, to the Club as an entity, has been access to public liability insurance at less cost than our Club would be likely to negotiate on its own. During liaison with Pickie Bowling Club, in the ‘run-up’ to the Celtic Challenge, it transpired that our Club is already fully covered, from a public liability perspective, under the Bowling Club’s policy and, probably has been, since our arrival at our current location. This revelation raised the question of the continued value for money of affiliation to the IPA, currently around £200, for no tangible benefit to the Club. The Committee invited the membership to find a sound rationale for committing such expenditure in future. While a very few expressed regrets at the possibility of no longer affiliating, no sound rationale was forthcoming, not even from those in our Club, including myself, who served on the IPA Council at the time. 

As your Hon.Sec, I have sought to keep the membership fully informed of the resultant correspondence between the 2 parties and will not reiterate it entirely here. Suffice to say that, while expressing a desire to affiliate, the Club requested a reduction in the requisite affiliation fee, setting out the rationale and the significant contribution made to Ireland Petanque by our Club during its existence and, most recently, at the Celtic Challenge. Our submission also pointed out a precedent for a reduction in fee. The IPA Council responded to the effect that it could find no basis for discounting the ‘going rate’ and that the matter was closed. At no time did the IPA show any desire to retain our Club within the Association, nor offer to explore how affiliation might be achieved, before closing the matter. Consequently, we will not be affiliating to the IPA, when our current term finishes at the end of March coming. 

By way of clarification, while no longer affiliated, members of our Club can still apply for individual membership of the IPA.   


The website has undergone some minor re-design recently and provides a comprehensive picture of our Club’s history, policies, whereabouts and activities and a means of contact for those readers who may wish to find out more. It is regularly updated with information and photos as competitions and other events take place and it can be helpful in attracting interest and new members. Any ideas for design or inclusion of topics are always welcome.  


Given the age profile of our membership, it is unsurprising that health issues can interrupt attendance and contribution during any year. We wish all our members a measure of good health in 2024 and our best wishes go to Paul Maidment, Humberto Tavares and Pat McCarthy for a full and speedy recovery from their current incapacitation. 


During the year, your President and I suffered bereavements. As always at such times, members rallied round, attending the funerals, where possible, sending messages of condolence and extending comforting hugs of understanding. On behalf of the President and myself, I wish to record our sincere thanks for your concern and love. 


While our hopes to ‘spread our wings’ beyond the confines of the Club environment have been frustrated this year, we should continue to seek opportunities in future, to engage with others. Our premises are without equal, our membership is relatively high and, despite significant but ‘one off’ items of expenditure during the year, we are in a sound position financially. With no high expenditure plans in the foreseeable future and increased membership and attendance we can, justifiably, look forward to continued enjoyment, friendship and ‘craic’.