Report by Sandra Millsopp
Bangor Historical Society's final meeting of 2019 was held on 12 December. The Speaker was Peter Vannucci who gave a very interesting, illustrated account of the history of Bangor Football Club.
In the 1890s naval ships frequently anchored in Bangor Bay. The sailors wanted to play football and a match was played in Castle Street, on ground opposite Castlemount. Local people joined in and this match in 1890 is the first recorded in Bangor. Soon a local team called The Lancers was formed. It is possible their ground was in Brunswick Road. A photograph of 1905 showed Clifton Amateurs at a ground in Farnham Park. Bangor Rangers played in Ballyholme. They won the Beattie Cup in 1911. The two local sides disbanded in 1914 when the First World War began.
On 7 September 1918 the new Bangor Football Club was formed. Soon they reached the semi-finals of a new cup when they played Ulster, a Belfast team, in Dublin. They lost. The match was filmed and shown at the Picture Palace in Quay Street beside the Royal Hotel.
Trouble occurred at some matches. In 1921 a referee had to be taken to Carnalea station for his own safety, instead of joining the train at Bangor.
In 1922 Bangor got a new ground in Ballyholme. It was behind Ballyholme Esplanade. A contemporary picture showed the area of the ground before it was built up. A fair was held in part of the ground. In 1923 Bangor won the Steel and Son's Cup at a final at the Oval watched by about 10.000 people. This was the club's first trophy. By 1930 they reached their first senior final but lost to Distillery.
In 1932 Mr Brice, who owned a lot of land in Ballyholme, died. The rent for the Ballyholme ground was put up. Unfortunately the club had earlier turned down an opportunity to purchase their ground. The club now needed to find a new ground. The council suggested the old dump at Clandeboye Park and the ground opened in 1935. The ground had a wooden stand which appears in a team photograph of 1937.
In 1939 World War 2 started and the IFA decided that only Belfast teams could play in the league and so Bangor Football Club played as Bangor Reserves in the Intermediate League.
In 1949 the club flew to a match in Scotland - a new departure for them. In 1950 a new lease of the ground banned greyhound racing and Sunday matches. During the 1952/1953 season the club became a limited company and local shopkeepers were invited to become shareholders.
In 1957 Bangor reached the top of the Irish League. Among the players of this period was Terry Neill who signed for Arsenal and later became their manager. In 1965 the club experienced financial problems. Charlie Tully became manager of the team. In 1966 it was decided to form a social club. The 1980s saw the replacement of the old clubhouse and a friendly match in which George Best played.
In 1991 Bangor qualified for European football and a group of fans travelled by bus to Czechoslovakia to see them play. The 2000s were less successful and in 2017 the club was relegated from the third tier, only to return the following year. In 2018 the club celebrated its centenary. An exhibition was held in the North Down Museum. More recently Peter Vannucci wrote a history of the club.