A Grand Challenge Match for the Lisburn Air Raid Distress Fund 1941

Today’s Virtual Museum post focuses upon a fascinating item from World War Two. A poster advertising a local charity football match. The game advertised took place on 13th June 1941 and was between a Lisburn select XI and the Royal Ulster Rifles. The timing of the game was very interesting.  It was a time of heightened tensions locally, coming a mere matter of weeks after horrors of the Belfast Blitz. No doubt it was a much needed boost to local morale which had been shaken in the aftermath of the April attacks. Not only that, it provided an opportunity to raise funds for the local war effort. 

While Belfast was devastated by those attacks and has received the most attention in history books, it should not be forgotten that Lisburn also had much to contend with during the war. Air raid shelters were built in roads, streets and public areas across the town. Many buildings were requisitioned and a morgue was built in the Smithfield area as it was anticipated that there would be German air raids over the town.

With plenty to do on the home front, local people stepped up in raising funds for various wartime projects. Football offered a way to raise vital local funds, while at the same time entertaining the public who had been starved of many sporting spectacles. The Irish League, immensely popular at the time, had been suspended between 1940 and 1947. Other football continued, however, including charity games, fundraisers, and friendlies, often involving sporting teams and military units.

This was the case on Friday 13th June 1941, when a ‘Grand Challenge Match’ took place in Barbour Playing Fields between the Lisburn XI and the Royal Ulster Rifles. Raising money in aid of the Lisburn Air Raid Distress Fund, the game attracted a large crowd of men, women, and children. 

To entice as many people to the match as possible, several players of note were advertised for the Lisburn side. Lisburn-born goalkeeper, Gerry Matier was star billing. Matier had played for Dunmurry, Arsenal, Blackburn Rovers, and Bradford City. Despite the pulling power of the Lisburn side, it was the Rifles who proved to be the star attraction. The newspapers which covered the match claimed that the Rifles were ‘the better balanced team in every department’, and fully deserved their 3-1 victory. Admission prices were 1s for reserved seating, 6d for unreserved and 2d for schoolboys. Once overheads were paid, the gate of £23 was handed over to the relevant authorities for the distress fund. Did any of your family members attend this memorable game or did you attend any notable charity matches in more recent times? Please get in touch and let us know.

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