Our Safety Notice

Important Notice
We take safety seriously Passengers aboard the “bangorboat” expect a certain standard, if you would like to join us on a public trip we would be delighted to have you aboard. Please read the following below before booking.

1. Please do not bring aboard or have taken before hand any alcohol.
2. Please do not use any language or actions which may offend.
3. Please be courteous.

Thanking you for your cooperation in making the vessel a safe and friendly environment. In which we are delighted to inform you, it is.

Mercedes Gleitze

Mercedes Gleitze was the first person to undertake the Irish Channel in 1928.
Mercedes arrived in North Down where thousands of people turned out to catch a glimpse of her. During the summer of 28 she attempted the North Channel 3 times. Unfortunately she did not succeed in her personal struggle to champion the crossings of all crossings. The news paper reports at this time stated that it could never be crossed.
No one tried again till 1947 when Tom Blower successfully made both shores.
Below is a photo Mercedes and trainer Mr. Gregory handing her tea. training for Irish Channel off Blackpool.

Bangor’s History

Beannchar, the Irish name of Bangor, comes from the Old Norse for ‘horned bay’. Bangor Bay, after which the town is named, is located on the southern coast of Belfast Lough, just before the Lough opens into the Irish Sea. The town now serves as a dormitory town for Belfast 25km (15miles) away, but has a long and illustrious history of its own.
Monastic Bangor and its Saints

The current location of Bangor Abbey has long been a religious site for the area. Indeed, Bangor rose to such importance as a religious centre that it appears on the Mapa Mundi. The monastery was first established on a site known as the ‘Valley of the Angels’ by St Comgall in 555, and became a centre for sending out Celtic missionaries to mainland Britain and Europe. Indeed, still to this day, the Faith Mission Easter Convention and World Wide Missionary Conventions are still held in the town.

One of the early monks was St Carthage1. He set up as a hermit at Kiltallagh, before being forced to leave by the neighbouring bishops. He then came to Bangor, to study under Comgall for just a year before heading back to his native County Kerry to establish churches at Kilcarragh and Kilfeighney. In 590, he established a monastery at Rahan, near Tullamore, and was promoted to Abbot-Bishop. This grew into a great monastery but was soon surpassed by the establishment of a another at Lismore, County Waterford in 635, where he died four years later. Lismore is still a major cathedral city in Ireland today.

One of the early missionaries was St Columban2, who was born in Leinster around 543. He would have studied under Comgall before leaving Ireland in about 590, accompanied by 12 fellow monks, among them the saints Attala, Gall (circa 550 – 645) and Columbanus the younger. They established themselves at Annegray in the Vosges Mountains, Gaul3 and built monasteries nearby at Luxovium4 and Fountaines.

However, Columban and his follower’s Celtic practices caused the local clergy and the Burgundian court to try and force them away. Columban appealed to Pope Gregory I (circa 540 – 604) for support, but the campaign lead by King Theodore II (circa 586 – 613) eventually forced them to abandon Luxovium in 610 and flee to Switzerland.

Here Columban, Gall and others preached to the pagan Alemanni people and are remembered in Bregenz, Austria5 and Sankt Gallen, Switzerland, and other locations, for the work they did. Columban was forced out of here as well and fled to Italy, setting up a monastery at Bobbio; here he died in 615. Gall stayed in Switzerland setting up a hermitage at what is now Sankt Gallen before dying there in 645.

Other monks who were associated with the monastery at Bangor include:

· Findchua, who is chronicled in the Book of Lismore.
· Luanus, who founded 100 monasteries.
· Dungal, who defended orthodoxy against the Western iconoclasts.
Danish Raiders and Rebuilding

9th Century incursions by the Danes razed Bangor, sacking the town and the abbey. It was partially rebuilt, when St Malachy (Máel Máedoc úa Morgair) was appointed the Bishop of Down by Archbishop Caellach of Armagh. In 1127, the year after he completed the restoration of the abbey, he was appointed Bishop of Connor. Caellach then broke with the Celtic tradition of hereditary succession by nominating Malachy his successor in 1129. However, having followed opposition on his appointment to the Bishopric of Connor, Malachy did not accept the position of Prelate and Archbishop for another three years. Then for the five years he held the position, he did not enter the city of Armagh, for fear of his own safety. He decided to stand down from his position and on a trip to Rome to find his successor, Pope Innocent III (1160 – 1216) created him Papal Legate for Ireland. He is accredited with introducing the Latin Liturgy and the Cistercian Order to Ireland, and he was also the first Irish Catholic to be canonised.

The English dissolved the monastery in 1542 and the current abbey was built from the stones of the former in the 15th Century with a majestic tower. A spire was added in 1693.

In all, there are three church towers or spires that can be seen on approach to Bangor by sea. Apart from the Abbey, these belong to First Bangor Presbyterian Church and St Comgalls, Bangor Parish Church both just seen from Main Street.

Development of the Town

From being a Neolithic settlement to the establishment of the monastic settlement and beyond the shores of Bangor Bay, Bangor had a long history of settlement. Its location in a sheltered bay so close to the Irish Sea established it as a fishing port and harbour. A tower and tower house were built in 1636 as a custom house down at the docks. These are still present today and house a tourist information centre. The sandy beaches at Bangor Bay and nearby Ballyholme Bay later established it as a holiday resort for families to escape the industrialisation of Belfast. The Bangor to Belfast rail line is still one of the busiest lines in Northern Ireland today.

Queen Victoria visited the down and drove along the sea front giving the road its current name of Queen’s Parade. To the east of the bay were laird’s boats that tourists could hire out for a row in the harbour. Beyond that was Pickie Pool, an outdoor swimming arena, where many generations of Bangor and indeed Belfast children learned to swim. On the other side of the bay, the docks developed to take in goods and coal, whereas the fishing vessels moored adjacent to the harbour in the Long Hole and natural small fjord-like inlet. Along the sea front, facing the various hotels and tourist amenities, a sandstone clock was donated by the McKee family, which still works and bears their name to this day.

Open Spaces in Bangor

The Castle and its land was long the private preserve of the Hamilton family and stretched from the abbey the whole way along Abbey Street to what is now Church Street and back along the Gransha and Newtownards Roads to what is now the Ring Road. It was surrounded by a high wall, bits of which still remain to the north of the land along Abbey Street. With the town expanding though, the demand for land and amenities grew. Part of the land was given over for the market, then last century part was given up for the building of secondary schools for girls, and some more for their athletics fields. Eventually in 1973, the whole Castle and lands were given to North Down Borough Council as a Council Building and for Civic Amenities. Today the Castle Park and its former lands comprise two secondary schools, one primary school and the Institute of Higher Education, the Valentines playing fields, a Cineplex, council offices and a heritage site. There is also an arboretum and gardens that contain some rare species that the family established for their pleasure which the community can now enjoy.

The former brick works seems an unlikely location for the second major open space in the town, but when the manufacture of bricks ending at the close of the 19th Century, it became a gift of the Ward family for the people of the town. They developed landscaped gardens and also a bowling green and two tennis courts. Ward Park has developed through the years – the site of the tennis courts became first one, then two other bowling greens, the tennis courts moving to another part of the garden. A small children’s animal park, with rabbits, peacocks, budgerigars and guinea pigs was established on the banks of the stream, which is the home for ducks and other wild fowl. The town’s war memorial is also located in the park, along with a heavy infantry gun captured in the First World War, which has become a great climbable play thing for the children of the town.

Late 20th Century

The late 20th Century saw a major shift in the state of the town. Out of town shopping centres at Springhill, then also Clandeboye6 and now at Bloomfield, led to the degeneration of the town centre. The once proud Queen’s Parade was gradually dying, as holidaymakers went abroad rather than to the nearest available beach. The first phase of this redevelopment was to clean up the bay, which was heavily polluted. So with European funding two breakwaters were built, the outer one stretching out from the old west pier, the inner stretching out from Pickie Pool, which itself was now disused7. Then the beach was concreted over to enable a landscaped car park and the base on which to built a marina. A new harbour office and lifeboat station were built on the new waterfront and named Bregenz House.

Pickie Pool was pulled down as part of the development of the marina and in its place, a new children’s play area has been established, with climbing frames, sand pits and café. Also a train track that the kids can sit on winds its way across the fun park, past the pond with its pedalo swans. The location was once part of the promenade for Bangor and the path from the McKee clock out along the marina and past Pickie fun park has been landscaped to include fountains, borders and places of tranquillity to revive this quality again.

A new shopping centre at the foot of Main Street, covering the site of the old gasworks and reaching to High Street, was built to try and encourage people back into the town centre to do their shopping. The Flagship Centre was the first phase of the planned redevelopment of the sea-frontage that by now had many vacant and run down properties. The council started to buy up the majority of Queen’s parade with the intention of re-establishing a theatre in the town in a leisure, hotel and conference facility that will mirror the modern marina it is facing.

As well as encouraging people to moor at the marina, other transportation systems were in need of an overhaul, as the Victorian railway station was no longer capable of being one of the main stations on the Northern Irish Railways network. Alongside the station there was a ramshackle bus station that offered very little shelter from the elements. Over an 18-month period, the old stations were pulled down and an integrated bus and train station was built in a modern style. The roof of the glass-fronted structure reflects the seaside location with an impression of waves that sweep and lap over the train platforms. Computerised bus display boards make it easier to locate the correct bus stand and time of departure.

Bangor has over two millennia of history, but it is not resting on it; it is looking to the future and trying to provide an environment that the ever-increasing population is going to utilise and enjoy.

1 His Irish name is Mochuda.
2 Columbanus in Latin.
3 Modern day France, near the German border.
4 Modern name Luxeuil.
5 Bangor’s twin town.
6 Burnt down in 1987, rebuilt as a retail park.
7 People preferring the heated warmth of the indoor pool at the leisure centre.

Bangor Business Awards

We`re delighted to have received an award in the Clandeboye Lodge Hotel at Bangor’s Chamber of Commerce Gala Dinner. We express our thanks to the committee who chose the `bangorboat`.

business award

Rowing History

“Short trips only now in this motor boat” Jimmy Laird used to shout when operating cruises from his boat “Alice”. Departing from his wooden Jetty between Grays Hill and Pickie Pool. Even though it may have been a strange thing to shout, his boat was always very popular, many generations took their children for a first “sea adventure” aboard the “Alice”. Bangor Bay also had up to 108 rowing boats with eager sailors hiring them out for one hour at a time. At this time Bangor had 14 boats plying for hire to all towns and parts of the Belfast Lough. Below are some photos of the boats. Please enjoy.

White Heather

Two of the photos below are of a day trip to Portpatrick from Bangor.
The weather took a turn for the worse! Some of the party had to sleep in the local morgue due to a lack of money.
There was a whip round to send some home via the steamer, so they could “sign on”
If you wish to see a copy to place some names, (most are now known) call into McKeowns fish shop, High St.

Betsy Gray

“Ballad of Betsy Gray” If through Killinchy’s Woods and Dales You searched a summer’s day The fairest maiden to the found
Was bonnie Betsy Gray’ Betsy Gray was killed in battle of Ballynahinch defending her boy friend Willie Boal. It is said that she defended William and her brother by placing her arm in front of a soldiers sword, thus having her hand chopped off, she then had a shot to her head. It is reported Miss Betsy was a fine looking young girl aged 20 , no one was as pretty in the the County of Down
Her house still stands at the “Six Road Ends” , her boy friend William Boal came from “The Cotton”. Both areas just outside Bangor The story of Betsy Gray, a young Presbyterian woman, is so entangled with rumour and tradition that within the legend it is now almost impossible to identify the few facts from the mountain of myth which surrounds her. Nevertheless the heroine who rode onto the battlefield of Ballynahinch, as one of the “Hearts of Down” and was ruthlessly murdered while making her escape, is arguably the best-known figure of the 1798 rising in Co Down.
`The sodgers is cominq rin fast! rin fast! Wi’ guns an’ wi’ baynets! Rin fast! Rin fast! They’re lukinlur guns, an’ they’re lukin’ for pikes, They’ll show ya nae mercy, the blood thirsty tykes!’
Old Song
The events of the period are enshrined in the folk memory. Numerous poems and ballads were written in the aftermath of the rebellion and pictures of Betsy leading the insurgents at Ballynahinch adorned the walls of cottages in her native county. However, it was the publication in 1896, of W G Lyttle’s book “Betsy Gray or the Hearts of Down”, which ensured her immortality. Such was its popularity that the novel occupied a prominent place on the bookshelves of local houses alongside the Bible and the poems of Robert Burns.
Lyttle’s account places Betsy Gray’s birthplace as Gransha, near the Six Road Ends, outside Newtownards, Co Down. The end of the eighteenth century was an eventful period in the history of Ulster. In 1791 the Society of United Irishmen was formed in Peggy Barclay’s tavern in Sugarhouse Entry, Belfast. Composed mainly of Presbyterians, the aims of the Society were initially constitutional – a union of all Irishmen to counter English influence, a radical reform of Parliament and the inclusion in that Parliament of people of all religious persuasions. The Society undoubtedly drew much of its inspiration from the revolutions which had recently taken place in America and France.
However by 1795 Government repression had changed a party of constitutional reformers into a society of determined revolutionaries. The introduction of the Insurrection Act in 1797 provided magistrates with extreme powers of search and arrest. The conduct of the King’s troops, commanded by the heavy handed General Lake, known as the “dragooning of Ulster” caused intense resentment among the local people.
However it was the execution of William Orr at Carrickfergus on 10 October 1797, which proved the fatal catalyst – the Presbyterians had their martyr and open rebellion became inevitable. Throughout the accounts of the 1798 rebellion there are numerous references made to those women who played a pivotal role in the uprising. The most famous of these was the 20 year old Elizabeth or “Betsy” Gray. W.G Lyttle’s account holds that she was raised by a doting father, who did not wish his only daughter to take part in working on a farm, or household chores and so he sent her to a ladies school where she received a formal education. Lyttle described Betsy as –
“..possessed of wondrous beauty, a beauty enriched and enhanced by a warm heart, an ardent temperament and lady-like accomplishments. Her beauty and her goodness formed a theme for every tongue wherever she went, and many a wealthy suitor sought her hand in marriage.” Her father, brother George and lover Willie Boal, were all members of the illegal United Irishmen. Although Betsy was not officially a member of the organisation, she was to play a significant role in events in 1798. In early June, George Gray and Willie Boal were involved in the rescue of Colonel Bryson from Newtownards Jail before moving on to the rising at Ballynahinch to take a stand against the King’s forces commanded by General George Nugent. On the 13th June 1798 it is said that Betsy, mounted on a white horse, dressed in green and brandishing her sword, led the Hearts of Down in a ferocious and, for a time, victorious charge on the King’s forces at Ballynahinch. The Monaghan Militia were repulsed from the town square and down Market Street. However, in the confusion of battle the insurgents mistook the bugle call of the retreating military for the arrival of Government reinforcements and themselves began to retreat. Having lost the initiative, the insurgent retreat rapidly developed into a rout and Betsy, George and Willie Boal fled in the direction of Lisburn. `Along the Lisburn road they fled Pursuing yeomen keeping watch Then Betsy took her gleaming sword And hid it in the farmhouse thatch’ Two members of the Hillsborough Yeomanry said to be Thomas Nelson and James Little from Annahilt captured them at the farm of Samuel Armstrong in Ballycreen. “She ran back a few hundred yards to find her lover dying upon the ground, and her brother struggling. He was about to be struck by a sword from behind when Betsy grabbed the blade in the bare hands to save him. She was set upon by three soldiers; one of them struck her upon the wrist with his sword cutting her hand completely of another (Nelson of Annahilt) put his pistol close to her eyes and sent a bullet crashing through her brain. In the same instant her brother was shot.” It is this version of the story that has been immortalised in traditional folk songs and poems, and the one which is most recounted. It is said the James Little’s wife was seen wearing the earrings of Betsy Gray after the murder and that the Little family suffered as a result of her husband’s hand in Betsy’s murder. One clergy man recalled that other families would not sit in the same pew as the Little’s in church and that the children were stoned as they made they way to school. Yet there exists a slightly different account of the murder which was published in “McComb’s Guide, 1861”, which was about 30 years before Lyttle’s own publication. It tells that Betsy Gray went into battle with her brother and lover determined to share their fate. She was mounted on a pony and bearing a green flag. After the defeat the three fled, and on their retreat they were overtaken by a detachment of the Hillsborough Yeomanry Infantry, within a mile and a half of Ballynahinch. “She was firstcome up with, the young men being at a little distance, seeking a place for her to cross a small river, and could easily have escaped. She refused to surrender; and when they saw her likely to fall into the hands of the yeomen, they rushed to her assistance and endeavoured to prevail on the captors to release her; offering themselves as prisoners in her stead. Their entreaties were in vain. Her brother and her lover were murdered on the spot. She still resisted; and it is said that a man called “Jack Gill”, one of the cavalry, cut her gloved hand off with his sword. She was then shot through the head by Thomas Nelson, of the parish of Annahilt, aided by James Little, of the same place”.
Local tradition recalls that the scene of the murder was the corner of Horner’s Road. The bodies were discovered on the evening of 131! June by yomtg Matthew Armstrong who, with local farmers Orr and Graham buried them, in the little vale of Ballycreen and marked the grave with a log of black oak.
In the nineteenth century a member of the Gray family erected a monument at Ballycreen with the simple inscription – “Elizabeth Gray, George Gray, William Boal, 13th June 1798”. However, on the eve of the centenary of the rebellion the monument was destroyed, ironically by Presbyterians, who objected to the site being exploited by Nationalists. Years later one of the participants to the destruction recalled, “We meant no disrespect to the memory of Betsy Gray, sure wasn’t she one of our own”.
Many historians have attempted to understand and explain the story of Betsy Gray. Some claim that she did not fight at Ballynahinch and that it is more likely that she was a camp follower from Waringsford or part of a large group of women who were posted at the insurgent camp on Ednavady Hill, or she may possibly have been trapped there while delivering supplies.
It is almost impossible at this distance in time from the events of 1798 to separate fact from fiction. Whatever future historical research may reveal, Betsy Gray and the brave hearts of Down have earned a place among the legends that will be forever unchanged.
`Like a shadow glimpsed disappearing around a corner, the ghost of Betsy glides on to succeeding generations’