Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Bosisto, Glyn de Villiers (1899–1990)

by R. I. Cashman

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Glyn de Villiers Bosisto (1899-1990), lawn bowler and bank manager, was born on 15 February 1899 at Gawler, South Australia, youngest of eight children of Glyn de Villiers Bosisto, stock holder and horse dealer, and his wife Anna Letitia, née Davis, both born in South Australia. The Bosistos were of Cornish background and also had Welsh, Huguenot and Spanish forebears. Educated at Gawler District High School, young Glyn joined the National Bank of Australasia Ltd at age 16.

The family moved to Adelaide, where Bosisto senior won seven club titles for lawn bowls. Father and son practised on the Prospect club’s green but at that stage tennis, golf and football appealed more to the younger man. Transferred to the country, he captained Kadina’s Australian Rules football team and led a Yorke Pensinsula side against the Adelaide Metropolitan second XVIII. On 27 October 1928 at the Methodist Church, Kadina, he married Audrey Vida Winifred Davies (d.1986); she was later a keen bowls player and administrator.

After the bank transferred Bosisto to Melbourne in 1932, he took up competitive bowls, becoming the singles champion of the Glen Iris club in 1933-34. The bank moved him to Sydney in 1935. He won the singles title of the North Sydney club once and that of the City club seven times. In 1941 he was the skipper of the successful fours at the Metropolitan and State championships. Sent back to Melbourne in 1948, he joined the Victoria Bowling Club, where he was singles title holder in 1948-49 and (following a break with the Auburn club) 1954-56. He retired from the bank in 1955 as manager of the Western branch, Collins Street, and subsequently worked in insurance. Losing a vice-presidential election at the Victoria in 1956, he moved to the Kew club next year. Later he played for Camberwell and Auburn Heights.

Bosisto created so many records that he was dubbed the (Sir Donald) `Bradman of bowls’. He won an unprecedented four successive Australian singles titles from 1949 and achieved another two national championships as skipper of fours in 1951 and 1957. In all, he won fifty-five major singles contests including five Victorian and seven Victorian champion of champions. He represented Australia, New South Wales and Victoria 256 times. At 67 he was considered too old to play against the top English player David Bryant, aged 35, but he defeated Bryant 21-17 in one exhibition match and led 9-6 when a second was abandoned. Bosisto achieved less success at the British Empire Games: he was selected for but unable to attend the Auckland games (1950) and found the greens in Vancouver (1954) too bumpy and those in Cardiff (1958) too heavy for his touch bowling.

A perfectionist, Bosisto never talked to an opponent during a game so that his `intense, unsmiling concentration’ was interpreted by some as surliness. He consulted frequently with greenkeepers to ensure the best possible playing surface. While his bowling style was unattractive, it was effective and honed by years of practice. He disapproved of bowlers who imbibed often during a match and commented: `I will never understand why the absence of a bar should have ruled out play on the best greens at the Cardiff Empire Games’.

In 1977 Bosisto was appointed MBE and in 1985 inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. He published two books, Bowling Along (1963) and Bowls by Bosisto (1983), and raised money for charity through lectures and exhibition games. Reluctant to gain financial benefit from his name, he often coached in an honorary capacity. He died on 16 December 1990 at Centennial House, Royal Freemasons Home, Windsor, and was cremated. His daughter survived him, as did his son, Jon, who represented Victoria at bowls.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Pollard (ed), Lawn Bowls—The Australian Way (1962)
  • J. Senyard, The Tartan on University Square (2001)
  • Bowls, Sept 1975, p 16
  • Age (Melbourne), 22 Jan 1980, p 26.

Citation details

R. I. Cashman, 'Bosisto, Glyn de Villiers (1899–1990)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bosisto-glyn-de-villiers-12232/text21941, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 13 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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