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Bangor city: Heritage, heart and hope at centre of status boost


Bangor has been awarded city status. Credit: Peter Morrison

Bangor has been awarded city status. Credit: Peter Morrison

Bangor has been awarded city status. Credit: Peter Morrison

The competition which saw Bangor gain new-found city status focused on the three criteria of heritage, heart and hope — aspects that many locals within the seaside spot were keen to discuss on Friday.

Gail Rider is a lifelong resident of the Co Down town-turned-city and is also a budding artist, specialising in acrylic landscape paintings.

She said the area has become well known for its arts and culture scene, with many muralists and more coming from across the water to paint the region’s historic walls.

“Bangor is great. And especially when the sun shines it’s a beautiful place to be, so it’s great to have this,” Gail added. 

Bangor hosts multiple arts events and initiatives, with the Sidewalk Art Festival next in the calendar (July 9).

Last year, Seedhead Arts — a Belfast-based business providing arts consultancy — invited famous London-based street artist Irony to Northern Ireland, where, during the Open House Festival, he went on to paint Bangor’s now famous ‘Stabby The Crabby’ on a wall near the marina.

While catering for the creatives, Bangor also has a rich history. For almost 300 years Bangor Abbey — founded by Saint Comgall in 558 AD — was one of the greatest monastic schools in Europe.

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The place was also called the ‘Vale of Angels’ because, according to a popular legend, St Patrick once rested there and saw the valley filled with angels.

During the Second World War, Bangor — a particularly useful commuter base for the Belfast area — became busy with military personnel from allied forces, especially in the lead-up to D-Day.

A pair of air raid shelters stood in the centre of Main Street for use by the public, with another, situated beside Ward Park, recently receiving the green light to be turned into a 23-seater tea room.

In May 1944, future US President Dwight D Eisenhower gave a speech to 30,000 troops in the then-town before they left for the D-Day landings, and, according to WartimeNI, American GIs would shop in Walkers Irish Linen, keen to send a piece of the ‘old country’ home.

Moreover, such was the popularity of Lightbody’s Fish & Chips that it became a military canteen.

One local boat owner, who did not want to be named, joked that because of its rich antiquity, Bangor is “the centre of the world” and he quipped that the only potential problem with its new city status is the potential for it to be more readily confused with its namesake in Wales. 

“What I would worry about is that Royal Mail might get the post confused between the two now,” he told Belfast Telegraph.

While the Welsh Bangor may have been a city for longer, it only has a population of around 18,000, while Bangor in Co Down has approximately 61,000 residents, placing it as Northern Ireland’s fifth largest town/city, behind Belfast, Londonderry, Lisburn and Newtownabbey.

The neighbouring council of Newry, Mourne & Down was also quick to congratulate Bangor on its city status, with council chairperson Michael Rice stating: “As a council we recognise that the granting of city status can provide a boost to local communities and help underpin major regeneration and investment opportunities. I wish the city of Bangor and its plans for the future every success.”

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