I never fail to be impressed by the internet, I can’t begin to understand how it works but it must surely be one of mans greatest inventions. In October last year a boyhood friend from Belfast arrived in Charlottetown via a cruise ship. My cousin Denis came down from Montreal and the three of us along with our wives had a wonderful reunion. Bobby,Denis and I all played for the 41st Boys Brigade football team in Belfast in 1951-52. I posted two photos with my original post and have done so again today. You might ask why???
Yesterday I received an email from a present day member of the 41st BB, who commented on the photos and mentioned the name of his Brigade Captain. His name was Stewart Kirkwood! my ears perked up. We had a boy in our Brigade, Billy Kirkwood and indeed he had an older brother who was the assistant to Captain Wilson in 1951, Desmond Kirkwood. Quite amazing to learn the Brigade has had a Kirkwood involved over the last 60 or more years. But even more amazing to reach back and bring these memories together so many years later. I don’t suppose many of my readers will be as impressed as I ‘m, but it has sure stirred some old memories of my boyhood days in Belfast.
God Bless and keep reading
There is something to be said about binging something of the past into the present.
My name is Richard Kirkwood and my dad is non other than ……………..Drum roll…………..Billy Kirkwood.
Dad is now living in Portadown with his wife of 48 years, Gloria. The family lived in the Shore Road area for many years – Skegoneill, Northwood and finally Lowwood before moving to Carrick in 1998. Mum and dad lived there for eight years before moving to the ‘Hub of the North’ to be close to family.
Billy has three children – Derek, Richard (me) and Cheryl. Derek is a civil servant and lives in Kent. Cheryl is married to Dave Clarke and they have two kids (Matthew and Ellen). She currently works very hard at being a wife and home builder. I am married to Sharon and we have a 14 year old boy called Harry. I work as a teacher in a secondary school.
Dad’s health has taken a dive this year – unfortunately he was diagnosed with lung cancer but has managed to come through a long stretch of radiotherapy. The family continues to pray for dad’s health. Mum and dad have defected to the Church of Ireland and we are members of Seagoe Parish.
The family’s love for the BB has continued to flourish with Derek and myself spending many years as kids in the 87th company (Seaview Presbyterian) and just like yourself enjoyed the friendship of camping trips, football etc. My son Harry is now a member of 4th Portadown – so three generations and counting.
Dad worked in Gallahers for many years before spending time working for the Housing Executive. He retired in the early 1990’s due to ill health and his only hobby has been his family. Dad and mum enjoy taking the occasional break and have had several holidays in Spain and coach tours to England and Scotland.
I took Dad around his old stomping grounds during the summer – he reminisced about the old times – the Waterworks, BB, playing football etc. We drove down Hillman Street and his old house is no longer there – although most of the terraced houses remain. The back of McCrory is vandalised and no longer loved or cherished. Duncairn Gardens has seen better days and shows the scars of acting as the ‘peace line’.
Uncle Desmond is still a fanatical Clivtonville fan and makes the journey from his home in Newtownards to North Belfast on a regular basis. The Reds have been the love of his life for all those years. He is married to Betty and they have one daughter. Claire. As far as I know – he remains in good health.
By the way……. Stewart Kirkwood has no links to our branch of the Kirkwood clan.
I’ll speak to Dad tomorrow and let him read this article – I’ll show him the photo and see if he can remember any of the boys.
Have you ever seen this website: http://www.belfastforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=1246.150 – if not take a look.
This a a short excerpt from my first book “Lily & Me” I thought you might find it interesting, I expect your dad might enjoy it too. So sorry to hear of his poor health, I hope he is doing okay.
In January, the Boys Brigade league began the draw for cup playoffs. Our team was doing much better since Bobby had become goalkeeper. We’d moved up the league ranking from the lower middle to the top ten. We had no chance of winning the league championship, but we were satisfied with our improvement. In the previous year, our foray into the cup playoff had been brief, exiting in the first round. This year, playing with greater confidence we would battle our way into the quarterfinals. As we moved through each round, the games became tougher. In the quarterfinals, with only eight teams remaining, we were drawn to play Lisburn. They stood second in the league, and were a very good team. It seemed likely this could be the end of the line for us. Lisburn had only lost one game all season, and, on top of this, we were playing on their home field. Everyone said it would be a Bangor vs. Lisburn final. We were not expected to have a chance of making the semi-finals. Earlier in the season we’d faced this team and lost seven nil, but that was before we had Bobby as goalkeeper.
On the day of the match, the rain was coming down in buckets as we stepped onto the Lisburn field. We were eager, excited and somewhat apprehensive. The field was a bog, with puddles everywhere, but the weather did not deter home team fans, and a crowd of supporters huddled the sidelines. In the first minutes of play we were stunned by a quick goal. It immediately looked bleak. Nervous and unsettled, we struggled to find our footing in the muddy conditions. After being caught napping early on, we gradually settled down to serious football. Close to the half-time whistle, we split their defence wide open to score the equalizer. On the right wing I centred the ball across their goal; Denis, rising from nowhere, headed it into the net. We had forty-five minutes left in which to win the game. The rain eased and finally stopped fifteen minutes into the second half. With the wind in our favour, we pushed hard to find a second goal. Momentum was with us, and we were hungry for victory. Lisburn never knew what hit them that day. When the final whistle blew, we were ahead three goals to one. We were a happy, muddy bunch of boys travelling back to the city that evening. Very nice, you are very good in action descriptions like this.
Our extraordinary win moved us to the semi-finals, one of four remaining teams. All week we anxiously waited to hear the draw for the next round. Selections were announced the following Saturday, and my heart skipped a beat upon hearing the name – 1st Bangor. Without a doubt, they were rated the best team in the league. To make matters worse, we were drawn to play on their home field. .
The match was scheduled for the last Saturday in April with a 2 pm. We travelled to Bangor by train, and then walked the remaining mile to the field. It was a cold and windy day, but at least not raining. The game kicked off with Bangor coming at us in powerful surges. Pushed deep into our own half, we were forced to desperately defend our goal. Against these powerful opponents, we struggled just to keep the ball out of our goal area.
In this defensive situation, it was only a matter of time until they scored. Bobby played courageously in goal stopping, one shot after another, but inevitably it was bound to happen. Twenty minutes into the game, our worse fears were realized as they moved ahead, one nil. With the first goal, pressure seemed to ease a little. We were taking more control of the ball and our defence was surprisingly solid. With five minutes of the first half remaining, we took them completely by surprise scoring the equalizer. A thrill of elation washed over me as the ball slammed into the back of their net. Were we going to repeat our Lisburn success? Bangor was stunned; never for a moment had they expected to be tied at the half. Beginning the second half, we were already tired from working so hard to hold them off. The strain was beginning to show, and we were again trapped in our own goal area, frantically clearing the ball. In one onslaught, I saved a goal by kicking the ball off the line while our keeper was on the ground, beaten. It couldn’t last, and thirty minutes into the half they went ahead for the second time. When the final whistle blew we had lost by a score of 3 to 1. Disappointed and exhausted, we sank to the ground at the edge of the field to remove our boots. On the opposite side of the field, 1st Bangor celebrated their victory. It had been a remarkable game; we were out of the cup, but with our pride still intact. We’d played what was probably our best game of the season. While we cleaned ourselves for the trip home, a few lads from the other team came over. They shook our hands and told us that our game had been the toughest they’d played all year. It was a nice gesture of sportsmanship, but, otherwise, I didn’t see it as particularly significant. Only years later, looking back on this moment, did I realize it was, indeed, quite significant. One of the boys that shook our hands that day was Terry Neil. Terry later went on to play professionally for Arsenal. He became team captain, and was capped for Ireland many times during his very successful career. This knowledge only added to my considerable pride of the 41st team performance that day.