Ballyclare Comrades

Ballyclare Comrades

Founded: 1919
Home Ground: Dixon Park
Capacity: 4,000
Pitch Size: 110×72 yards
Nickname: Comrades
Sponsor: Reid Black & Co. Solicitors

Ballyclare (in Irish: Bealach Cláir, ie way or pass of the plain) is a small town in the Six Mile Valley, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It had a population of 8,770 people in the 2001 Census. Under the reorganization of Northern Ireland local government in the 1970s, Ballyclare lost its Urban District status and was absorbed into the Newtownabbey Borough Council area.

People have lived here for five thousand years. Invaders included Vikings and Normans. The earliest evidence of people in this area is a horde of flint arrow heads found when houses were being built north of the river in November 1968. There are 39 flints – some perfectly finished and others are blank indicating an ‘industry’ and trading here near the river crossing over four thousand years ago.

When the Normans built the castle at Carrickfergus they placed a line of outposts along the river which was then called the “Ollar”- River of the Rushes. In time the soldiers making the journey from Carrickfergus to Antrim reached the river at this spot when they had traveled six miles so began to call the Ollar the Six Mile Water. One of these mottes is close by the river in the War Memorial Park in Ballyclare. There are two on opposite sides of the river at Doagh and one at Antrim. The village grew after the Plantation of Ulster and was granted permission by King George II in 1756 to hold two fairs each year making it an important market centre.

At the same time as the Pilgrim Fathers landed in America it was settled by Scots planters. Jonathan Swift preached here and it was from here the families of Mark Twain, Sam Houston and General Alexander Macomb left for America. The people of Ballyclare and the surrounding villages played a part in the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and fought in the Battle of Antrim. At the beginning of the twentieth century Ballyclare was a growing industrial town with an Urban Council and became the largest paper producer in Ireland. It had a narrow gauge rail link to Larne and a broad gauge connection to Belfast.

Archibald McIlroy’s novel “When Lint Was In The Bell” is a light-hearted, lightly fictionalized chronicle of life in 19th century Ballyclare. A Ballyclare native, born c. 1860, Mr. McIlroy was lost in the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915.

Ballyclare May Fair occurs on a Tuesday in May every year, and is part of a week of festivities. The tradition stems from a grant by King George II to hold two yearly fairs, although only the May Fair now survives. The fair began as a local horse fair, but representatives of cavalry regiments came from all over Europe came to buy as the reputation of the fair spread. The fair’s heyday ended with the First World War, but it is still a well-loved event in the town.

The May Fair is one of the few horse fairs now left in the country. The Main Street is sanded down and given over to horse selling for the day. However, there is now a variety of modern amusements in the square. Other events include the Mayor’s Parade, followed by sports, street events, concerts and exhibitions. Local shops compete for the best dressed window, and children take part in fancy dress competitions and the Duck Race. A May Fair Queen is chosen to represent the town over the next year.

Directions: From the M2, take the Ballyclare/Templepatrick turn-off to the A57. Follow the A57 to the Ballyclare turn-off. At the roundabout at the bottom of the town, turn left up the main street. Once you get to the one-way system at the town hall, take the first turn left into the Harrier Way car-park, at the Comrades Social Club. The car-park is in front of the ground and costs £0.30 per hour, 8 am to 6 pm.

The Ground
Dixon Park has a capacity of 4,000, with a small seated stand at one side, where the changing rooms and club offices are sited. There are covered standing areas behind each goal, and a standing area opposite the stand.  The pitch itself is maintained by club secretary Don Horner, aided at times by fans and other committee members.  For those who like a pre or post match drink, the Comrades Social Club, located right beside the ground, provides a welcoming environment.

Crowds average approximately 150 per game. It is a continuing struggle to try to attract more fans, particularly with saturation coverage of English Premiership football on TV.

The club is run by a committee, which is elected on a yearly basis by the season ticket holders. Therefore, it is one of the few truly democratic football clubs in existence today.  There has recently been formed a Supporters Club, which has a growing enthusiastic membership who are passionate about the Comrades, and who are setting about fund raising activities to help the club financially.

From the 2001/2002 season Comrades have entered into an alliance with local intermediate grade club, Ballynure OB. Ballynure will act as Comrades reserve team, whilst maintaining their own identity and continuing to play in The Ballymena Premier League. Comrades have first pick of all players at the two clubs and Ballynure will play any Comrades players not in the first team panel. Ballynure will play their home matches at Dixon Park.

Social Club:
Situated adjecent to Dixon Park, on the Square in Ballyclare, is Ballyclare Comrades Social Club. The Club is acknowledge to be amongst the best football social clubs in Northern Ireland. It boasts a spacious lounge bar, a large funstion room, snooker tables and meeting rooms.

The Social Club is popular with visiting fans on a Saturday and provides entertainment throughout the year, in the form of live bands and other acts.

Anyone wishing to  enquire about booking facilities at the Social Club can phone 02893 322945.

Ballyclare Comrades Social Club is a separate entity from Ballyclare Comrades Football Club, but the two bodies are inexorably linked, with the Social Club being a major contributor to the finances of the Football Club.

Official Website

Address: Ballyclare Comrades F.C., Dixon Park, Harrier Way, Ballyclare, Co.Antrim, Northern Ireland, BT39 9BB

Club Crest:

The club’s crest consist of three elements: 1. The club’s name  2. A shield based on the town’s crest (this has; a plant, which represents the fertile farming land around the town which has been cultivated for many generations; a waterwheel, which represents the industry which sprung up in the area in the 19th century; and water, which represents the Six Mile River, which rises in the hills a few miles north-east of the town and flows through it on its way to Lough Neagh  3. A Latin motto meaning “Nothing except your best”.


Following the end of the 1914-18 War, Comrades of the Great War Associations sprung up throughout Britain as meeting places for returning veterans, who faced unemployment in the civilian world. The Ballyclare Branch proved to be the birthplace of the present football club, giving it its unusual name
It was an afternoon in late February 1919, 3 months after the signing of the Armistice, that 2 veterans, Sammy Murray and Arthur McGuigan sat talking in the Comrades Association headquarters, a small room overlooking Ballyclare’s main street. “We should have a football team here in Ballyclare” one of them remarked casually. A few hours later Bob Grange, the secretary of the branch, joined them. He liked the idea, and the three of them decided to arrange a full meeting of members to discuss the project.

It wasn’t hard to convince them that a football team was a good idea: They were bored and depressed, anxious to support something new. It was, after all, the object of the Association to cater for soldiers back home after the war, to help them to adapt themselves again to the lives they had left.

A week later, Ballyclare’s veteran soldiers, most of them from “C” Company of the 12th Royal Irish Rifles – a battalion made up entirely of East Antrim men, who fought at the Somme and in many other famous First World War battles – played their first game as a football team, and Ballyclare Comrades were born.

Dixon Park too has military connotations,being named after Major Daniel Dixon, who had fought in France with the founder members.

The Comrades have come a long way since their lowly beginnings. Having started at the bottom of the pile in the minor grade, they have worked their way through junior and intermediate levels, to eventually achieve senior status in 1990.

On the way they have collected a host of titles and trophies, winning the most coveted trophies below Irish League level; the Steel & Sons Cup and the Intermediate Cup, several times. Since achieving senior status, Comrades have been something of a small fish in a bigger pool, and success has been limited, with the club operating on a shoestring budget, finding it difficult to compete with the likes of Linfield and Glentoran.
Nevertheless, at the start of the 1997/98 season, Comrades won their first senior trophy. This was the Ulster Cup, a competition for First Division sides.

Unfortunately, with the restructuring of the League at the end of the 2002/2003 season, senior status has been lost. However everyone at the club is determined that Ballyclare Comrades will be in the top flight again in the near future.

Ulster Cup: 1997/98
‘B’ Division: 1960/61, 1962/63, 1973/74, 1977/78, 1979/80, 1988/89
Intermediate Cup: 1925/26, 1949/50, 1950/51, 1953/54, 1959/60, 1960/61, 1962/63, 1989/90
Steel & Sons Cup: 1943/44, 1960/61, 1974/75, 1981/82, 1984/85, 1986/87
George Wilson Cup: 1956/57, 1961/62, 1963/64, 1993/94
Smirnoff Cup: 1983/84, 1988/89