RYEDALE Indoor Bowls Club's Margaret Roberts celebrated becoming a world champion at the weekend and then dedicated her triumph to late sister Pam Bayes, who should have been competing in the event.

Roberts and fellow Ryedale member Mark Walton became Yorkshire's first world bowls champions by winning the mixed pairs title at the Belfast Indoor Arena on Saturday.

The historic victory was achieved against Dutch pair Wim van Belzen and Guurtje Ros Copier in the final after the North Yorkshire pairing had earlier beaten opposition from Guernsey, Malaysia and Scotland.

For both players, though, the win was made even more poignant after the death of Walton's 's original bowling partner Pam.

Mark and Pam had earlier qualified for the World Championships by clinching last year's national title.

Pam was battling against cancer at the time and it was a fight she sadly lost in January.

The victory in Northern Ireland was, therefore, a fitting tribute to her memory.

"I am so pleased to have done it for Pam, I really am," Margaret said. "I thought about her the whole time and she would have loved to have been there.

"I had a lot of reservations about going there because I did not think I had earned my place but I did my best and did all right. I felt she was up there looking down. I am just coming down to earth and recovering from drinking too much champagne."

Walton, who is also a previous singles, triples and fours title winner at national level, seriously considered not attending his first World Championships after Pam's death before inviting Margaret to be his partner.

He said: "I was told I could take a substitute after Pam died but wasn't going to as a mark of respect. It wasn't easy to go as I knew Pam had set her heart on the Championships but I thought about it and decided to ask Margaret.

"She declined at first but I said I thought Pam would want her to go and she ended up paying the best possible tribute to her sister. It's fairytale stuff really. She played very well in what was a big experience for both of us in front of the television cameras."

Walton, who is the manager of an engineering company and has played for Ryedale for 12 years, had never previously been paired with Roberts and paid his own tribute to Pam, saying: "She was a great partner and a lovely person who was always bubbly and very easy-going. She loved playing bowls and meeting people and everybody loved meeting her."

Roberts, who is a 17-year founder member at Ryedale and, like Pam, a county standard player, also became a minor media celebrity over the North Sea.

The part-time cleaner at racehorse trainer Tim Easterby's stables said: "The television people were great. I was a bit nervous but you get used to them and just get on with it."

Ryedale IBC chairman Tom Nairn congratulated the club's world champions from his holiday in Barcelona, saying: "It's a privilege to have Yorkshire's first-ever world bowls champions as members and we are very proud of them. Pam would be absolutely delighted that they went on and won the title."

Walton will defend the title with Ryedale's Sue Westerby next year after the pair won the National Championships in January while Margaret was supporting Pam through her illness.

Updated: 10:32 Wednesday, April 27, 2005