Glasgow 2014: New Zealand family to bowl for Falkland Islands

By Graham FraserBBC Scotland
Gerald (left), Shirley and Michael Reive will compete in Glasgow this summer.
Gerald (left), Shirley and Michael Reive will compete in Glasgow this summer.

During the Sochi Winter Olympics, it is fair to say we all became a little obsessed with curling.

While #lovecurling trended on Twitter, millions watched as Eve Muirhead's girls eventually won bronze and David Murdoch's boys took home the silver medal.

With the Commonwealth Games now approaching, can we get just as excited about another unsung sport? Rugby sevens? Squash? What about lawn bowls?

"I just watched the curling (at Sochi) and people who are interested in lawn bowls looked at the comparisons of it and thought it was fascinating," commented Michael Reive, who will represent the Falkland Islands in the lawn bowls competition in Glasgow.

"There are similarities with curling in the way the sport is played. Bowls is not a fast paced, but for tactics it is great.

"Around the bowling green, it was the talk of the town."

Could lawn bowls be the talk of Glasgow? Only time will tell. One thing that is for sure is the interesting stories behind some of the athletes competing in the tournament, including the Sports Minister of Norfolk Island.

Another tale from the greens involves Reive, who is a member of one of the only families who will compete together in Glasgow.

The 42-year-old will play in a five-man team that includes his 76-year-old father Gerald, while his mother Shirley manages the squad. The family all live in New Zealand.

Michael, who has never set foot in the Falkland Islands, said: "How often do you get the chance to compete in an international competition with your own father?

"I have been playing bowls with my father for 24 years, but to be in a huge competition like this is incredible.

"We are realistic enough. We are probably not going to be in the medal hunt or anything.

"Bowls is a game of chance at times. We might sneak a game here or there."

What about competing for a nation he has never been to?

"I have been around Falkland islanders all my life and I do feel like a part Falkland islander," he explained.

"There is quite a big community in New Zealand. The fact the Falkland Islands have given me an opportunity will be great."

The only knowledge the Reive family have of Glasgow is from the gritty television crime drama Taggart.

They will undoubtedly see a different side of Scotland's largest city as the lawn bowls competition will be played in the shadow of the beautiful Kelvingrove Art Gallery.

It will be the second time the Falkland Islands has competed in the tournament. The first was four years ago, when Gerald was joined by George Paice in Delhi.

George Paice (left) and Gerald Reive at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
George Paice (left) and Gerald Reive at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

Gerald became the oldest debutant in Games history in India at the age of 73, while George was not far behind at 69.

In the Men's Pairs competition, they beat Samoa and Guernsey but suffered losses to Malta, England, Namibia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Malawi, Wales, Jersey and India in the preliminary round. The gold medal was won by South Africa.

In Glasgow, Gerald and George will be joined by Michael, Patrick Morrison and Barry Ford.

With the exception of Barry, who is from Worcestershire, the Falkland Islands team all live in Auckland, New Zealand. How they ended up representing the Falklands is a story linked once more to family.

The niece of Andrew Brownlee, the chef de mission for the Falkland Islands and one of the islands' leading sporting officials, is married to George's son.

Andrew was keen for George, an ex-pat Falkland Islander, to add lawn bowls to the list of sports the archipelago could compete in at the Commonwealth Games.

George contacted his old friend and fellow ex-pat Gerald to make up a pairs team, and the rest is history.

"We had never taken part in that level of competition previously," said Gerald. "With some of the smaller countries we were able to hold our own."

Gerald, who carried the Falkland Islands flag at the closing ceremony, also remembers with a smile how his age was the source of interest to some in India.

"I was the second oldest athlete last time," he recalls. "When we went into the bowls session in India, the guards searched us every time.

"We had these stickers on to say we were athletes. One of the guards pulled me aside and said 'Are you really an athlete?' He couldn't believe it."

The Delhi Games were also an opportunity for Gerald to connect once more with his home islands.

In India he came across Derek Pettersson, a cousin he had never met before who was coaching the Falkland Islands shooting team. The pair swapped stories and pictures of family and have kept in touch ever since.

Gerald moved to Auckland from the Falkland Islands in 1958 is search of work. He has also represented the Falklands at football and is looking forward to returning to Scotland this summer after discovering his great grandfather's grave at a cemetery in Dumfriesshire 20 years ago.

The spotlight fell on the Falkland Islands last week when the Queen's Baton Relay arrived on the archipelago. The baton is travelling the world and is the main event in the run up to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Gerald, Michael and Shirley all hope their participation in Glasgow will help inspire the next generation of players in the Falklands even though there is no lawn bowls green on the islands.

For now, the trio of players from the Papatoetoe bowling club in Auckland just want to have a memorable time in Glasgow.

Shirley joked: "They are very well behaved. I keep them well behaved. It feels special that we will be one of the only families competing at the Commonwealth Games.

"We like to play together as much as we can. The Commonwealth Games will be our biggest stage."