8.3 The Game of Bools

Bowls is a game codified by the Scots and exported around the world. The Wellcroft Club in Glasgow (founded 1835) have the ancestor of the world rules in their first minute book. The Scottish Bowling Association [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] (SBA) was the world’s first national association: founded 1892. If you do extension research on sport in Scotland, you will quickly see how Bowls and Curling are very similar in their tactics and field of play. Further study will show how words such as rink can also appear in quoits and racing generally.

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Activity 7

Part 1

As with the other types of sports, you will start your work in this section with some Scots words relating to bool.

  • Here are a Scots word and example sentence connected to the game for you to learn:

  • Bool

  • Definition 2: A bowler's bowl, a “wood.” Gen.Sc. 3. Extended to mean the game.


    • Example sentence: “The bool rolled across the rink and kissed the kitty.”

    • English translation: “The bowl rolled across the grass and just touched the jack.”

  • Please note: The name of the game is the same as the name of the item/tool the game is played with.

Part 2

Click to hear the sentence above read by a Scots speaker.

You can then make your own recording and play it back to check your pronunciation.

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Go to the Dictionary of the Scots Language for a full definition of the word.

Language links

Arbor of leaning lignum vitae (Guaiacum sp.) by Joel Abroad

The bowl is called a ‘wood’ because it was originally that: a bowl made from lignum vitae: one of the hardest woods in the world. Until the advent of modern composite materials, the oldest bowls manufacturer in the world, Thomas Taylors of Glasgow, used lignum vitae.

“Back in the 1800's, when all bowls were shaped by hand to a template and consequently, no two bowls were exactly alike, Thomas Taylor made and patented a machine for shaping bowls accurately. In that same year the Company introduced the world's first testing table for bias of bowls.”

There are two useful related words to bool.

Related word 1:

  • Rink

  • Definition:

  • 1. The piece of ground marked out for a contest, combat, race, etc., an arena.

  • 2. The area of play marked out in the games of curling and quoits.

Go to the Dictionary of the Scots Language for a full definition of the word.

Language links

Bowling Greens and Gilbert Scott Building, University of Glasgow, Kelvingrove Park

The term rink comes from the Old Scots word renk meaning an arena for combat. English words such as rank and range all come from the same origin: the Old French renc or ranc and before that the Old Teutonic cognate ring. This gives a word which suggests a boundary area. In modern bowls, the game is played on a large area of grass called a bowling green. Within the space of the green are rectangular areas of play called rinks. The bigger the area of grass, the more rinks that can be created.

Related word 2:

  • Kitty

  • Definition: 3. The jack or white ball aimed at in the game of bowls. Also kit, id.

Go to the Dictionary of the Scots Language for a full definition of the word.

Language links

Like curling, the object of the game is to throw your bool down the rink and come closest to an agreed point. The bools closest to the agreed point are the bools which score the points. Where curling marks a set of concentric circuit lines on the ice and calls it a ‘house’, in bowling a white ball, called a kitty, is thrown down the rink, to act as a target. In English the word would be ‘jack’. Therefore, the phrase ‘kissing the kitty’ is a bool that is almost perfect and has come to rest, lightly touching the kitty. It is, by definition, almost impossible to get a competing bool any closer.

Note that the term kitty is also used to denote an object hit in the game of Shinty: another ancient Scottish stick and ball, field game.

When studying the two sports of Bool and Curling, you will have noticed that these two games have much in common. Here are some more aspects that apply to both games:

  • both were codified in the 19th century

  • both are team games

  • both have become international sports

  • both are tied to locality

  • both are played on a long, rectangular surface

  • they complement one another, in that one is a winter game and one is a summer game

  • the skills and tactics required in both games are similar

  • both games are a product of the environment and culture of Scotland, e.g. curling could not have been founded in a hot country and bowls requires a temperate climate

  • both emphasise social setting and gregariousness.

Activity 8

In this activity you will further explore the connections between the two games and also discover the recognition of both games today and things that might distinguish them.

Read an article in the Irish Independent ‘What do bowls players make of curling, and do they envy its popularity?’ (McLean, 2018) which gives you interesting insights into the popularity and status of both games today.

While reading, this time take notes on what distinguishes both games and why one might be more popular than the other.

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8.2 The Sport of Gowf

8.4 The Game of Fitba