​ ‘It’s in my blood’ says Newry City AFC super fan behind new archive website

​In last week’s edition of the Newry Reporter, we covered the creation of a new Newry City AFC archive website – newryfootballmemories.com created by diehard supporter John McClelland.
It runs in the family... John McClelland (centre) pictured with his father and his son in their Newry City jerseys.It runs in the family... John McClelland (centre) pictured with his father and his son in their Newry City jerseys.
It runs in the family... John McClelland (centre) pictured with his father and his son in their Newry City jerseys.

​John was on holiday when we contacted him to get the story behind the website last week, but he has since got in touch with us to explain the origins of his love for Newry City and the incredible amount of research which has gone into preserving the history of the club, which is online and freely accessible.

Here’s what John had to say:

Newry has always been in my blood.

My Grandfather Jackie, the popular fire chief whom McClelland Park was later named after, was a committee member of the club in the 1960s and took my father Jimmy to games from an early age - something which has now turned into tradition, as my father took me to The Showgrounds from no age and which I have also done for my own son.

I can’t actually remember my first Newry game because I was so young but my earliest memory of The Showgrounds was the League Cup game against Linfield Swifts in the 1987/88 season.

It was the first ever game to be played under floodlights at The Showgrounds which is why it stands out - that and the fact it went to extra-time and penalties and I remember my mother wasn’t too pleased when we got home so late on a school night!

My dad was a great story teller and would always tuck me into bed at night with stories from his childhood of the old B Division days.

From getting the train to Belfast to watch Newry win the Intermediate Cup at Solitude in 1966 to the B Division and Intermediate Cup double of 1981 and the eventual re-entry to the Irish League in 1983.

As I look back now, it were these stories which clearly sparked my interest in Newry Town’s history as I was always interested in hearing about players who have pulled on the famous blue and white shirt in the past.

I always had an interest in stats too and have recently found old school books of mine from the 1990’s with jottings on the back pages of who Newry were going to be playing with dates, scores and venues etc, so it was always meant to be.

In the Summer of 2019 I decided I was going start researching to try and find every result and goal scorer in Newry’s history and I paid for a years subscription to the British Newspaper Archive (BNA) online.

However, it soon became apparent that it wasn’t going to be an easy task as the newspapers available (mainly the Irish News and the News Letter) only really concentrated on the Irish League and not the B Division which meant that the results after World War Two, when Newry were denied entry back into the Irish League until 1983, were going to hard to find.

As luck would have it, around two months after I started researching, the BNA then uploaded the old popular NI sports newspaper - the Ireland Saturday Night onto its domain. This was a game changer which allowed me to complete 90 per cent of the results.

After I exhausted the online resources I then started going to Newry Library to view the Newry Reporter archives which were available on microfilm.

This is when I made the decision to start taking note of the lineups - something I wish I had have done to begin with, as I ended up having to go right back to the start to read over all the match reports again.

After a year or so of going to the library in Newry I then started going once a week to the SELB headquarters in Armagh which has a far superior array of newspapers and it helped me complete my mission.

Now I had all this information what was I going to do with it?

I had originally planned to create a reference book, especially as it was coming up to the centenary of Newry Town joining the Irish League, but I wanted something I could constantly update and so I decided to create the website newryfootballmemories.com - named after my Newry Football Memories Facebook page which I started in 2019 at the beginning of my research.

The response to the website has been fantastic.

I have had many messages from past players and family members - some of players who have passed on - and they are delighted to see their names remembered.

Fans have also approached me at The Showgrounds to congratulate me on my work.

I never actually expected it to go down so well - especially with the older generation - and I certainly didn’t expect an article in the Newry Reporter for which I am extremely grateful. Thanks.