Ladies and gentlemen, I have only been in this post for three years but this, I admit, is a very strange agenda for our AGM – simply because there is no chairman’s remarks.
The death of Dennis Lewis cast a huge shadow over the end of the year and is something that many of us are still struggling to come to terms with.
Dennis was elected chairman of the Mid Shropshire League in January 2003, succeeding Doug Morrey after serving for a year as vice-chairman. He was the driving force behind reviving Mid Shropshire’s fortunes – and his efforts at county level were even more successful. His ceaseless work with the juniors produced a British inter-counties championship title in 2006, but his crowning glory was masterminding the Crosfield Cup triumph by Shropshire’s senior team in 2009. That was one of the proudest days of his life.
He presented his last Mid Shropshire trophy at this year’s Ashton Shield final and took great pride in having assembled what he firmly believed to be the best set of officers in any league in Shropshire. And on his behalf, I thank them for all their efforts over the last year.
It also falls to me, in his absence, to pay tribute to all the divisional champions, trophy winners and in fact everyone who bowled in the league and its competitions in 2013. Official recognition for the prize winners will come on Saturday at the annual dinner, but the league’s apologies in advance go to Chelmarsh as the division four winners trophy has somehow gone missing again!
Thanks also go to the club delegates who attended the meetings and to the growing band who contributed at recent sub group meetings – you may not like some of the things they are working on but those people are giving their time freely and doing it with best intentions.
Reflecting on 2013, before Dennis’s death, we have plenty to be proud of.
The introduction of Mike Beckett’s computer-based results system was a resounding success and other leagues are now following in our wake.
Our magnificent juniors, urged on by their dedicated selectors, retained the Shropshire junior inter-league title in Ludlow and also won the consolation crown; our veterans, with Tony Roche again at the helm, were within one shot of retaining that title at Reman; and, without being too boastful, I think we did a pretty damn god job of hosting the senior inter-league with a memorable final at Hadley USC.
We had three good cup finals with decent crowds, and my thanks go to the clubs who staged them, and Newport did a splendid job for us on the night Alan Jones of Broseley won the league’s Senior Merit in a final that finished just before midnight!.
Mid Shropshire teams dominated the Shropshire Junior Festival with vice-chairman Steve Roberts masterminding the organisation and, thanks to the efforts of Rob Burroughs, we resurrected the Jack Jones Trophy by staging a successful Junior Division Day at Donnington Wood.
We relaunched the Dave Ellis Charity Challenge match and produced a brave display against our old rivals the Tanners Shropshire League, even winning the away leg, and made sure our division three teams got a full season by organising extra eight-a-side knockouts that were well received.
So we continue to make progress – and that is exactly what Dennis would want us to do . . . . to build on the firm foundations he did so much to construct.
We as a league are discussing ways to pay tribute to Dennis with lasting legacies to his memory – and Saturday’s annual dinner will be dedicated to him.
But Dennis was never for standing still and how proud he would be to know that Saturday’s presentation at the Telford Whitehouse Hotel will be the biggest end of season bowls function in Shropshire - with more than 190 attending!
So we must be doing something right – and that is something we will strive to keep doing in 2014.
We already have super sponsors in Molson Coors, top class referees and dedicated delegates, clubs, officials and selectors.
Now I look forward, with new chairman Sean Round at the helm, to delivering a brand new and unique Thursday Night Division, revamped Ashton Trophy knockouts with results on-line, and more and innovative competitions, aimed mainly at encouraging the youngsters in the league.
But, just as importantly, I look forward with great pleasure to nominating our very own Mike Potter to be the Mid Shropshire League nomination for County Deputy President this year and President in 2015.
I hope you will all give him the support he deserves.