West Lothian is basking in the national limelight as the Champions of Scotland having produced a tip-top team performance to capture the Holy Grail prize that is The Andrew Hamilton Trophy with a 17 shot triumph (134-117) over Bon Accord in the final of the Cities and Counties Championship played at Ayr Northfield.
It is the dream of every County President in Scotland to hoist the Hamilton Trophy high in a victory salute and 2018 incumbent Ian McGill of East Calder became the 11th to do so in the proud history of Linlithgowshire/West Lothian.
Team manager Gordon Logan and his co-selectors Andy Sudden, John Weir, and Gary Smith fielded a 24 strong team that paraded their skills with a spirit and mental toughness that was the best of the East Section runners-up 10- match campaign.
And it had to be as they entered the final with some trepidation and huge respect for an opposition that was well fired up as Cocks Of The North and with strong intent to conquer all in front of them having won all nine matches en-route to their long march South of The River Forth. Bon Accords’s fine semi final win over East section winners Edinburgh & Leith was a potent signal that no prisoners would be taken in the Highlanders quest to make it third time lucky having lost the finals of 1969 and 1974.
Competing in the heat and tension of the sports atmospheric national theatre of dreams is a test of individual bottle so it was a major inspiration that iconic super star Raymond Logan hit the ground running with a mighty count of 5. West Lothian’s first end supremacy of 12-3 across the six rinks was the perfect settler and the team response was to stamp their authority with a 51-33 lead after seven ends.
The true value of that powerful start can be measured against the 43-37 fight back from Bon Accord that reduced the WL match advantage to 11 (88-77) after 14 ends. End 15 and its menacing 10-5 loss, reducing the margin on the master scoreboard to 7, brought signs of sweat on the WL brows however the magnificent response of a 12-0 clean sweep accelerated them into a 19 shot lead that was stoutly defended over a testing final straight that was 30 ends long.
Victory on the rinks skipped by Raymond Logan, Andy Dunnett, and Neil Speirs helped by a peel for Grant Logan swept WL over the winning line for the first time since 2009, having covered losses by Gary Smith, and Steven Fleming. Logan – who won the Scottish Singles title at Northfield in 1998 – skipped Darren Pearce, Barry Sword, and Sandy McDougall from 12-9 to 27-9 then onto a 33-17 win over Ross Stewart. Dunnett and his rink of Ewan Shearer, Scott Mushett, and Calum Logan finished 2, 2, 1 to complete a 22-13 win over Roy Henry. Speirs battled on from 13-13 to skip Robbie Cuthill, Scott Logan, and Gary Orr to a 20-18 win over Kevin Pirie. Logan (Grant) was crossed 15-12 from 12-4 up but rallied to skip Jamie Edwards, Blair Mackie, and James Speirs to an 18-18 peel with Andy Thomson. Smith and his front-three of Calum Black, Andy Walker Jnr, and Bryan Cooper lost 29-20 to Alan McKay while the rink of Drew Paterson, Paul Sweeney, Sandy McDougall and Fleming was piped 22-21 by Kevin Harper.
Linlithgow’s capture of the White Knight’s sponsored WLBA Top Ten was magnificently achieved at the expense of a star studded Kirkliston, defeating the defending champions and format King Pins by a resounding 8-0. Spearhead figure Gary Smith fired up the Linlithgow team morale with an inspirational 21-13 win over international star Grant Logan in the Singles having made space from 7-11 to 19-12 with a purple patch spell of 4, 1, 2, (1), 3, 1, 1. It was hammer and tongs in the early stages of the Fours with Steven Fleming skipping Andy Grimshaw Jnr, Derek Logie, and Scott Mushet into a 10-7 lead over Steven Forrest, Jordan Pearce, Scott Logan, and Ray Logan. But one-way traffic on the race to the line saw Fleming add 1, 2, 3, 1 to win 17-7.
The game-changer in the Triples came with Scott Murphy, Gary Orr, and Ewan Shearer zipping from 3-8 to 13-8 with a run of 3, 2, 1, 4 then clinching a 14-9 win over Darren Pearce, Mark Allison, and Calum Logan. A cliff-hanging climax to the Pairs saw an 11-11 deadlock broken by a 2, 1 finish from Andrew Cruickshanks and Andy Dunnett to beat Robbie Cuthill and Neil Speirs, 14-11.
The opening play in the Bowls Scotland national championship at Ayr Northfield became a West Lothian free zone in both the Gents and Ladies Seniors Singles and Fours also the Junior Singles and Mixed Pairs. Angie Uttley was defending the Seniors Singles title and looked to be on fire when on the brink of first round victory at 20-14 up however she made a shock exit to a 1, 1, 1, 1, 3 finish from Audrey Cameron of Kelvindale. High expectations of a strong Seniors Singles title challenge from Richard Mark were dashed by a 21-13 first round exit to William Hyslop of Springhill.
The Newbridge Seniors Four of John Sweeney, Bobo Forrest, Ian Robertson, and Alec Allan made a 19-9 first round exit to Berwick while the Kinneil rink of Nan Murray, Pat Henderson, Elize Miller, and Ellen Carr 18-11 victims of Balerno in the second round. Darren Pearce crashed out to a 21-4 first round defeat from John Fleming of Port Glasgow in the Junior Singles while Taylor Nicol was sidelined by a 21-11 defeat from Shirra Bell of Glencarse.
No joy for Marguerite Harris and Jack Murphy of Bellsburn in the Mixed Pairs saw them make a 15-12 first round exit to Colville Park.
The mainstream banners are being carried by Linlithgow’s Gary Smith and Chloe Hutchison in the Singles; Robbie Cuthill and John Aitken (Kirkliston) and Delia Flannigan and Angie Uttley (Glenmavis) in the Pairs. In the Triples its, Ian Robertson, Blair Mackie, and Jamie Aitken (Newbridge) and Nan Murray, Elize Miller, and Ellen Carr (Kinneil); while the Fours are, Ian Thorburn, Alan Walker, Iain Grant, and Callum Black (East Calder), and Emma Fleming, Annette Howlett, Morven Shearer, and Lorna Smith (Linlithgow).
The field for the weeklong 21st Johnston Oils sponsored £4000 West Lothian Masters is 177 strong and the battle for Signature Green Jacket and £1000 title swings into countywide action on Monday.
The 16 seeds are headed at No1 by defending champion Neil Speirs (Kirkliston) and followed at No2 by Grant Logan (Kirklisron), then No3 Gary Smith (Linlithgow), No 4 Andy Dunnett (Linlithgow), No 5 Greg Logan (Uphall Station), No 6 Ewan Shearer (Linlithgow), No 7 John Aitken (Kirkliston), No 8 Thomas Mann (Newbridge), No 9 Brian Craig (Glenmavis), No 10 Cameron Greer (Bathgate High); No 11 Ray Logan (Kirkliston), No 12 Bryan Cooper (Bathgate High), No 13 Glen King (West Calder), No 14 Ryan Miller (Buchan Park), No 15 Darren Pearce (Kirkliston), Mark Allison (Kirkliston).
The Final Days Play is at East Calder on Sunday 5th August.