Colin Grainger

The history of our passion – and the pride in our tenpin bowling family

The coronavirus crisis has hit both professional and amateur sport hard. And removing our weekly tenpin bowling league from our sporting lives was a tough decision to make.

The British Tenpin Bowling Association cancelled all tournaments for three months at least two weeks ago – and then advised local leagues to do the same  – within hours of the Government advice to halt gatherings. And so the Sunday Trios League in Romford was halted for the first time in its 27- year history.

But the first week away from our regular fix of tenpin action has given us time to reflect on what we’ve achieved in the league’s existence, which puts us among the oldest running leagues in the country. The Sunday Trios is a second family for me and the bowlers who turn up at 5.45pm every week.


Our home for the last ten years has been Rollerbowl at City Pavilion, Collier Row. I’ve been secretary for the last 23 years and it’s a way of life for me, having been bowling in leagues for 45 years. That’s four years longer than I worked in every journalistic rank at the Newham Recorder from trainee to Editor – another big family!

It is not only an enjoyable sport, which in my view should be in the Olympics, but good for fitness and health but the bowl is a place where we share laughs and loves and emotions. There are people in our lives who share our passion but also are there to lend a helping hand in times of crisis. We’ve shared the joy of weddings of league members, births to bowlers and their partners, birthdays and special occasions and the sadness of the loss of loved ones and funerals.

The league’s first home was GX Superbowl in Beckton, near the old ski slope. This later changed its name to XS Superbowl. When that venue closed, we moved to the Hollywood Bowl in Beckton. And when that closed to become a church, we were off to Dagenham Bowl. And finally, after years of trying to tempt some of us to their venue – we were destined to move to Rollerbowl.

  • Mike Hayford

In our history, we have never seen a perfect 300 game. But we’ve come very close. The men’s highest are Paul Taylor back in 1996 and Mike Hayford in 2013 who both rolled a 285, and Colin Grainger a 284 in 1997. Jackie Hearn with 259 in 2005 and 245 in 2002 and Natalie Sicondolfi with 240 are the highest women’s scores recorded.

  • Jackie Hearn


Highest three game series by men have been rolled by Paul Mitchell with 782 in 2018, Del Chamberlain with 747 in 1997 and Mike Hayford with 746 in 2013.

  • Paul Mitchell

Highest women’s series are Jean Holder with 698 back in 1994, and Rachel Thacker with 658 and 637 in 2015 and 2017.

  • Rachel Thacker

Our most successful team in our history years are Phat Bs with five titles in the last seven seasons. And they were leading the way when the league was suspended last week.

Teams battle it out for points and prizes each week and it can be a serious sport, but also fun and engaging. The technology and displays of the game scores has come a long way since we used to write on Perspex with a Chinagraph pencil. It’s all computerised now.

We’ve had bowlers play for their county in the past, and many of us take part in tournaments all over the country.

Our League president Graham Head said: “Why join a league? I originally used the Princess Bowl, Dagenham, for one reason only, the bar. I could drink and play pool. Bowling? Too easy. After all, how hard can it be throwing a ball at ten pins. A child could do that.

“The pool table broke. ‘Let’s bowl’ said one bright spark. After two games and a high score of 70, I was hooked. That was over 20 years ago. I joined a league – Wednesday Doubles – because there was nothing else to do midweek. Again, how hard could it be? Two pensioners showed us with 200 scores. Suddenly, it wasn’t a game. It was a challenge,” he said.

“I have made so many friends (some dearly departed), seen the league depleted due to the smoking ban, fights – it can be a passionate game – and most of all, the sense of family. A group of friends that get together once a week to talk about football, work and life, all whilst wondering why, when sending a perfect ball down the lane, there are still two pins further apart than West Ham and Spurs supporters. I haven’t played pool for years. The 14lb ball got me addicted!”

For the record, our league is full of Spurs and Hammers’ fans – and we couldn’t be closer!

Treasurer Rebecca Martin joined two years after the league began, bowling with partner Brian. Tragically, he had a heart attack while bowling – league members fought to keep him alive on the lanes of GX Superbowl. But he died in hospital.

Said Rebecca: “My partner Brian and I met in 1995 and we found that we both liked tenpin bowling. One Sunday afternoon we met Peter Keyte who was then Sunday Trios secretary. He invited us to join the league. We had no idea that we were joining a ‘family’ and how important these members would be in the future. On June 4 2000 as my Brian went up to bowl he just fell backwards to the floor. I panicked but within seconds members came to help and started giving Brian the kiss of life, I was in total shock and being surrounded by bowlers holding me up.

“The ambulance seemed to arrive in seconds and immediately loaded Brian on to stretcher. But I was not allowed to be with him and he was soon gone. Without the continued help of the Sunday Trios members I don’t know how I would have coped.”

Bowling friends saw Rebecca through the hard times. Brian’s wake was held at the bowl, and coming back to bowling was a big step.

“For some years now I have been treasurer and though the number of teams has reduced as elderly members have retired, it is and will continue to be a big part of my life.”

It was also a sea change for the league. That year, we staged our first ever charity bowl in Brian’s memory and named after him.  I am proud to say we have raised more than £10,275 for charities in those years since. We hold two tournaments each year with great support from bowlers and their families and friends, and the management and staff of Rollerbowl at the City Pavilion.

Another bowler Fred Williams passed away in 2018. And we have renamed our end of season charity bowl in his memory from that year.

  • Fred Williams and the trophy in his name

We have raised money for Exeter Hospice Care, Community Links, St Francis Hospice and charity Ambition, Aspire, Achieve. It’s our way of giving something back to the community.

In all those years we have run both scratch and handicap leagues. Trophies are awarded for league titles and highest games and series. If you win a scratch league honour, you can’t win the same in the handicap league. It means most bowlers pick up a trophy or prize money each season. We stage four other tournaments during the season.

  • Bowlers at last year’s charity bowl at City Pavilion

We have our own social media pages where reports, info and chat are posted each week and Recorder Sport has been carrying our league scores and reports for the last 25 years.

One of the quirky features of bowling are the team names in leagues all over the world. Ours is no different. Our current crop is Phat Bs, Alley Gators, Spinners, Pinpals, Clappers, Misfits, Strikettes and Blinding Lights.

We hope our absence from the lanes doesn’t last too long. But whenever we are back, The Sunday Trios League family will be celebrating with some spares, strikes (and splits) and showering each other with affection.


Pictures: Colin Grainger and Graham Head


  1. natalie sicondolfi
    September 1, 2020

    wow this is lovely to read and see my name on a piece of history. I am hoping to be joining you all again in the near future.

    • Colin Grainger
      October 31, 2020

      Great to hear from you Natalie. That would be wonderful xxx

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This article was written on 02 Apr 2020, and is filed under Ambition Aspire Achieve, City Pavilion, Rollerbowl, Sunday Trios League, ten-pin bowling.

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