Canada v Scotland 2004

10-12 August 2004, St Catharines, Ontario

Canada had held the Maple Shield, the trophy for this biennial match, since its inception, with wins at Bush in 1998 and in Toronto in 2000 followed by a draw at Meadows West in 2002.  Scotland had some difficulty in raising a team for the 2004 match, as several players who had initially shown interest turned out not to be available, and we were on the verge of having to cancel when Bill Spalding, who had not played seriously for over 10 years, came to the rescue.  "If you were really, really stuck," said his email at the end of February, "there is a possibility that I could be in Canada for the match."  The relieved Match Secretary replied "We are really stuck!" - and so it was that a Scottish team, a weaker team than in previous years but nevertheless a team of four, came together at Ridley College in the Southern Ontario town of St Catharines on the evening of Monday 9 August 2004 in readiness for commencing battle against Canada's representatives the following morning.

Did I say "in readiness"?  Alas, our readiness was not what it should have been, since American Airlines had failed to put the case containing Bill's and my mallets, brought by Bill from Scotland, onto his flight from Chicago to Buffalo.  It was promised to arrive later on Monday evening, but by Tuesday morning it had not appeared, and we began the match with borrowed mallets - Bill using one brought by Ken Shipley from Ottawa, while I shared with my partner (Jamieson Walker) for the morning's doubles and then played with a variety of mallets in my two singles games against Patrick Little.  The one I used for the first singles game was particularly disconcerting, as it had a very light plastic head with which it seemed impossible to play anything intermediate between a stop shot and a pass roll.  I eventually adapted my game to use only stop shots (which, to be fair, it did achieve spectacularly well), but I still think I would probably have played better with my own mallet.  At any rate it gives me a convenient excuse for my undistinguished contribution to the first day's scoreline, which was Canada 8, Scotland 2.  The redeeming features were a win in the doubles by Bill Spalding and Alan Wilson over Dave Lewis and Ken Shipley, and one in the second round of singles by Alan over Ken.  Jamieson's achievement of 11 hoops with one ball, after Chris Loat had pegged his partner ball out, also deserves a mention, though sadly he failed to run the 12th hoop and lost the game by two points.

A barbecue at Chris and Trish's house concluded the day, and our enjoyment of the occasion was enhanced by the news that the missing mallets had arrived.  Thus fortified, we resumed play on Wednesday, and improved our performance by winning both doubles games and two out of eight singles, making it 14-6 overall and leaving a chance that we could win the match by taking all 10 games on the final day.

On Thursday we were all playing against our opposite numbers in both doubles and singles - McInnes and Spalding against Lewis and Little, and Wilson and Walker against Loat and Shipley.  Bill started off well in our doubles game with a break to 4-back (including a retry at 3-back after a hoop adjustment when the ball stuck in the jaws), but my persistent failure to get through hoop 2 proved fatal.  Alan and Jamieson had a closer result, but it was still a loss, and so we went into the last two rounds of singles with the match decided in favour of Canada.  This did make it more relaxing, and perhaps contributed to an improvement in our play.  I was pleased to win one game against Dave, who was well above me in the world rankings (around 200 against 400), and Bill had his first two singles wins of this millennium against Patrick, even if only by margins of 1 and 2 on time.  Jamieson also won one game, and so the final match score was Canada 20, Scotland 10.

A few miscellaneous details...  The lawns (bowling greens) were in excellent condition, one of them very fast, and the clubhouse was first-rate - facilities provided by the government to the bowling club when its original premises were expropriated for road development some decades ago.  There seemed to be a lot of Canadian-resident Scots around, including some members of the club who dropped in to watch.  The catering was superb (including breakfasts at the club, and a variety of elegant afternoon refreshments, prepared by Dave Lewis), and Ken Shipley provided not only a local shuttle service between Ridley College and the lawns but also long-distance transport from Toronto to St Catharines and back, which was much appreciated.  Alan and Janis, Jamieson and I enjoyed a visit to the nearby Niagara Falls, again chauffeured by Ken, on the morning after the match - look out for the blue waterproof Maid of the Mist capes on the lawns next time we are playing in the rain!  Many thanks to our opponents and hosts for all the arrangements, and we look forward to the 2006 match in Scotland, though matching the standard of the Canadians' hospitality - as well as their croquet - will be a tough challenge.

Fergus McInnes


(Canadian names first)

Canada: Dave Lewis, Patrick Little, Chris Loat, Ken Shipley.
Scotland: Fergus McInnes, Bill Spalding, Alan Wilson, Jamieson Walker.

Day 1, 10 August 2004:
Lewis & Shipley lost to Spalding & Walker -6t (15-21)
Little & Loat beat McInnes & Walker +1t (19-18)
Lewis beat Spalding +23, +15
Little beat McInnes +4t (21-17), +7t (19-12)
Loat beat Walker +2, +15
Shipley drew with Wilson +4t (19-15), -10t (8-18)

Day 2, 11 August 2004:
Lewis & Loat lost to Spalding & Walker -15
Little & Shipley lost to McInnes & Wilson -21
Lewis beat Walker +11
Little beat Wilson +21
Loat beat Spalding +25
Shipley lost to McInnes -4t (13-17)
Lewis beat Wilson +13
Little beat Walker +22
Loat lost to McInnes -3
Shipley beat Spalding +3t (14-11)

Day 3, 12 August 2004:
Lewis & Little beat McInnes & Spalding +16
Loat & Shipley beat Wilson & Walker +5t (22-17)
Lewis drew with McInnes -3, +17
Little lost to Spalding -1t (18-19), -2t (18-20)
Loat beat Wilson +16, +5
Shipley drew with Walker +2t (17-15), -5t (11-16)

The flags of Canada and Scotland fly in front of the clubhouse during the match (Patrick Little on the lawn, Chris Loat and Bill Spalding on left).