Grandmother admits to being bowled over by MBE honour

An internationally renowned bowler has said she is still struggling to believe that she has been made an MBE in the New Year Honours list.

Grandmother Sandra Bailie, 62, from Co Down, said the honour ranks highly alongside the many titles she has won across the world in both indoor and outdoor bowls.

Ms Bailie holds the record for the highest number of Irish indoor titles (29) and has earned 42 Irish caps as well as won two British titles in triples and pairs competitions.

She has also excelled in outdoor bowls, winning 44 Irish caps and seven Irish titles.

New Year Honours list 2023
Sandra Bailie has been honoured for services to bowls (Liam McBurney/PA)

But she said she was a member of her local bowling club in Co Down for a decade before she decided to try playing the game.

She said: “We lived in Newtownards, close to Ards Bowling Club and we started going there for the social side.

“We joined the bowling club for about 10 years before I actually bowled.

“A couple of the girls asked me to try short mat bowling. I gave it a go and enjoyed the craic after. Then they asked me to play outdoors and I’ve been going ever since.

“I later joined Knock Bowling Club and then I started to get selected for championships, including two Commonwealth Games.”

When she originally received news about the MBE, Ms Bailie thought it was a scam.

She said “I got an email on November 30, which is my birthday. I wasn’t sure about it, I phoned the number on it in case it was a scam. They assured me it wasn’t.

“I still didn’t really believe it until I got a phone call asking me about the details for the press.

“I still struggle to believe it is real to be honest.”

Regarding her bowling career, Ms Bailie said: “I like to win, I am very competitive, but I am also one of the best losers you will ever come across.

“My husband also plays and it is something we can do together.

“I have made a lot of friends all across the world through bowls.

“There is no question that bowls is referred to as an old person’s game but when you see our men’s international team, the average age is about 35.

“We get a lot of people who played squash or rugby. You do have to be very fit to play and there is the mental concentration as well.

“I have tried to give something back to the game too.”