October 25, 2010
Mal Dempsey's forty one years on the bowling green didn't have an auspicious start. "I had no interest in playing, but the Beacon Country Club were desperate for someone to make up the sixteen, and, as vice president, I relented under considerable pressure," Mal recalls. "The local general store put through a phone order for a set of bowls, whites, and shoes, and I drove to Wyalkatchem on the Saturday, where we duly ended up on the receiving end of a 57-3 result."
Undaunted by the experience, Dempsey learnt well, and was runner up for the club singles the same year, a feat he repeated the next season. "I played Fred Ayres in the final, and was holding three shots, enough to win, but trailed the jack back with my next bowl to give Fred three."
These days Mal Dempsey is a well known and respected real estate professional. But his association with the land goes much deeper, and he certainly served his apprenticeship......
Developing a love for the country on farm stays during World War Two, he left his Perth home at seventeen and struck out for the bush, working as a farm hand, and eventually going into share farming. Dempsey applied for a Conditional Purchase block of 5000 acres at Mollerin, near Beacon, at a nominal price with the proviso that he did the clearing and fencing before completion of purchase.
-------------------------------------Mal's humble abode in Beacon
A musician with the Young Australia League as a lad, Dempsey formed a three piece dance band with a couple of other farmers, and the trio were in demand for miles around, which was a welcome boost for his meagre finances at the time. It was at one of those dances that he met a young lass from Koorda, Alma, who became his wife in 1957.
The humpy he had put together, consisting of a shed for seed and super in the front and a kitchen and bedroom at the back was alright for a single bloke, but primitive for a family of six. Fifty kms from school, 28 to the nearest shop, and 150 away from the closest hospital wasn't ideal either.
Life for the Dempseys was hard but they enjoyed it, both involved in tennis and basketball, while Mal donned the cricket creams for both Mollerin and Cleary.
The Beacon Country Club was the hub of the social scene, and Dempsey was vice president when they installed a retread rubber bowling green, which eventually became the catalyst for his bowling career.
Mal and Fred Ayres were teammates at Beacon, and, as you would expect, shared many anecdotal moments, but one stuck out for Mal. "We were playing in the zone pairs, and on this particular end were holding six. The opposition skip had a run at the pack with his first, missed by a big margin, ending up alongside the lawnmower. Fred drew another, then looked on incredulously as my opposite number advised his mate to "draw one, we're just the one down." Checking the situation, lo and behold the bowl from alongside the mower had suddenly moved to second shot."
"Fortunately, the piece of skulduggery had been witnessed, and went unrewarded, but we drank by ourselves afterward!" The offending player later received two years suspension.
A back injury forced Mal Dempsey to leave the farm and return to Perth in 1972.
"I wanted to retire," he said, "but it didn't take long to work out that it wasn't for me, so when my brother in law, Kalamunda bowler Rob Simpson, asked me if I'd like to join him selling real estate at Morley, I jumped at it. We had a bit of fun, and there were a few old cockies over there."
Assigned the coastal areas, it was on a drive around the North Beach area that Mal discovered the North Beach Bowling Club. "I saw this small club that reminded me of a country club," he told us. "I stopped, went in, met a couple of the locals, got to talking about bowls, and thirty nine years later I'm still there, in the President's chair after saying I wouldn't do it again after seven years straight in the seventies and eighties." He has also spent four years on selection, two years as club captain, and is a long time sponsor and club patron.
Dempsey decided to strike out for himself in his new profession, and went to Technical College to obtain a Real Estate Agents Licence, starting his own practice in Scarborough in 1974. As the office wasn't far from the Scarborough Sportsmen's Club, he joined to socialise, and enjoyed a game of tennis. Mal has nineteen club singles, pairs, triples, and fours trophies adorning the mantelpiece, but the highlight of them all was the father and son club pairs event he won with twelve year old Ross. It was to be the launching pad for a fine career for Ross Dempsey, who developed into a regular for Western Australia, and collected several State titles. Ross was a member of a victorious Western Australian side in the Darwin side series when Mal was a State selector.
Serving on the executive of BowlsWA, where he was director of coaching, Dempsey regards the fours competition sponsored by the Professional Real Estate Group when he chaired that organisation as one of his greatest moments in the game. "At the time it was the biggest event in the State, requiring the use of three bowling clubs to handle the number of entries. Our club looked like a Rick Hart store, there were so many electrical prizes on display."He acknowledges Steve Shroy as his toughest opponent over the years, "a top player, and great guy, bloke or friend...he is all three."
Barry Colvin and Graeme Griggs partnered Mal to a Champion of Champion triples championship win, and with John Kalajic and Brian Young he was runner up in the 2008/9 State seniors triples championship. Wife Alma and daughter Glenda are both keen bowlers at North Beach, with Glenda currently vice captain of the ladies.
Mal Dempsey is "almost" retired these days, and can be seen on the beach most mornings. The back is still a worry, but he is still a more than capable exponent of the game, playing in his club's top division, One Blue North.
The man who mastered the Cleary bush half a century ago now attempts to conquer the smooth greens at picturesque North Beach, and reckons at times with the aches and pains the job is "just as bloody hard."