THE atrocious weather didn’t beat them on Saturday night, nor did Linfield back on 18th May 1963 when Distillery won the Irish League in the last game of the season.
It went to the wire as they say nowadays but George Eastham’s side lifted the trophy in a superb 4-2 win in front of a packed Grosvenor Park crowd.
The late Tony Curley, Phil Scott and “wee Billy” Campbell wrote their names indelibly into the Whites’ rich history that day, Campbell firing home two goals that included a penalty with the last kick of the match.
And they re-lived it all again including the goals at a special 50th anniversary event and dinner in the New Grosvenor clubhouse. Ten players attended the function and although some had not seen each other for decades the camaraderie returned within seconds of meeting.
It was an arduous journey for some, winger Billy Campbell beating the elements and circumstances to make it from Motherwell. Goalkeeper Jack Kennedy arrived from Lincoln and striker Joe Meldrum travelled from Norwich.
They were joined by fellow Distillery heroes Phil Scott, Ken Hamilton, Roy Welsh, Derek Meldrum, Syd Patterson, Jimmy Burke and John Anderson.
“It was the best team I ever played in,” said Campbell while speaking to the many Whites supporters at the event. “The spirit in the club was fantastic and it was a buzz to win against Linfield – it’s a day I’ll never forget.”
MC on the night was Billy Bell and when proceedings got under way he introduced four members of the Lisburn Distillery Scandinavian Supporters Club who also attended the event. Club spokesman Jan Tholin talked about the ‘passion for the game’ that a side like this had instilled before the supporters club generously presented each player with a gift.
And after everyone in the clubhouse gave the team a Scandinavian style salute under the tutelage of Jan, club historian Dawson Simpson set the scene when he gave an account of that fantastic season.
The Deputy Mayor of Lisburn City Council, Councillor Margaret Tolerton attended the event along with Alderman Paul Porter, and the Deputy Mayor presented a plaque to the Lisburn Distillery Scandinavian Supporters Club on behalf of the council.
The lights then went out and on the big screen history was repeated with actual footage of the game and of course the goals – it came as no surprise when the Whites won 4-2 but most of those watching kicked every ball absorbing the detail and atmosphere of a truly memorable game for a famous Irish League club.
It was then time for Billy Bell to speak individually to each player in turn in a short question and answer session and Jimmy Burke summed it up in his recollection of his time at the club when he said; “I always had great memories of Grosvenor Park. The friendship in the dressing room was great and everybody enjoyed playing with everybody else.”
Ken Hamilton then responded on behalf of the players and he also remarked about the subsequent European Cup game that followed on from the title win, that came at the start of the following season.
The Whites drew 3-3 at home with the mighty Benfica who had Eusebio on their side. They lost 5-0 away in the famous “Stadium of Light” in front of 45,000 fans but Ken brought the place down by explaining how after taking part in that Wednesday night game he found himself with the Seconds the following Saturday at Banbridge.
Concluding, he thanked those who organised the event and extended special thanks to the Scandinavian Supporters Club before adding that both he and the players hoped that the current team would remain in the Premiership this season before going forward and climbing up the table next season.
It proved a great night of nostalgia and special thanks must go to those within both the Grosvenor Whites and Lisburn Whites who organised a successful and memorable night for the many who attended.