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McNeill, Charles Arthur Henry (1888–1974)

by Louella McCarthy

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Charles Arthur Henry McNeill (1888-1974), lawn bowler and insurance representative, was born on 7 June 1888 at Emigrant Creek, Richmond River, New South Wales, eldest of six children of native-born parents Charles McNeill, farmer, and his wife Wilhelmina, née Drent. Educated locally, Charlie worked as a grocer at Ballina. On 2 August 1911 he married Una Beatrice Gould at St Mary's Anglican Church, Ballina. By 1916 he had moved with his family to Newcastle where he was employed as an insurance representative.

Joining the Hamilton Bowling Club in 1919, McNeill became a committee-member in his first year. He won the club singles title for the first time in 1921 and for the eighteenth in 1964. In 1929 he was elected vice-president of the Newcastle District Bowling Association. As a team-member, he was victorious in the district fours in 1924, 1926 and 1927, and the State fours in 1925. With Aubrey and Harold Murray and Thomas Kinder, he was one of a team known throughout Australia as the 'Big Four': they won the State title in 1936, 1939 and 1943, and represented Australia at the 1938 British Empire Games in Sydney, winning a bronze medal. McNeill also won the State pairs with Kinder in 1934, 1935 and 1938, and in 1954 (with C. Comins); he took the State Singles Championship in 1928, 1931 and 1944, and represented New South Wales more than one hundred times.

A close friend described McNeill's greatest bowling strengths as the forehand shot and his 'deadly drawshot'. Following McNeill's win in the Australian Singles in 1955, the Hamilton Bowling Club—of which he was a member for fifty-five years—hosted a celebratory 'Victory Dance'. He became club patron and a life member in the 1950s, and was Champion of Champions twice in the 1960s. His name appeared eighty-five times on the club's honour board. In 1973 he was awarded the British Empire medal.

Described as a true gentleman, meticulous in both dress and speech, McNeill was a softly spoken man with a kind word for everyone. Tall and slim, he retained his athletic build throughout his life. His extensive volunteer work as coach and administrator was a sign of the pleasure he received from bowls, and a way of returning something to the sport. He also expressed his love of the game in a history of the Hamilton club which he co-authored in 1965. In his retirement he was Newcastle representative for the Henselite Bowls Co. (N.S.W.) Pty Ltd, and helped many of his fellow bowlers to select appropriate playing equipment.

McNeill died on 12 September 1974 at Waratah and was cremated; he was survived by his two daughters and his son (Sir) James McNeill, managing director of Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd. An obituarist commented that Charles McNeill's bowling record 'was unequalled by any other individual bowler in this State and possibly in Australia'. His club named its No.1 green after him in 1976 and introduced the C. A. H. McNeill memorial two-life pairs tournament in 1993.

Select Bibliography

  • History of the Newcastle District Bowling Association, 1898-1972 (Newcastle, NSW, 1973)
  • Hamilton Bowling Club Cooperative Ltd, Celebrating 100 Years of Bowling 1896-1996 (Newcastle, NSW, 1996)
  • Newcastle Morning Herald, 13 Sept 1974
  • private information.

Citation details

Louella McCarthy, 'McNeill, Charles Arthur Henry (1888–1974)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mcneill-charles-arthur-henry-11022/text19607, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 26 August 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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