The following is the Obituary published by Bowls England:
Bowls England is saddened to learn of the passing of the man regarded by many as the greatest lawn bowler of all time, David J. Bryant CBE, at the age of 88.
David won five Commonwealth Games gold medals, eleven World Outdoor Bowls Championship medals and nine titles at the World Indoor Championships during an illustrious career.
He was widely recognisable as the face of bowls and was renowned for using a tobacco pipe whilst playing. He was awarded the MBE and then CBE for services to lawn bowls.
David Tucker, Bowls England Board Chair, said: “David was an icon for many decades, whose name was synonymous with our sport. He was well-respected by all who knew him. I was fortunate to compete against David on the green on many occasions, often coming on the wrong end of the scoreline, but a match against him was always a pleasure and includes many memories that I will never forget. My thoughts are with David’s family and friends at this time.”
David claimed his first Commonwealth Games successes at the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia, where he secured Gold in both the singles and fours. He went on to claim singles gold in 1970, 1974 and 1978.
He won the inaugural World Outdoor singles title at Kyeemagh, Australia, in 1966 and went on to win a further four gold medals at the World Outdoor Championships (two singles, one triples and one team), securing eleven medals in total (five gold, three silver, three bronze) between 1966 and 1988.
At the World Indoor Championships, David won no fewer than nine World Championships – three singles and six pairs titles with Tony Allcock OBE.
He also helped his county, Somerset, win the Middleton Cup on numerous occasions, as well as being crowned National Champion on 16 further occasions:
- National Singles – 1960, 1966, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975
- National Pairs – 1965, 1969, 1970
- National Triples – 1966, 1977, 1985
- National Fours – 1957, 1968, 1969, 1971
Bowls England sends its condolences to wife Ruth and the rest of David’s family and friends. His service to the sport will not be forgotten and he will be missed by many.
The following is Tony Allcock’s tribute:
It is clear that David John Bryant CBE had, in my opinion, uniqueness of inner strength above any individual when it came to playing this sport. He was 100 per cent focussed on the job in hand – call it blinkered if you like – but nothing would deter him.
Firstly, he designed a delivery for himself that no other player in living memory has utilised to the same effect. He had unequalled conviction in his approach and focus. He really was undeterred and would never ever ‘lay down’ until he was beaten. Always consistent in body language and personality – he could laugh with the opponent and then immediately stand on the mat and deliver an absolute killer of a bowl.
In respect of technique his strength was, undoubtedly, the draw shot. This was closely followed by his drive – again unique in its execution with that recognisable self-designed statue that would immediately get the crowd buzzing when demonstrated.
There is one other attribute that made David a formidable opponent on natural greens (irrespective of which part of the world) – his fantastic ability to accept the limitations or otherwise of the rink. He had a tremendous perception of each of the playing hands and would dedicate concentration to this – more than most.
Anyone playing the card game of Solo (for money) with David would soon appreciate that whenever he called a hand you might as well pay there and then!
He is the greatest player that I have ever met for reading a green and I shall never forget when in 1988 in Aberdeen we stood on a bridge overlooking the River Dee, when David pointed out where the fish were situated. He obviously could read a flowing river as well as he could a green!
What is certain is that the DJB mould is unique. A man whose individuality within the sport bordered on eccentricity at times just adds to the fascination.
It was usual in all tournaments requiring accommodation for players to share a twin room – so invariably we were roommates. The morning prior to the commencement of the World Singles, I awoke to find David sitting on his bed with a bowl in hand. From the pile of five sets of bowls which he had stacked against the bathroom wall he had taken a brand new set out from their wrappings and then proceeded to deliver them up and down the bedroom carpet. Whilst I was still wiping the sleep from my eyes I saw David using sand paper on these new bowls. After I realised it wasn’t a dream I asked him what was happening. He revealed that he liked the feel of these new bowls, which he was going to try in the World Championships, but thought the problem would be that they would be too shiny!
The most memorable match I ever saw was the World Singles Final in New Zealand in 1988 between Willie Wood and David. It was fair to say that Willie played the better bowls on that day but David, true to form, never gave up hope. He held on to a thread that was so fragile it was almost invisible but through applied determination combined with that platinum strength of character to overcome, he obstinately persisted. As a reward, in the final minutes, a miracle head change on the last end found David J Bryant the world champion again.
I certainly miss the smell of ‘Holland House’ – the aromatic pipe smoke which was so familiar to me when playing with him!