Bowls community mourns death of influential figure

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Influential bowls figure Ivan Robb has passed away after losing his battle against cancer.

The News’ former bowls correspondent died on Wednesday morning at Queen Alexandra Hospital, aged 79.

Robb’s tireless dedication to the sport spanned nearly a quarter of a century and established him as one of the most prominent characters in the game this side of Hampshire.

He held a number of key positions, from president and secretary of the Portsmouth & District Bowls Association, to president of Victory Indoor Bowls Club and chairman of their management council.

The former Highbury Bowls Club member also provided match reports to The News – a role he began in 1989, before stepping down through ill health earlier this year.

In recognition of his enormous contribution to the sport, he won the 2012 lifetime achievement award at last month’s The News Sports Awards.

His widow, Beryl, has paid tribute to her husband of 47 years.

She said: ‘The last fortnight Ivan went downhill very, very quickly and it was such a shame.

‘He was very active in his life and would particularly like to be remembered for his work with children in the Special Olympics in the early 1990s.

‘But Ivan enjoyed what he did. He never asked for any gratitude, it was “I’m just doing my job” and that was it.

‘Whatever he did was not for him but other people. He never thought of himself.

‘I was his unpaid secretary when it came to bowls but I didn’t mind and will miss him a great deal.

‘It meant so much receiving The News’ lifetime achievement award recently, he cried when he got the trophy.

‘He thought it was lovely and appreciated it. He didn’t expect anything like that.

‘We will all miss him very much.’

Underlining his influence in the bowling community, Robb was the first person to be honoured from the sport at the Sports Awards.

However, his illness meant he was unable to attend the ceremony at Ferneham Hall five weeks ago, with friends Brian Martin, Tom Pullin and Dave Wildman collecting the trophy on his behalf.

Robb played an integral role in making the Southsea Open one of the most prestigious tournaments in the country and organised countless events to promote the sport.

And the high regard he is held in by his peers was summed up when he was asked to bowl the first wood in the last-ever match at Highbury Bowls Club before its closure.

Wildman recently replaced Robb as Portsmouth & District League secretary.

He added: ‘Ivan is a hard act to follow. He was a person who enjoyed life and his belief was bowls could be enjoyed by people from the age of nine right up to 92 on the same ground and having the same fun.

‘He was always very keen to get the youngsters more and more involved in the sport.

‘Ivan was a popular figure, everybody knew him and his good wife, Beryl, who used to take all his calls.

‘He will be sorely missed.’