The competitive outdoor bowling season well and truly bursts into action tonight (Friday) as the opening fixtures in the East Lothian Leagues are staged around the length and breadth of the county.

Official at ELBA have confirmed that Prestonpans, Tranent and Gullane-based company East Coast Carpets have kindly agreed to be league sponsors for a fifth consecutive year.

As ever, the main spotlight will be on the race for the prestigious Division 1 title and holders Haddington get their defence under way with a home fixture against newly promoted Dunbar.

The champions have lost the services of Billy Dunleavey, who has returned to his native club Aberlady, but they do welcome back two club legends in the shape of Ian ‘Dinger’ Bell and Derek ‘Abe’ Logan.

Last season’s runners-up and former five-in-a-row champions Cockenzie & Port Seton will parade new signings Colin Leishman and Alan Morgan as they make the trip up the A1 to tackle West Barns, but will be without the services of icon Derek Oliver, along with Steven Thomson, for the opener.

The ‘Barns’ enjoyed a fantastic season in the cup competitions last year and they will be hoping to transfer that form to their league campaign this season; they have boosted their squad by securing the signings of former Macmerry players Billy Cormack and Paul Mair but their top skip Alister ‘Bongo’ Kennedy is expected to miss most of the league campaign due to work commitments, while fellow outdoor internationalist Billy Mellors is an absentee for the opener.

The opening night should be quite occasion at Prestonpans-based club Castlepark when their first and second teams go head-to-head in an eagerly awaited encounter.

There is also the small matter of a local derby as EL-Coop clash with fierce rivals Tranent and both clubs have been busy in the transfer market. Former Elphinstone and Tranent star Norrie Cochrane and former Ormiston player Brian Burnett have put pen to paper for EL-Coop but they have suffered a major blow after losing the services of Graham Dodds to Gifford, while indoor junior cap Ewan Fallen will miss a large percentage of the season due to holiday commitments.

The visitors welcome back the services of Dean Higgins, Alex Cormack and Derek Lowe into their starting line-up that will be spearheaded by skips Brian Young, Graham Robertson and John McCrorie.

Gifford begin their campaign with a home fixture against 2013 champions East Linton and new signing Graham Dodds will be in their line-up, along with his elder brother Scott Dodds, who has committed his services to the club for another season.

On a negative note for Gifford, influential figure Alex ‘Tattie’ Marshall is expected to miss the majority of the campaign due to his continued bowling commitments over in Australia.

East Linton will go into the campaign with more or less the same tried and tested squad that has served them very well for the last couple of years.

The action also gets under way in Divisions 2, 3 and 4 with the following fixtures: Division 2 – East Linton A v Tranent A; Port Seton A v Prestongrange; EL Labour v EL-Coop A; Elphinstone v North Berwick; Longniddry v Aberlady. Division 3 – Macmerry v Cockburnspath; Haddington B v Haddington A; Prestongrange A v Wallyford; Athelstaneford v Ormiston; Winton free week. Division 4 – Castlepark B v Port Seton B; Dunbar A v Aberlady A; Stenton v Prestongrange A; Dirleton v West Barns A; Macmerry A free week.

The Thursday afternoon Senior Leagues got under way yesterday (Thursday) with a full card of action in Divisions 1, 2 and 3.

All club secretaries are requested to ensure that all league and cup results, including shots aggregate score, are phoned into ELBA match secretary Keith Fender on 01620 860217 or via text message 07786 110416 immediately after each match.

All club secretaries are reminded that player nomination forms for selection consideration for East Lothian in the forthcoming Scottish Counties Championship (Hamilton Trophy) must be returned to ELBA Secretary Kevin Blackie by 6pm tonight (Friday).

Newly appointed team manager Ian Bell will select a side next week and a practice match will be staged at Haddington BC next Saturday (May 2) at 2pm.

Player nomination forms for selection consideration for East Lothian in the Scottish Under-25 Championships must also be returned to Blackie by the same time.

Finally, bowls fans can now keep up-to-date with all that is happening on the outdoor bowling scene in the Garden County by following the website by East Lothian Bowling Association. All bowlers are urged to view by visiting