Bangor Swifts Football Club
( Established 1970 )

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1972 - 1973

In the early 1970s, all organised junior football took place in Belfast based leagues such as the Willowfield, Irish Churches and Old Boys’ League. In the 50th. match of their existence in May 1972, the team played a friendly against Ormeau Road side Parkmore Y.C. whose officials recommended the Willowfield League. An application was duly forwarded to that organisation but events taking place closer to home led to the offer of a place in that league being turned down.

Three local men, Billy Kirkwood & Tom Waugh from Millisle and Roy Bunting from Donaghadee called a meeting of interested Football Clubs in the Mary Street Orange Hall in Newtownards and this led to the formation of the North Down League. Thus in the late summer of 1972, Epworth Hall Y.C. became one of the ten founder members of this league.

When they were accepted as founder members of the North Down League in 1972, the acting kit manager, Peter Vannucci felt that the team should have a uniform strip as the players were still wearing a variety of shorts and socks with their “new” jerseys. As the majority of players owned white shorts, it was decided to purchase a set of plain white socks (the cheapest available) and thus Epworth Hall registered their colours for the first time as Blue shirts with Yellow sleeves, White Shorts and White socks.

For the inaugural league match in the North Down League, Epworth Hall were represented by George Wilson, George Bateson, Nigel Jeffers, Brian Mumford, Kevin McBrien, Roger Grant, David McMillan, Brian Balmer, Norman Green, Nicky Davidson and sub Andy McCreadie. Due to a colour clash, the colours worn by Epworth were not their traditional Blue and Yellow but rather the change kit of Red.

Unfortunately, their entry into the world of competitive junior football turned out to be a traumatic affair. Away to Millisle United, they went into a 4 v 0 lead within half an hour with goals from Davidson, Green and Barr (2). However, shortly after, with the score standing at 4 v 1, disaster struck. The more experienced Millisle side began to play robustly. and Epworth player Brian Balmer received a kick in the face and had to be carried off. The rest of the team were badly upset and completely lost their rhythm. Although Epworth managed to score again through McMillan, all composure was lost and the team crashed to a 5-7 defeat.
In their third league match , Epworth travelled to play Cregagh Y.C. in the Cregagh estate. Nothing dramatic about that except for the fact that there was also a Fete organised by the Ulster Defence Association taking place at the same venue.

As this match took place in one of the worst years of the “Troubles”, it is not surprising that the young Bangor side did not complain too much at the frequent incursions by the general public onto the playing field. A dodgy referee who allowed a late winning goal for the home side did not leave Epworth too impressed with the situation to say the least.
Epworth Y.C. had no fixed home pitch at this stage as there was a shortage of pitches at the Valentines. As a result home fixtures were shared between the Valentines and a newly marked out football pitch at Ward Park, depending on availability. This pitch occupied the corner of the current cricket pitch nearest the tennis courts and did not have a long lifetime as the rigours of regular football matches took it’s toll on what had been a good playing surface. The North Down Borough Council re converted the area back to cricket use and turned it’s attention to the playing fields on the Bloomfield Road as a source of badly needed football facilities.
Competitive football highlighted the limitations of having a Management Committee in charge of selecting the team and thus the function of team management was gradually passed over to the father attending most of the matches.

That man was Jack Barr who, with his immense knowledge of amateur football and hockey, was to play an increasingly important role in the development of the Club, serving as Chairman from 1973 until has death in 1987

It was not until their 21st. game of that season that the team won a competitive match which was ironically against Millisle United. By that stage the Club had under gone another name change which occurred on 1st January 1973 when the present name of Bangor Swifts F.C. was adopted. The main reason for the change was that competitive football had been attracting many players from outside the Youth Club and the existing name did not reflect the broader base of the Club. This situation was highlighted on the football pitch on 23 December 1972 when Epworth Hall Y.C. played, and heavily defeated, a team representing the Wesley Centenary Youth Guild. The Youth Guild itself had undergone a transformation, becoming more closely tied in to the orbit of the church.

After this match the Club advertised that it was seeking a new name but not many were forthcoming. Manager Jack Barr was keen on the name “Castle” in the title as the Club played most of it’s matches in Castle Park, but he did not like any common suffixes such as “United”. Secretary Peter Vannucci preferred the name “Bangor” in the title but also disliked the more common suffixes. Around that time a team from Dungannon had just gained entry into the Irish League ‘B’ Division and they had the same “Swifts” suffix as the Linfield reserve side. As Epworth Hall were also in the inaugural season of league football, it was felt that “Swifts” would be a suitable suffix. The name “Castle Swifts” looked like being the new name of the Club until, after some thought, Jack agreed with Peter that the prefix “Bangor” would be more suitable and thus the name “Bangor Swifts” was born.

A provisional set of Club Rules was also drawn up by Bangor Swifts, and these included a clause detaching the Club from any Church or other religious organisation. This clause was not intended to be a snub to the Church which had indirectly given birth to the Club; it was meant as a statement of the independence of the Club in the troubled times of the early seventies. Thus a proper Football Club had been formed and it’s secular policy has been maintained to this day.

With the name change to Bangor Swifts at the start of 1973, the team Committee set about drawing up a set of Rules in preparation for holding it’s first formal Annual General Meeting in the summer of that year. The two Rules which have had a major influence in forming the character of Bangor Swifts are the ones relating to the Club’s secular nature and the one relating to the Club colours.

The latter states that “The Colours of the Club shall be Royal Blue & Yellow and White. The Royal Blue & Yellow represents the colours of the town of Bangor and those of Bangor F.C. who donated to the Club their first kit. The White represents the colour of the School P.T. Shirts which the team wore when it was first formed. Any combination of these colours may be worn by the Club’s teams.”

As the Club became established and funding became available this Rule on Club Colours has been strictly adhered to. At one stage in the late seventies, there was a half serious attempt among certain players who supported Manchester United to change the colours to Red & White but this was easily dismissed and the Club Colours can now be rightly considered to be traditional.

The first competitive win came on 17 March 1973 on the Pigeon Wood pitch (No.2) at the Valentines. The 5 v 4 victory was by no means a classic match with the Swifts having played better and lost on several previous occasions. In the first half, the Swifts played Wilson scored for the Swifts soon after the restart and a crude tackle on the same player resulted in a penalty which was converted by Briggs. With half an hour to go, the game became very physical but the Swifts continued to play good football and in the last 13 minutes Bowler forced his way through the middle to place a 30 yard drive wide of the Millisle keeper to score the winner. The Swifts side was Oliver Fox, Paul Hughes, Nigel Jeffers, Stewarty Melville, Alex Hill, Seamus Bowler, Paul Barr, Clive Briggs, Martin Scrannage, Rodney Jones and Michael Montgomery.

Once their duck had been broken, the Swifts finished strongly in the league, gaining 7 points out of a possible eight, but unfortunately this was too late to prevent them finishing bottom of the league.

By the time the Bangor Summer League came round in the summer of 1973, the Swifts (or should I say Centurions) were in good shape and went on to top their section of the competition, for which they were awarded the Wilson Shield. In the final play off they were narrowly defeated 5 v 3 by a strong Oneida side at the Bull Ring pitch on the Clandeboye Road.
© Bangor Swifts F.C.