Ladysmith’s Horseshoe King

The late Bob Timothy, a life long resident of Ladysmith, is recognized as the founder of the Transfer Beach Horseshoe Pitching facility. He spearheaded negotiations with the Town of Ladysmith in 1971 for the installation of  the facility in the park.  Due to his efforts and those of his compatriots, Ladysmith was able to host the Canadian Championships in 1977.

Bob himself was an accomplished Class A 40′ horseshoe player winning many championships at the Provincial, National and International levels. In 1974 he was named Nanaimo Sportsman of the Year by then Mayor, Frank Ney and in 1998 was inducted into the Horseshoe Hall of Fame.

This is his account of the history of Horseshoe Playing in Ladysmith.

Image courtesy of Ladysmith Horseshoe Club

I first started playing in the back yard on First Avenue and White Street. My brother Tom and I went to Comley’s barn, where we picked up old horseshoes and mule shoes. Comley was a blacksmith, his building up behind Lung Fungs. He had horses there and the old horse drawn ambulance was stored there.

These horseshoes were not regulation shoes. Some of these shoes had no opening so you had to put them on the peg from the top. I was told these were mule shoes they used in the mine. The reason they had no opening was so their feet wouldn’t slide around. The pegs we used were just old galvanized water pipe.

At that time, we played 21 points. You threw two shoes each and the way you counted if you had two ringers and your opponent had nothing you would score 6 points. If you had one ringer and your opponent had one, it would be cancelled. With the other shoe, if it was within 6 inches of the peg, the closest to the peg would get 1 point.

The year we were playing on White Street was around 1936. Later on, around 1940, I would go out to John Ryan’s and play. John lived in the house where the Monkey Tree Clinic is today. He had a horseshoe pitch in the back alley behind the Clinic. John Ryan’s son, Len Ryan was Mayor of Ladysmith at one time. John Ryan was Pat Ryan’s grandfather

There were quite a few players who played there. They were mostly coal miners; Harry Mitchell, Jack Rodgers, Ed Sanderson, Pete Brown to name a few. John Ryan got his horseshoes from the States. The name on them was the Ohio Pro. They were regulation horseshoes, had a 4 ½” opening and weighed 2 ½ lbs each.

My first tournament was played in Nanaimo around 1938. Around 1936 there was a horseshoe pitch on the waterfront where Hayden’s boat rentals used to be. It was down from the railway station. They called themselves the Rinky Dinks. Later on there were a few more pitches around town. The Legion had two around the late ‘50’s and early ‘60’s. Some of the players who played there were Eddie de Wilde, Bill Radovich, Paul Radovich, Arnie Hill to name a few.

Around 1960, I built one pitch in the alley on Roberts Street. About a year later I built a proper one in my backyard. Len Copp and I used to play here every chance we got. One day Len and I decided to build some pitches. Finally, one day, we built two down at Transfer Beach Park. They were built by the old barbeque where the children’s playground is now. I bought two pairs of horseshoes and left them at the concession stand. Anne Johnson looked after the shoes. Anyone that wanted to play would ask to borrow them.

Just after the pitch was built, about 1970, we had one small tournament. We soon found out there weren’t enough pitches. I went to the town to see if we could use a piece of their land to build 12 pitches. At that time the park was just being fixed up. This was about 1971. Kay Grouhel was the mayor at the time. The Mayor and Council held a meeting and approved the land.

It had taken about 2 years to get all the material and money together. Len Copp and I would have a raffle every month to help raise money. We sold tickets for $0.50 each or 3 for $1.00 for a chance to win a Texas Mickey. We also got a donation from Ladysmith Recreation for $1500. We got lumber donated by some of the Stevedoring companies. We got sand for the pitches free from Butler Lafarge in Duncan. I hauled the sand from Duncan in my pickup truck

I had to build everything in the backyard and by 1973, everything was in place. All I had to do was haul it to the park. Don Graham and Jack McNaught laid the cement for the pitches A horseshoe pitch is six-foot square. The inside of the pitch is lined with 2×4’s which is 3’ by 6’. The pitchers platform is 18” by 6’ on each side of the peg. The 1” cold rolled steel peg 30” is put in a 12” x 12” block with a hole drilled in it 15/16” wide by 6” deep. The block is set in the ground with the peg 14” above the sand area with a 3” slope towards the other peg, which is 40’ away. Women and Juniors throw at 30’ the men 40’. Seniors can throw the same distance as the men or juniors.

We have put in another five pitches under the trees above the others which gives 17. We now have about thirty-six players in our club. Stewart Battie is the President and George Oliver is Secretary. We are trying to get young players interested but we’re not having much luck. We used to have about six junior players when it was first built. Today the younger people have got other things to do.

From May to September we have practice nights on Thursday from 6:00 pm until dark. We have lots of extra shoes anybody can borrow. Horseshoes is a fun sport. All you need is a pair of shoes and your away

The clubhouse came about a year or so later. It was made out of building blocks. We raised money for the building the clubhouse by getting people to buy a block for $2.00 then the late Donald Kerr would paint their names on the blocks.

We have had lots of big tournaments such as the BC Championship, the Island Championship, Canadian Championship, International Championship, Bathtub Championship. We hosted the Canadian Championship at Transfer Beach park August 13 and 14, 1977 for which we had eighty-three contestants. Len Copp, our Secretary and our wives put on a big banquet in St. Mary’s Church. Len & I and our wives would travel all over playing horseshoes.

The Canadian Championship was our biggest tournament. We had 12 pitches and it called for 18 so I had to put in 6 portables in the back of the existing 12. We had some of the best players in the world, namely Elmer Hohl and his son, Steven. Elmer Hohl was the greatest player I’ve ever seen. In this tournament he had 9 wins, 0 losses for an average of 83.069 %. His son Steven won the Juniors with 5 wins, 0 losses for an average of 77.14%. Steven had the highest game average of anyone in the tournament, 96.190%. Steven was only 14 years of age. Elmer Hohl was from Wellesley, Ont. He was World Champion 6 times between 1965 and 1977, the first Canadian to hold that honour. He was also runner up 6 times. Canadian Champion 19 times, Ontario Champion 25 times. Elmer received the Queen’s Medal in Excellence in Sport in 1978. He was a Member of the National Horseshoe Pitchers Hall of Fame. Elmer died a few years ago at age 68.

Some of the places I’ve played:

Paddin Lake, Wash.

Bellingham, Wash.

Lafayette Ind. (World Tournament)

Las Vegas, Nev.

Cumberland USA

Courtenay, BC

Denman Island, BC

Vancouver BC

Youbou, BC

Hacienda, Las Vegas, Nev.

North Battleford, Sask

Newcastle Island, Nanaimo

Beban Park, Nanaimo

Bowen Park, Nanaimo

Victoria, BC

Peachland, BC

Penticton, BC

Abbotsford, BC

Duncan, BC

PNE, Vancouver BC

Some of my accomplishments include:

Putting in pitches, Transfer Beach Park

Helped putting in 20 pitches, Beban Park, Nanaimo

Vancouver Island Champion 1971, 1973, 1978, 1980

British Columbia Champion 1974, 2nd Place 2 times

Nanaimo Sportsman of the Year 1974

World Championship 1978 4th in D class, Average 65%

Canadian Championship 1977, 2nd in A class

Canadian Championship 1978, 1st in B class

I was inducted into the BC Horseshoe Association Hall of Fame on September 6th, 1998

I was born in my grandmother’s hotel on First Avenue and Roberts Street on February 16, 1926. It was where the Credit Union now stands. I was born Robert Louis Timothy.

Contributed by: Vince Herkel representing the Ladysmith Horseshoe Club.

Robert Louis (Bob) Timothy passed away peacefully on July 4, 2016 leaving his wife of 62 years, Phyllis, son Barry McMahon (Diane), grandson Ryan (Cathleen), great grandchildren Bella, Jett, Zari and his sister, Joan Davidson. He is also survived by many nieces and nephews and countless friends through his association with the Horseshoe Club, the Eagle’s of which he was a lifetime member and his countless friends and acquaintances through his employment as a longshoreman for 35 years prior to his retirement.  A truly remarkable Ladysmith Native Son – LDHS



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