Patch of green that is South Wales's new deal for women: Anger at centuries of male domination led one woman to start a campaign. Peter Dunn reports

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The Independent Online
ENID GRIMSHAW'S bowling green, rotting quietly in the grounds of a Victorian ironmaster's mansion in South Wales, is not much to look at just now. For many years, while the big house, Talygarn, near Pontyclun, Mid Glamorgan, was used as a miners' convalescent home, it was lovingly cared for. Today, with the miners' home closed, rabbits have dug tunnels in its once-immaculate turf. The wooden club house is derelict.

But for Mrs Grimshaw the green at Talygarn is a symbol of the future, a new deal for women in the Welsh Valleys where 300 bowling clubs have been dominated by men for nearly a century. Supported now by her local borough council, Taff-Ely, and a pounds 75,000 grant from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts, she is planning to lease the green from the local health authority and create the first bowling green in Wales run by women. 'The men,' Mrs Grimshaw says cheerfully, 'are spitting rust'.

Club secretaries in the Valleys have learned to dread the arrival of their diminutive tormentor. Mrs Grimshaw, 77, has lost count of the number of times that they have ordered her off their greens to make way for male players. 'Well, everyone knows me,' she says. 'I go into clubs and all these men are playing bowls and I'll go 'oink, oink, oink' at the male chauvinist pigs and they say 'Oooh, here she comes'.'

She has played bowls in Wales for 54 years but it was working abroad, as a government secretary in Zambia during the Sixties, that made her question the domination of Welsh valleys men. This was the period of Harold Macmillan's 'wind of change' and Mrs Grimshaw decided it was time for one of her own.

'There's no provision at all for women's bowls in Glamorgan,' she says. 'Most of the clubs are private and the Sex Discrimination Act protects private clubs against women. Could the answer be that we're in the Land of our Fathers? There's no mention of Mother there.

'It's all male voice choirs and working men's clubs, with 'Ladies Nights' thrown in as a patriarchal gesture of good will. There's very little we can shine at as women in South Wales. We're either someone's mother or someone's wife, never people in our own right.'

It was three years ago while waiting for a green at Bridgend that someone suggested the old green at Talygarn. 'So we came down one Sunday and I knew straight away that we were going to get it. I knew nothing would stop me,' Mrs Grimshaw says.

John O'Callaghan, chief of Taff-Ely council's leisure services, is supportive of Mrs Grimshaw's action. 'We acknowldge Mrs Grimshaw's tremendous role in the Talygarn project and are looking to help her in any way we can,' he said. 'No one's ever given us a convincing argument why women can't play on equal terms, except that men don't like to be beaten by women generally.'

Mrs Grimshaw is planning a huge celebration to mark the opening of Talygarn green this summer, and woe betide any man who tries to hijack her club. 'They all know me and I can tell you straight, no man would dare to try.'

(Photograph omitted)