1st PORTADOWN BB 1965-68
Desmond Bain (Methodist Minister)
I joined 1st Portadown in 1965 – on a free transfer – from 5th Londonderry. I did so with the audacity of a 16 year old who assumed being a lance corporal would hold in the big Thomas Street Company. It may have caused debate among the officers but keeping the stripe can hardly have endeared me to better qualified members of the Company!Three years of drill nights, gym squads, and Bible Classes later (and a treacherous overnight expedition in the snow covered Mournes) I retired to a drive a WD Irwin’s bread van, before training for the Methodist ministry. Today, it is a particular joy that Ken and David Twyble are colleagues in the life of the Church. Ken is Lay Leader of the Methodist Church and David chairs the Development Board. We work together closely as we seek still to promote Christ’s Kingdom.
Ivan Davison, Chairman of the Old Boys 1967 – 1971
Memories are made of this! Memories can be pleasant, others not so pleasant. Regarding my memories of the Old Boys mine are definitely in the former category. In my mind’s eye my thoughts travel back to the end of the Second World War when I was privileged to become a member of 1st Portadown BB Old Boys’ Association; just seven years after the Association was formed.
(The picture on the left shows Ivan playing the last shot ever in the Methodist Institute on 11th April 1992).
The Clubrooms were in the upper storey of stone outhouses at the rear of Tavanagh House. The entrance was via a pathway from Clonavon Avenue, (approximately opposite the Elim Church car park), leading into a large courtyard. The buildings were approximately in the area of the present swimming pool car park. Entrance to the clubrooms was via an external staircase. The late John George McCann carried on a market garden business on the ground level of the same building. The clubrooms included one snooker table, one table tennis table and a dart board. The table tennis team played in the local league. Every Christmas a dart competition was held, the winner receiving about 50 pence. There was also a Committee Room with a large table and chairs. Mainly during the winter months a “barney” was held on Saturday evenings, everyone present had to tell a joke or sing a song and a penalty was imposed on those who did not perform. The minister of Thomas Street Methodist Church was often present on such occasions and had to take a ‘bit of stick’ like all the rest, especially from the late Sam Crozier. I remember vividly many of the members of yesteryear. Billy England, Sam Crozier, Billy Lyttle, John George McCann, Joss Bell, Billy Coulter, Bobby Bell, Stanley Gray, Victor Reavie and my chum in those days, Gerald Reavie.
Years passed by and in 1948 Thomas Street Church purchased the Institute building in Edward Street and invited the Old Boys to vacate their old clubrooms to occupy a billiards and snooker room in the Institute. Originally there had been two snooker tables and a table tennis table but a third snooker table soon appeared. One thing however never changed – comradeship. Practically every Saturday evening my friend Bobby Wright and I played a few games of snooker before visiting Gaynors for a cup of tea. At that time the late Norman Lyttle was the Chairman and Tommy Austin was the caretaker. For a few years I was Honorary Secretary and then was Chairman myself for four years. Many new members were introduced, I recall Albert Forsythe, (an excellent billiard player), Billy Forker and Andy Camblin all joining at this time.
One of the highlights each year was the Annual Parade and Church Service in Thomas Street Methodist Church. On many occasions over 100 members of the Old Boys and past members of 1st Portadown Coy. BB paraded to church via Edward Street, High Street and Thomas Street. On several occasions a past member of 1st Portadown was the special preacher. I recall the names of Rev. Joseph Craig, Rev. Joe McCrory and Rev. David Burrows.
Time marches on. Thomas Street Methodist Church Trustees demolished the former Thomas Street Primary School and erected a new hall. The Old Boys were invited to occupy one of the rooms therein. At that time due to many other interests and responsibilities my visits to the clubrooms became infrequent and now in later life they have become non-existent. Nevertheless I still take a keen interest in the welfare of the Old Boys and will continue to do so until God calls me to the ‘Club’ above where I trust I shall meet my old friends and we can recall those days in the Clonavon Avenue clubrooms, the Institute and the clubrooms in Portmore Street. ‘Memories are made of this’.
1st Portadown & 7th Portadown Companies of the Boys’ Brigade
May I first of all offer my heartiest congratulations to the B.B. Old Boys’ Association in achieving a truly remarkable milestone in their 75th Anniversary.
In so doing, may I also thank all those officials and committee members who have sacrificially offered their time and talents over the years to steer the Association to where it is today. In particular, I would like to pay tribute to the current Chairman, Steven Wright, and Secretary Paul Teggart, for their tremendous efforts in compiling this history and tribute booklet, and organising other events to mark the occasion of this year.
I regard my own years of involvement with the Boys’ Brigade as being the most character-forming and supportive years of my life, from my days in the Life Boys attached to Edenderry Methodist Church, through the many years of membership of what is today called the Company Section in Thomas Street, and eventually into Officership in both the Thomas Street and Edenderry Companies.
As we grow older, it is often in reflection and reminiscence that we truly value previous involvements and activities, and it is in this that the Old Boys’ Association has played a significant role for so many.
For me, two memories of the Association stand out. The first is of carrying the tilley lanterns to enable the Old Boys’ Band to see their music in the parade to the annual church service in Thomas Street, and the second is of the late Tom McDevitt (with his alter ego Barney McCool) regularly entertaining us all at the annual reunion and dinner.
Perhaps the B.B. and Old Boys’ Association face greater challenges today than ever before, but I thank Almighty God for all their influences on my life, and pray that both organisations will remain an influence for good and for God, for many generations to come.
Canon Mark Russell
Chief Executive of the Church Army
(former member 2nd Richhill Boys’ Brigade Company).
I am delighted to send my good wishes to the Old Boys’ Association on the occasion of their 75th Anniversary. I wish your Society well as you celebrate this event and hope it will be time to take stock of the fantastic contribution that the 1st, 6th & 7th Portadown Companies have made to the lives of so many young men over many years. May you continue to know God’s blessing and provision as you seek to advance Christ’s Kingdom amongst men and boys.
Dr Harold Wright
Wheeling, West Virginia USA
(Former member of 1st Portadown Coy. B.B.)
I was born into the immediate post World War 2 era. My grandfather, James Wright of Burnbrae Avenue, attended Thomas Street Church and served as an usher on Sunday evening until his death in the 1950s. All of his five sons were members of the Boys (Life) Brigade Company. The oldest, Dick, Jim my father and then Earl, Wilfred and Eric. Wilfred died during a German attack on his RAF station in 1940. In the goodness of time, I attended Sunday School at Thomas Street Primary School and then returned there on Monday where my education, both spiritual and academic was closely supervised by Miss Clements, my first grade teacher. What a saintly soul. Eventually, I was enrolled in the Life Boys, learned to play crab football, and to march more or less in step to the commands of Harry Burrrows. I was on the leading edge of the post-World War 2 ‘Baby Boom,’ and the streets of Portadown were filled with youthful voices and boys kicking football between gable walls. I lived in Hanover Street. These were the good times….but political tensions in Ireland, which had eroded during World War 2, started to re-emerge and eventually , at a later time prompted my journey to America.
At the age of twelve, I duly transferred to the big Boys Brigade. I cannot remember the particulars of the occasion but undoubtedly it was a Thursday. Without a doubt the Captain was in command. The Captain being Billy Coulter. Later in life we may have referred to other of our officers as Bertie Day, Walter Caddell, Errol Johnston, and Brian Crozier. However ‘the Captain’ was always the ‘Captain’.
The incoming recruits came from all over Portadown and the countryside beyond. Private cars had now reappeared, but most members walked to the Lecture Hall Drill Parade on Thursday night and to the Minor Hall Bible Class on Sunday afternoon. And what a group of young people they were. Included in that group were: Kenny Twyble former Mayor of Craigavon; his brother David Twyble, retired teacher; David Montgomery, merchant marine officer now living in Australia; Albert McNally, long time teacher; Ronnie Gordon, Mervyn Carrick, one time MLA; Robin and George McFadden, who then lived around the corner from me in South Street; Mervyn Haire, soccer player; Brian and Ronnie Morrison, soccer players with Portadown; and all the other members of the 1959/60 B.B. Champion Soccer Team and my close friend now in Lisburn, Bobby Wilkinson. There were many others of note, but sadly 50 years has dimmed my memory of all these wonderful people.
I have lost touch with some of these people over the years, but I have managed to keep in touch with Bobby Wilkinson. His story is worth telling. He left Portadown Technical School at 15 and worked as a Telegram Delivery Boy and later as a Postman. In his early twenties, he switched to Nursing and trained as a Psychiatric Nurse in Belfast. He ended his career as Chief Nursing Officer at the Belfast City Hospital and as a member of the UK Nursing Council. He was introduced to Queen Elizabeth when she visited both of these bodies.
As for myself, while at Queen’s University I was fortunate to spend three years living as a lay student at Edgehill College, where I got to know a generation of Methodist Ministers. How I loved the quiet of Sunday morning at Edgehill……when the theological students left to practice their pulpit skills. I graduated in Medicine in 1970 and was a House Officer at the Royal Victoria Hospital. In July of 1971 I moved over to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children on the Falls Road. In January of 1972, with insurrection and gun battles on my doorstep, I moved to Winnipeg Canada where I subsequently trained in anaesthesia. I married Sandra Ingram of Winnipeg in 1973. We then set forth on an adventure to the USA which has now continued for 37 years. I retired two years ago. We have three grown children, Ian (Philadelphia), Katie (Charleston West Virginia) and Patrick(Chicago), and two wonderful grandchildren. Sandi and I live on a wooded hillside in Wheeling West Virginia.
David Blevins 6th Portadown Company B.B.
The poet Alexander Smith (1829-1867) wrote: “A man’s real possession is his memory…” His namesake, William Alexander Smith (1854-1914) founded an organisation that has given me 30 years of memories – The Boys’ Brigade. Having come through the ranks of 6th Portadown (Epworth) under the captaincy of John Gates, I went on to serve as Captain myself for 15 years and oversaw the amalgamation of 1st Portadown (Thomas Street) and 6th Portadown before stepping down due to the demands of work. We never retire from seeking to advance Christ’s Kingdom so I wish BBOB every blessing for the next 75 years.
Pastor David Burrows 1st Portadown Company B.B.
(From his home in Sun City Arizona, USA David wrote to me just after Christmas stating he had just celebrated his 92nd birthday surrounded by his entire family).
Greetings to all my friends ……. who are still living, ha ha. I am 92 years old and feel like a man of 50. I am delighted that the Old Boys is still going strong and wish I could be with you to celebrate the 75th Anniversary at the Service on 23rd February. I have so much to give thanks for in my life but inspite of living over 60 years in the USA I have never forgotten my early years in Portadown and I still fondly remember my time spent in Thomas Street with the Boys Brigade and the Old Boys Association.
I remember men of high ideals who were committed to the physical and spiritual development of boys, who, by their love and service built a rapport with the members of the 1st Portadown Company, that ultimately became the impetus for men of vision to negotiate the purchase of the Institute Buildings in Edward Street so that the friendships formed in the B.B. could continue for many years. Among others the names of Gray, Pettigrew, Lyttle and Thornton stand out in my mind. They were men who touched my life and I will be eternally grateful and thankful for that.
Captain Gray asked my father and Jack Gillis to be Company cooks at the various camps, and I still have many photographs of those encampments. My years in the B.B. were rewarding and exciting because I was the first recipient of the Deale Memorial Cup, a member of the Bugle Band and a member of the victorious Drill Squad that won the Belfast Battalion Competition – I still have the cap, belt and haversack I wore that day.
War broke out and the black-outs began, causing apprehension and uncertainty, but night after night I joined with the boys to listen to the resident philosophers like Sam Crozier, Billy England, Tommy Austin and others. They covered a wide range of subjects from the happenings at Shamrock Park, the Borough Council members and their meetings, the sermons preached the previous Sunday in Church, to what girl was dating a soldier! No-one was exempt from their discussions. The black-out outside was diminished and dispelled by the light and joy experienced night after night in the Old Boys, and for that I am very thankful.
Graham Lyttle, Queensland. Australia
(1st Portadown Company B.B.)
My earliest memories of the Old boys Choir was during the middle ‘60’s when as a 17 year old being told by my father that I was going to spend part of Sunday afternoons at choir practice. The choir was made up of a diverse group of men from all backgrounds, some of whom had the typical Ulster humour which made the time go quickly particularly if we were concentrating and singing well. If not, we bore the brunt of the displeasure of my father, the Choirmaster. But nevertheless, the members always came to the fore when it was required.
Many long journeys were taken to the South of Ireland where small Methodist congregations were treated to a service of joyful singing punctuated occasionally by the antics of certain tenors in the front row. The long bus journeys were shortened by much singing and frivolity especially after a couple of rest stops in towns along the way. The Old Boys Choir was widely known and highly sought after and the annual concerts were always packed to capacity.
There were many wonderful singers who could give solo performances and many great friendships were forged during this time. I often look back with fond memories of the fellowship and camaraderie we shared not only under the leadership of my father N.A. Lyttle but also my brother-in-law Jim Girvan.