Margaret Smith, who has been involved in disability bowls for more than 25 years, has been awarded an MBE.
‘Maggy’, who has been bowling since the late 1980s, first saw the opportunity to assist disabled bowlers at her home club, Gedling IBC in Nottinghamshire, just a couple of years after taking up the sport herself.
“I noticed a group of bowlers with cerebral palsy playing and offered to help push the wheelchairs,” said Maggy, who recently decided to retire as secretary of Disability Bowls England after 16 years in the role.
“At that time, we had to put sheets of hardboard down for the wheelchairs to stand on whilst the bowls were being delivered – there were no ‘special’ bowling chairs with broad wheels. We had to take the bowlers off the green, wheel along the side and then back on to the boards at the other end. This was the beginning for me!”
One of Maggy’s first experiences on the international scene was as part of the support team for Team GB’s lawn bowls squad at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games.
“We brought back six of the seven Gold medals, three silver medals and two bronze medals from the Games – it was a great moment. Sadly, when the team went out there to compete we knew this would be the last time bowls would be included in the Paralympics,” she said.
Maggy was part of the working party who set up and formed International Bowls for the Disabled (IBD) and she was voted into the position of Vice President.
At the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002 she was appointed Technical Officer for the Disability Bowls event by IBD and also appointed by Tony Allcock to the England team of bowlers with disability.
In England, Maggy has been responsible for getting the different disability specific sports groups to bring together their bowls squads to form Disability Bowls England, initially for communication, training and competition purposes both at a domestic and international level.
“The fact that disability bowls is seen to be worthy of such an award as this should endorse this as a ‘Sport for All’ and hopefully, bowls participation will grow,” Maggy said.
“Bowls is good for the mind, body and social interaction – it is the most inclusive sport that I can think of. Anyone can play! You can compete with and against anyone irrelevant of age, gender and disability, you can play at any level depending on your ability. It’s a great social pastime and played by lovely people.”
Bob Love, who won a bronze medal for Team England at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, nominated Margaret for the Honour. He said: “Maggy has been organiser, fundraiser and administrator for many competitions regionally, nationally and internationally.
“In 2012 she was awarded the Order of Merit by the IBD and was the Disability Bowls Co-ordinator for the England Bowls Team for the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002. Maggy is one of those, often, unsung people who, despite their own personal circumstances continue to thrive to provide high quality competitions for bowlers with a disability.
“She fights hard to ensure that opportunities exist for all, irrespective of impairment, individual circumstances and backgrounds and she will never settle for second best. She is one of the most respected people and this award is proof of her never-ending commitment to this great sport of ours.”
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