March 20, 1888
There was a time in the history of Newfoundland when one of the favorite recreational activities enjoyed by both men and women was the game of ‘skittles’.
St. John’s and other towns throughout the colony (later the province) could boast of “Skittle Alleys” where teams would gather to play their game.
On March 20, 1888 residents of St John’s discovered that the “Skittle Alley”, situated on Springdale Street was going on the auction block. The owner of the property, James McKay, had died the year previous and the executors of his estate wanted to sell:
“All the right, title and interest in and to all that Piece and Parcel of land with the building thereon, situate on Springdale Street, and formerly used as a skittle alley, having a frontage of 94 feet on Springdale Street and a like frontage on Thomas Street, and from front to rear 26 feet.”
The auction may have been necessitated by competition from the opening of the new indoor bowling alley just two years earlier in 1885, on the east end of Duckworth Street.
Skittles was played for centuries in public houses or clubs, mostly in western England and the Midlands, southern Wales, and southeastern Scotland. The rules and methods of scoring varied from place to place, but the basic principle of bowling a wooden or rubber ball (weighing about 10 pounds [4.5 kilograms]) at nine large oval-headed pins, set in diamond formation 21 feet (about 6.5 metres) away, remained the same. The player who knocked down all the pins in the fewest throws was the winner.
Does St. John’s need a new ‘Skittle Alley”?
Recommended Reading: The History of Skittles. http://www.tradgames.org.uk/games/Skittles.htm