Killyleagh league start postponed

Killyleagh league start postponed

22 April 2020

ANNAHILT Scouts were the first winners of the East Down Churches League’s Junior Championship in the 1955-56 season. 

The following season, Drumlough, who have been part of the league for most years ever since, lifted the Rev W W McI Craig Cup — a trophy that has been missing for many years.

Interesting that Kilmore were the next winners, followed by Brookfield and Drumlough again.

The first winners of the intermediate section, established in 1957-58, was won by Dromore Cathedral. The cup was presented by the Rev W T and Mrs Agnew. The Rev Agnew was the long-time chairman of the league.

The following season the title went to Ballynahinch Tennis Club, which was run for a long time by Sam Hamilton, a local solicitor. Kinallen were the next winners followed by Clough, a club that won the U-15 Championship in 1960-61.

Down Parish were the winners in the following two seasons followed by Ardglass and then Edengrove for two seasons.

Priesthill were members of the league in the Fifties and they won the Knockout Cup in the 1954-55 season, retaining the title the following season.

Another long gone club, Brookfield, were the next winners. Brookfield withdrew from the league in the late Sixties.

Rostrevor, another club no longer with us, were the winners in 1962-63. I believe Wesley McBridge was a top player in the club.

A couple of seasons back, Irwin Bonnar, now resident in Bangor, got in touch with the league.

He had great memories of winning the men’s singles title in 1955-56 and in 1956-57 when a member of Seaforde.

Roy Copes, of Drumlough, was the winner of this title in 1958-59 with the great Freddie Brown winning the title for the first time the following season. He then went on to win it again in 1962-63 and 1963-64.

His great rival, Alistair Cairns, took the coveted crown for the first time in 1964-65 with Freddie then winning it for the next five seasons in a row. Alistair won the next two, Freddie the next and then it was back to Alistair.

Over the years their battles were the stuff of legends. Both were regular Ulster players, while Alistair went on to play for Ireland.

Irwin Bonnar, along with J F Pollock, took the men’s doubles title to Seaforde in 1955-56. They also played together in the same cricket team.

The first ever winner of the boys singles in 1952-53 was Russell Prescott, from Clough. I believe he was a top player but didn’t stay at the game. Irwin Bonnar won the title for the following two seasons.

A girls’ singles competition was also held for the first time in 1952-53 with V Gray the winner.

In 1966-67 Terry Connor, the Clough legend, lifted the U-15 boys’ shield and picked up the title the following year also.

In the same season Ardglass girl Helen Williams equalled Terry’s achievement by winning the first two runnings of the U-15 girls’ shield, but she went one better the following season. Frances Scott and Margie Lowry would win true shield in the following two seasons.

No wonder it took four full nights to play off the championships in those years and with less travel problems for young people there were more players able to take part.

For many years the league took part in an inter-churches league challenge match with the Belfast & District Churches League. The first was played in Clough Presbyterian Hall in the 1952-53 season and the Belfast team won 8-1.

Over the years the match took place either in the East Down area or in Belfast. Local venues included the Arnold Hall in Spa, Drumgooland, Magheradroll, Dromore Cathedral, Clough Minor Hall, Drumlough, Down Parish and Kilmore Presbyterian.

East Down were the winners of the last of these matches played some years ago. Sadly the Belfast League has now folded, despite the best efforts of those involved with it over the years.