A Bangor Club was formed at the turn of the Century and re-formed in 1921. Reference is made in Irish Hockey records to Bangor’s AD Mcllwaine playing for Ulster against Leinster in 1902-03 and SA Bullock (Bangor; Malone and Marino) playing for Ireland against Scotland in 1903, 1907 and 1909, as well as a number of times for Ulster. It is interesting to note that it was not until the early Seventies that another Bangor player represented his country – Davy McManus, who gained his First Cap against West Germany and who, with Frank Young, another young Bangor player in his early days, was selected to play against England. Nothing further appears to be known about the Bangor Club after 1910 or 1911 until it was re-formed in 1921.
A meeting was then held in the Dufferin Hall and the sponsors were B Bell and J Breeze. It was decided to re-form the local Hockey Club and that a team should be entered in the Minor League for the 1921-22 Season. J Breeze was elected Honorary Secretary and SR Bell, Honorary Treasurer.
Since then, with the exception of the War years, Bangor have fielded several teams each Season. The first pitch was in Church Street, and ‘Miss Hanna’s Hall’ was used as a pavilion. The first game was played against a team known as Anglo-American whom Bangor beat by three goals to one. The Bangor Club, in its first Season, finished well up in the League. After two Seasons at Church Street the Club obtained a pitch beside Godfrey Avenue near Ballyholme show grounds. This was one of the best pitches the Club ever had – being sandy, flat and well drained. Here a pavilion was built and the membership became so strong that it was possible to field three teams, one in the Senior Qualifying, one in Junior and one in Minor League hockey. Here the Club remained for approximately five years and during the summer months it organised Five-a-Side competitions which were very popular. (An interesting feature of the Club in those days was that the subscription was 10 Shillings and the charge for catering was 1 Shilling per member!)
Around 1927, the Club moved to the Ashley Park district, and later to Silverstream, Belfast Road, where two teams were fielded, one in the Intermediate League and the other in the Junior League. After a sojourn at Silverstream, the Club moved to Ward Park, and then in 1957 to the new Castle Park Playing fields, where they remained until the return to Ward Park in 1975.
The most successful Seasons in the early days were 1933-36 when Bangor won the Junior, Intermediate and Senior Qualifying League in three successive Seasons. Immediately prior to this Bangor had the fine record of five Seasons (1928-32) on the Ashley Park ground without a single home defeat. During this period the trophies won were – Junior Charity Cup 1932-33; Braddell Shield 1933-34; Intermediate Charity Cup 1934-35; Junior League 1932-33-34; Intermediate League 1934-35; Senior Qualifying League 1935-36.
The most successful years were 1960-61 when Bangor won promotion to Section A Qualifying League and 1961-62, when the First XI, captained, by Harry McDonagh, won promotion to the Senior League – having gained promotion on two successive years and having gone two Seasons without a League defeat. In 1962-63 they maintained their place in Senior Hockey but were relegated to Senior League II the following Season. In the 1963-64 Season Davy McManus brought honour to the Club by being selected for the Ulster Senior team as well as the Ulster Under-23 team.
In 1955, to mark the town’s 1,400th Anniversary, the Hockey Club inaugurated a Six-a-Side Tournament. From small beginnings of a mere 20 teams it has grown over the years and at one time was thought to have been the largest tournament of its kind in the British Isles, attracting a record 150 teams. Now in its forty-third year, it still attracts considerable numbers, its longevity being testimony not only to the format of the event but also to the quality of the organisation.
Since the Club began to use Ward Park there has been a lengthy period of stability as regards a playing venue, but this degree of consistency has not necessarily been matched on the field! The First XI have endured a lengthy flirtation with Senior I status, the most successful spell coming in the mid-Eighties when a League position of 4th was gained. The annual exodus of schoolboys to more successful Clubs is a major factor. As a consequence the First XI have sat frustratingly in limbo, always having a squad too strong for Senior II but not able to compete effectively over a period of time at Senior I level. However, the Second XI have been playing at top Junior level and the Club now boasts six teams, one of the largest complements in Ulster hockey. The First XI reached its first-ever Senior Cup Final in 1990, failing narrowly at the final hurdle.
As the Club entered its 75th Anniversary Year there was both a sense of achievement and expectation. From September 1996 the Club had a new playing home at the Ballykillaire complex, providing two artificial pitches. This brought benefits on many levels – modern facilities aiming to encourage local talent to remain at the Club to strengthen the playing pool and therefore hopefully help achieve sustainable playing success.
In recent years, after a few years outside the top flight, the club again regained its status in the Premier League after winning Senior 1 in 2003 under the guidance of Brian Davis. In this season the team won 21 out of 22 league matches, falling to defeat only in their last league match.
The following season in their first season back in the Premier League, 2003/04, was to prove another successful one with the 1st XI finishing a very creditable 4th only just missing out on the chance to qualify for Europe. The 2004/05 season proved to be more difficult in the league, finishing 7th out of eight teams, but again Premier League status was assured. However the 1st XI did manage to reach the semi final of the Kirk Cup and the Anderson Cup, falling to the eventual winners on both occasions.
Turning to Schools hockey Bangor Grammar have enjoyed consistent success in the past two decades, the school system producing teams which have won the Burney and McCullough Cup double in 1983, and the McCullough Championship in 1989. They have also twice won the Irish Schools Championship. Recognition for the schools success in developing hockey talent has come in the form of representative honours for a considerable number of schoolboys over the years, the most notable success being Stephen Martin, the Olympic player.