Bangor And Back For A “Bob” 2012

I have of course been in Bangor several times in recent years but my visit on Friday was specifically to observe how much or little had changed. I never like visiting by car. The dual carriageway around Holywood is difficult if you dont know in which lane you are supposed to be..of course the local drivers know exactly where they are…so it seems quite a strain.

The railway station at the top of Main Street is of course modern but the walk downhill leads to an upmarket marina. Lots of boats. Ironically the seafront shops/amusement arcades are all closed and not yet replaced. It is as if the town has turned its back on its past as a seaside resort and tried to move upmarket but the project appear stalled.

High Street which runs almost parallel to Main Street has some pubs and this is where the town’s nightlife is centred.

 It struck me that in Main Street and High Street, I did not see any offices of any MLAs. Indeed Bangor seemed apolitical. While the outskirts of the town has some deprived areas the area is deemed to be rather prosperous and often referred to as the Gold Coast.  A “British” that feels no need to advertise it. Bangor is the main town in the North Down constituency represented at Westminster by Independent Unionist, Sylvia Hermon. It has always had an independent streak. The six MLAs are drawn from four parties…..three from DUP, one from Alliance Party, one from UUP and one Green.

 A familiar sight near Pickie Pool (currently some reconstruction work being carried out there) is the open-air “congregational church”. Only about 15% of the Bangor population is Catholic. However Government figures from 1776 (when anti Catholic laws where in place) state that there were no Catholics in the area. The town therefore has little “Catholic” tradition which means that Catholics living there are only there for a few generations. There is no nationalist or republican tradition.

As the towns politics are settled, the Catholic population lives in tranquility although the Catholic Church has been damaged on occasions. There is no “native” Irish Republican Army tradition and attacks carried out on the town were usually masterminded by the IRA from Belfast.

The Catholic parish is centred on Bangor itself…….with smaller churches at Ballyholme and Donaghadee. The parish would be untypical…..in the sense that the population is largely middle class, long term residents, often elderly…..perhaps retired school teachers and civil servants. There would also be a disproportionately high number of English-born Catholics and people in “mixed marriage” situations.

  St Comgalls Catholic Church and Primary School are located in Brunswick Road. The interior of the Church is much larger than I expected.

The only “political office” I found was a UUP office at Hamilton Road. To some extent, Hamilton Road typifies Bangor. The Masonic Hall and British Legion (British ex-servicemens organisation) give the impression of a town that does not “do” politics (indeed only 46% voted in the 2011 Election in the North Down constituency). The North Down Council is mostly DUP with a strong Alliance Party showing.

   

The British Legion and Masonic Hall and the large number of small stores staffed by volunteers, promoting various charities indicate a town that does “society” more than politics.

To be honest, I liked Bangor. It seemed almost semi-detached from Norn Iron. And culturally similar to seaside resorts I have seen in Lancashire or west of Scotland.

And Pizza Hut is brilliant.

 

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20 Responses to Bangor And Back For A “Bob” 2012

  1. bangordub says:

    FJH,
    You may be interested to know that the Royal hotel on the seafront has Planning permission etc for extensive redevelopment, trouble is the Banks wont stump up the cash!!!
    Also Pizza Hut has now closed down, along with HMV and Gamestop on the main st.
    Nice article though and I can confirm that Bangor is indeed a pleasant place to live with very little of the baggage that seems to pertain in other towns despite the “Flags v funding” controversy of last year

    • Thanks. Really sorry to hear about Pizza Hut as it was only ten days ago that I was there. Excellent value buffet at noon. And it seemed to get quite a crowd (it was the Friday of the mid term breaks and a lot of family treats going on). As my free bus pass birthday is only 70 days away, I was hoping to make Pizza Hut a regular stop over when in the North Down area.
      The seafront is indeed an eyesore. In “my day” it was shops seling seaside rock, postcards, buckets and spades, beach balls etc and it seems to have moved away from being a seaside town (in many ways Bray, co wicklow is Dublins Bangor if you know what I mean) to being a resort/commuter belt town.
      I would have liked to have gone along thru Ballyholme as actually circa 1962 we went to a beach there near some open “park”.
      Ironically I picked up a map in the Tourist Office …..actually in a “tower” house as I particuarly wanted to visit the Catholic Church. I had not realised that it was actually quite close to the railway station.
      The route given to me in the Tourist Office was along Queens Parade…and thru my own fault I missed the turn at Grays Hill and ended up at the Pickie Pool (under redevelopment) and got directions thru a network of streets….one name standing out being Tennyson Avenue. Asking twice for directions to Brunswick Road……..a lady of 35 or so with some kids asked”ah do you want the Chapel?” and again in Tennyson Avenue I was asked the same question by an elderly couple…in the way Belfast people pick up on nuance the lady of 35 or so seemed quite pleased and the elderly couple more “distant”.
      Taking photographs in the Church was quite interesting as was the parish information which indicates a different Catholic dynamic than a typical Belfast parish or parish west of the Bann. From my knowledge of 18th century history, I was already aware of reports to Government that there were no Catholics in Bangor (this is mentioned on the History page on the Church website) so the present day Catholic population is essentially (at best) perhaps 150 years in the neighbourhood….small enough to be tolerated and not seen as a threat.
      Likewise the Catholic parishioners are likely to be very diverse…”northern Catholics”, “other Irish Catholics”, “European Catholics”, “English Catholics” and I would assume many in mixed marriages as well as a longer established “Bangor Catholic”……so this diversity is likely to translate into political diversity……SDLP, Alliance, Green, Conservative, even a little Sinn Féin.
      Certainly I was surprised that there is a Catholic secondary school and another primary school in the town.
      I DID know of a small Catholic church (Bangor parish) in Donaghadee but did not know of a primary school in the area.
      Surprisingly perhaps I did not know of a small church and priest in residence at Ballyholme.
      Actually quite a big parish and probaby quite difficult to administer.
      The impression I was left with………walking down Main Street (shops/banks), up High Street (night life) and thru Hamilton Road (Masons, British Legion, large scout hall……”big “civic society” was of a town at ease with itself……….apolitical in a passively “British” way.

  2. Political Tourist says:

    Thought you might have mentioned the second book shops.
    Leave the station heading into town first left on the left.
    Sure i was in another one.
    That housing estate next to the Bloomfield Centre is an eye opener.
    Although i did wonder who the flags/paintings were aimed at.
    Doubt too many Fenians venture there.
    Except PT that is.

    • Yes the bookshops…that’s Bangors artistic quarter.

      • bangordub says:

        PT,
        The estate beside bloomfield along with two others, whitewell and Kilkooley are working class loyalist estates located close to the ring road. They are not broadly reflective of Bangor as a whole thankfully.
        FJH.
        Bangor council have recently had a brainwave. They have decided to open an artistic quarter on the seafront (The derelict site at Queens Parade). It consists of some eh, landscaping and “artists pods” dotted randomly throughout. These, eh, pods, are actually shipping containers with windows. I am NOT making this up, seriously.

  3. Political Tourist says:

    Wonder when “Eddie Izzard” will be made a Freeman of the Town.

  4. Political Tourist says:

    Was anybody ever convicted of the murder of the policewoman outside the Ormeau Arms back 40 years ago?
    Is the pub still there?

    • bangordub says:

      PT. The pub is still there and a traditional music night takes place weekly. Nobody was ever convicted and yes, she was the first member of the RUC to die during the “troubles”. By the hand of the UVF.

  5. Political Tourist says:

    Bangor Catholics seem to have been very lucky regarding the activities of the local loyalists.
    Although maybe the UVF members involved in trying to blow up a Catholic owned pub didn’t come from the town.
    I’m trying to compare it with Carrickfergus across the Lough.
    Why did Bangor seem to be safer than Carrickfergus for Catholics during the troubles?
    Was it just maybe luck?

    • I think the Catholic Church in Bangor has been attacked by arsonists.
      In some areas, churches have been attacked while in other areas they have been left left alone.
      I suppose this is not just about local UVF/UDA but the ability of local Catholics to keep their heads down. The prominence of Aliance in bothEast Antrim, North Down….allows a fiction to develop (sadly aided and abetted by SDLP SF) that the local Catholics are Alliance supporters as weLl as voters.
      Several years ago Danny O’Connor oF SDLP got elected in East Antrim and one consequence was an orchestrated program against Catholics.
      Im not CompleteLy convinced Its a class thing. Bangor does have UVF Strongholds but ar Ther any Catholic estates. Or any working class Catholic estates.
      Is Carrick more obviously working class….Larne I think would be.
      My impression is that Bangor has always seen itself asa place apart, slightly maverick with Kilfedder, McCartney and Hermon….but there is that “gold coast” buffer zone of Helen’s Bay, Marino, Crawfordsburn, Holywood (is the British base a factor?) which might isolate it from Belfast.
      Of course there is middle class “respectability” between Belfast and Carrickfergus (and there is a big Orange connexion thru William of Orange) but there is also the proximity of Rathcoole, Glengormley etc.

    • bangordub says:

      To be honest, as I have said before, I have never had a problem in Bangor and I have never felt unwelcome. Last week there was a well publicised loyaist rally against the visit of Caral, the SF minister, to the new Bangor pool. 6 people turned up. There are no catholic working class estates in Bangor. The catholics all live in the town. The nice parts 😉

      • I started Grammar School in 1963. At that stage there was no Catholic Grammar School in East Belfast (as there is now). In 1963 a few lads from Bangor went to our school.
        Several years later I was working alongside a Catholic lady from Bangor and I asked about a guy who was a classmate. His family owned a small business in Bangor and suffered intimidation and apparently had to leave.
        The guy himself is toy a top solicitor here.

      • bangordub says:

        Thank God things seem to have moved on

  6. Political Tourist says:

    Did the PUP have a councillor a few years back in Bangor who was Scottish?
    Thought i remember him speaking on BBC local news, take it was during some dispute or other.
    Curious to know if anybody remember’s him.
    Did he have any politics or was he just a UVF/Old Rangers fan that missed the ferry.

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