John Summers is now in his ninth decade but he still keeps a keen interest in bowling, regularly meeting past international team-mates and other keen bowlers mid-week for a chat at Livingston’s popular Indoor Bowling Centre.
However, many sitting outside John’s circle will not realise that the modest, soft-spoken man is an Honorary Member of the Scottish Indoor Bowling Association and was inducted to the Scottish Indoor Bowling Association’s Hall of Fame in 2018.
They are also unaware that the silver-haired gent from a quiet cul-de-sac in Balerno was
an inspiration to many, including one Lothians-based world champion.
John’s CV is extensive yet the Strathaven-born player only took up the game when he moved to Balerno in 1967, a neighbour persuading him to join the local club that was only a short walk from his home.
The much-decorated bowler said that joining was the foundation of the success he enjoyed over the years. The standard at the local club at the time was high and competition keen with several members playing at county, national and international level.
John said he received considerable encouragement and added: “I was fortunate, I landed at the right place at the right time.”
He progressed to playing at international level both indoor and outdoor and he also medalled in the 1980 World Outdoor Championships in Frankston, Australia, winning silver medals in the triples and fours and a bronze in the team event, the Leonard Trophy.
The former East of Scotland coach, appointed by the Scottish Outdoor and indoor Bowling Association, relinquished the position when he was appointed manager of the Scottish Indoor International team, a position he held for 11 years before resigning in 2000. In that period Scotland won the International Home Series on nine occasions.
Bowls International described his style as immaculate and added that John had superb drawing ability. It brought him many admirers, locally and internationally, and won him a host of tournaments including the prestige Dundee Masters in 1980. He lost to David Bryant CBE in the final of the Dundee Masters in 1979 and won the event 12 months later.
Bryant, incidentally, was also in the field, as were the champions from Ireland and Wales, plus all qualifiers from all the Scottish indoor clubs.
Richard Corsie from Edinburgh, who won the world title aged 22, was one of John’s admirers. Pressed to name the players who most influenced him, Richard sidestepped Bryant, a CBE and a former three-time world singles champion indoors and outdoors, whom some consider the greatest bowler of all-time, and Willie Wood from East Lothian.
Wood represented Scotland on eight occasions at the Commonwealth Games, winning two gold medals and the Haddington-based player was also regarded as one of the leading bowlers of his generation. He won eight World Bowls Championship gold medals.
Richard said that John was his inspiration when he first started playing indoor bowls in Edinburgh and the ex-champion, in an article in June 1987, headlined “John Summers, my inspiration”, said: “He (John) was so patient and I swear blind that he could virtually draw inside the jack. “I often saw him draw to a resting ‘toucher’ one hand and then repeat the performance with the other. He had such confidence in his own ability.”
Richard, who admitted to having a reputation as an “aggressive” bowler, added: “If John taught me anything it was the value of drawing to the jack.”
John still has a keen eye and has been known to drop a hint or two, if requested, to struggling novice bowlers over a cup of coffee and a cake after watching them play in the Livingston indoor rink.
He doesn’t say much, just enough, but he has passed on his skill to a wider domestic audience in a book penned in 2014 called Thinking About Bowls.
The first paragraph in the introduction is significant. It says: “Probably the first question many
people will ask when – or if – they read this will be: “Who is John Summers?” You know now.