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Lionel Dowling (1935-2019)

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Bowling pioneer: Lionel Dowling (File photograph)

A tenpin bowling pioneer who headed the first office of Parliamentary Registrar after it separated from the Registrar General has died, aged 83.

Lionel Dowling traced his bowling career back to 1962 and led the sport in Bermuda as an administrator for decades.

He founded the popular American Airlines Spectacular and ran it for 28 years before stepping down in 2006.

Mr Dowling was a longstanding president of the Bermuda Bowling Senate, affiliated with the National Bowling Association in the United States.

His contribution to the sport was recognised in 1989 with a special achievement award at the Government Sports Awards.

Mr Dowling was appointed Parliamentary Registrar in 2000, and the separate office opened in 2001, in the wake of legislative changes allowing voters to sign on to the electoral roll at any time of the year.

His new title made Mr Dowling responsible for elections, as well as campaigning to keep voters registered with up-to-date details.

His career in the Civil Service began in 1976, when became an inspector in the social insurance department.

Marlene Christopher, the former Registrar General, worked with Mr Dowling as her deputy before the separation of offices.

She recalled Mr Dowling as “a meticulous person who just got on with what had to be done”.

“He was a good civil servant who adhered to the ideals of good service given in a pleasant and congenial way.

“He was a team player who worked with professional skill, liked by the staff, who kept people to the code of dress as well as conduct.”

Hattieann Gilbert, a champion bowler, said Mr Dowling had been key in getting the sport organised in Bermuda.

She added: “He was a quiet man who helped everybody come together as one big happy family. There’s not too many left from that time.

“Lionel was a leader to us. He was great for getting things organised.”

Mr Dowling pushed for the creation of the Bermuda Bowling Federation, incorporated in 1997, to move the sport into the mainstream.

His dedication showed after a serious fall on the job in 2000, when he was treated in the intensive care unit.

At the time, Mike McCallum, the president of the Bermuda Bowling Association, told The Royal Gazette it had come just before the American Airlines tournament presentation.

Mr McCallum added: “Do you know that while barely conscious, and at a time when he seemed to be slipping back, that man was more concerned about how the presentation would go than himself?

“That’s typical Lionel. More worried about other people than himself, always willing to go that extra yard to do for others.”

Traci Lambe, the head of the Bermuda Junior Bowling Association at the time, said Mr Dowling “always had bowling at heart and put his heart into bowling — he’s been very instrumental as to where we are today”.

Mr Dowling’s inspiration for the tournament was his hope to see as many players as possible represent the sport in Bermuda.

He also planned bowling events such as the Canada Dry Special, the Non-Bowlers Tournament and a Bowl-A-Fun tournament for the Bermuda Government.

Mr Dowling told the Gazette in 2003: “I said to myself, why not have a special tournament that would benefit the lower-average bowlers and give them a chance for glory?”

Mr Dowling’s funeral will be held today at the St Paul AME Church in Hamilton at 2pm.

Bowling pioneer: Lionel Dowling in his element at Warwick Lanes
Lionel Dowling (File photograph)
Great organiser: Lionel Dowling in his early days in the Civil Service (File photograph)