Report by Sandra Millsopp
On the 8th November members of Bangor Historical Society once more had the pleasure of hearing a very interesting talk by Terence Bowman. He focused on his two latest books: Bangor in the 1970s and Bangor in the 1980s.
He began by explaining how he had grown up in Bangor and had always retained his interest in the town, despite moving to Newcastle and later becoming editor of the Mourne Observer. He regarded the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s as vital decades in Bangor’s history when great change occurred. For him the pivotal moment was the granting of permission for the building of the Bloomfield Shopping Centre on the outskirts of the town.
Each of his three books follows a similar pattern: selecting news, sport and photographs from the pages of the Spectator and interviewing people with interesting memories of the period.
Significant events of the 1960s included the building of the ring road, the erection of new houses and an influx of people. The 1970s was the era of the troubles and of economic recession when Bangor’s role as a seaside resort was in decline. During the 1980s some of Bangor’s most prominent buildings were lost such as the Tonic Cinema and Barry’s amusements. This era also witnessed some large construction projects: the Marina, Bloomfield and Clandeboye Shopping Centres on the outskirts of the town and the Flagship in the town centre. Mr. Bowman also mentioned two people well-known to those who had grown up in Bangor: Frank Russell who looked after Ward Park and Andy Johnston of Pickie Pool.
Mr. Bowman then talked about the people he had interviewed for his books including Stephen Hanson, a librarian, whose brother David, a policeman, had been killed in 1985, Lembit Opik, the Liberal MP and Susie O’Hara of the Royal Hotel. Sammy Wilson, the DUP MLA had fought his first election in an unsuccessful attempt to become a councillor for Ballyholme. Father Austin McGirr, a Roman Catholic priest in the town, recalled working with fellow churchmen and police to tackle under age drinking. Others interviewed included Judith Gillespie and Tommy Aston, an artist. Mr. Bowman also reflected on politics in North Down and how the constituency returned a number of maverick unionist MPs to Westminster including Jim Kilfedder.
Finally our speaker talked about the possible decades for a new book. He also considered the definition of a Bangorian. Annie Roycroft, a former editor of the Spectator referred in her memoirs to the old idea that one had to have two grandparents buried in Bangor Abbey Graveyard. Now Mr. Bowman thought it was someone who had lived most of their lives in Bangor and was devoted to the town.
Rodney Jones gave the vote of thanks to Mr. Bowman for a most interesting talk.