In 1989, having enjoyed the game of ‘boules’ on holiday in France, a few local enthusiasts gathered in Holywood to play a boules competition. This was the beginning of the North Down Pétanque Club.
The following year saw a move to The George in Bangor, now the Clandeboye Lodge Hotel. An area, previously a car park, provided a good, firm surface which we improved with quarry dust and gravel. Surrounded by trees and backed by an historic old school house, this provided an attractive and sheltered setting.
In 1991 the club established itself on the Irish Pétanque scene by hosting the first Celtic Challenge competition. Welcoming players from Scotland, Wales and throughout Ireland, the event was a great success, not least because Ireland managed to lift the trophy and prove that the standard of play on this island was a match for our more experienced visitors.
What was a loosely structured Club became better organised, with the election of a President, Secretary, Treasurer and Committee. Weekly club nights ( Tuesday ) and a substantial programme of competitions added momentum. Shortly after celebrating our 10th anniversary, which was marked with a superb competition attracting players all over the British Isles, we found ourselves looking for a new home, as the hotel wished to re-develop the playing area for other purposes. A temporary site was found in the nearby Dufferin ( Clandeboye ) estate where, amid splendid stately surroundings, we survived for a few seasons. This was a special spot, but it wasn’t our own and a concerted search brought us to Pickie Bowling Club which agreed, for an annual fee *, to renovate an adjacent piece of derelict ground to accommodate our game. In 2002, after much planning and effort, our vision became reality and a year later, we put our new home on the map by once again hosting the Celtic Challenge.
The membership numbers of the early days have been difficult to maintain, but have stabilised around the mid-20s mark and it is a rare year when no new members are welcomed into the Club. We have an annual programme of competitions comprising singles, doubles and triples and victories are spread across the membership. Our members continue to enjoy success in Irish competitions, and as representatives of the Ireland team in the Celtic Challenge competition.
* In 2020, the annual fee was re-negotiated. The new arrangement is that the fee will ‘purchase’ Associate membership of Pickie BC for 20 members of North down PC.