135 not out as the Whites celebrate their anniversary year in style

With 135 years of football and history behind them there have been undoubtedly many great nights on and off the pitch for Whites’ supporters.

There have also been many times though when it hasn’t been plain sailing for a club that has six Irish League titles and 12 Irish Cup wins as part of its’ rich heritage.

Distillery celebrated their 135th Anniversary last Friday night with a special dinner event at the club. Pictured alongside chairman Jim Greer and Mayor of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, Councillor Thomas Beckett, are former players (l-r) Roy Welsh, Winkie Armstrong, Derek Meldrum, Paul Muir and Bertie McMinn. Picture - David Hunter.

Distillery celebrated their 135th Anniversary last Friday night with a special dinner event at the club. Pictured alongside chairman Jim Greer and Mayor of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, Councillor Thomas Beckett, are former players (l-r) Roy Welsh, Winkie Armstrong, Derek Meldrum, Paul Muir and Bertie McMinn. Picture - David Hunter.

But last Friday night (20th November) was definitely up there at the top in the context of social gatherings.

Remarkably, they celebrated the club’s anniversary 135 years to the day that some thirty players turned out at Daisy Hill, off Roden Street, Belfast for the club’s first practice session.

Last week around 75 guests and supporters turned up for a night of celebration, nostalgia, reflection and simply great craic whilst looking back on the fantastic history of one of the great names in Irish League football.

And whilst things may not be going well results-wise at present – that will change – the respect in which the club is held was clearly evident.

Guests on the night included the Mayor of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, Councillor Thomas Beckett, and Jarlath Watson and Graeme Millar from Echlinville Distillery who generously donated two uniquely engraved bottles of Dunville’s Whiskey to commemorate the event.

It was back on that day in 1880 that employees from Dunville’s attended that training session and the rest is definitely history. So, the club was delighted to be re-united once again with the Dunville’s name, 79 years after the production of the famous whisky ceased.

The Grosvenor Whites Supporters Club made a special presentation on the night – with longest serving member Tommy Boyd presenting Lisburn Distillery chairman Jim Greer with a special commemorative gift to mark the occasion.

With input from the club’s historian Dawson Simpson, the history of the club was summarised before Master of Ceremonies, Billy Bell, got the ball rolling with interviews with five players spanning five decades - Roy Welsh (1960s), Derek Meldrum (1970s), Bertie McMinn (1980s), Winkie Armstrong (1990s) and Paul Muir (the Noughties).

But the clubhouse also had a host of other former players and names connected with the club’s wonderful history – Jim Emery, Joe Conlon, Syd Patterson, John Anderson, Jim Burke, Ken Hamilton, Peter Rafferty, Alan McCarroll, Lawrence Patterson, Selby Addis and Arthur Brady.

And looking to the future, the new management team of Head Coach Sean-Paul Murray and his assistant Eamonn McCarthy were also present.

There were messages of congratulations from around the globe – from Canon S E Long (the club’s oldest known living supporter at 102 years of age), former player Michael Dougherty, the Lisburn Distillery Scandinavian Supporters Club (Denmark), St Johnstone manager and former Whites’ manager and Northern Ireland international Tommy Wright, and former boyhood supporter Johnny McKinstry now the national coach of African nation Rwanda.

An auction and ballot generated lively interest for a number of items, and all in all it was, quite simply, a great night for the Whites.

As former Distillery captain and Ireland international Joe Burnison said at the start of the twentieth century; “The Whites wear a colour that never fades – and neither will the club,” and those there last Friday night were a testament to that statement.