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. On achieving senior status, Comrades were something of a small fish in a bigger pool, and success was 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 was lost. However everyone at the club is determined that Ballyclare Comrades will be in the top flight again in the near future.
To learn more about the history of Ballyclare Comrades FC, check out our centenary book, which is available to purchase on our online store here.