This is to date on my blog, the most nostalgic, inspiring and melancholic post yet and it warps your poisoned mind back to 1997 – when life was good, when “the smiles were genuine.” I’m not being deeply ironic, cynical, acting like an old man, I’m just appreciating that period of my life when everything was good, and as John Lennon would say “nothing to get hung about in strawberry fields forever…” I was 17 years old, I had left school properly in high fashion on a day of teenage angst in June 1997. I had taken the summer out to plan my future, in that time I edited the Northern Ireland fanzine “Here We Go…Again” (co-edited I should say, with my mate Michael McClelland), prepare for the Oasis monster monster album “Be Here Now” and in them days I enjoyed a holiday with my whole family – all 6 of us going all the way to Orlando, Florida, USA for THREE weeks. I also fitted in time to spend a week away with my cousin in Castlerock, County Londonderry where we got pished on Tennents in his caravan and watched the Milk Cup together (the first time I’d see David Healy score live). When I came back from Florida in mid September, the Summer was over and I had to plan the rest of my life, now that I wasn’t bound to an education. I had no job (well, no proper job, I saw myself as a fanzine editor, a lance corporal in the boys brigade, a guy who worked occasional shifts in a nursing home as part of a Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme) but I was a busy working guy, albeit without paying National Insurance or Tax. September 1997 was a great time. I started earning money by doing a trainee journalism course, which was actually one of the last times you could do that. This story is actually about a bar called The Windsor in Bangor, but the story that took me there and made it so magic, needed this introduction. You had to be aware of what was happening in the UK, even worse, Northern Ireland at the time. Princess Diana had just died, Oasis were the biggest band in the world, Geri Halliwell got her tits out in The Sun, Tony Blair had just taken over with ‘New Labour’, Northern Ireland had lost 1-0 to Albania (in Zurich because there was a war in Albania…), Belfast was a danger zone. The Loyalist Volunteer Force were carrying out major killings, including one of a taxi driver near Lurgan, Ian Paisley and David Trimble walked hand in hand down the republican Garvaghy Road in Portadown, as The Orangemen were allowed to walk down their traditional route. The world was very different, but in my little world I hadn’t really escaped Bangor or Belfast. I was 17, living with parents and my mind began to wander…
After starting the media course at Belvoir Training Centre in South Belfast I found myself using public transport a lot more, doing my own thing and not relying on parents as much, except for maybe food, washing clothes and somewhere to live! The craic at Belvoir Tech was great and we enjoyed good banter in there, and would talk about where we were heading each weekend. I was 17 and in them days still looked young ish, mind you I still look the same! I had two different false identifications which in them days were popular, and the Boom Boom Room in Bangor used to accept them. I had been drinking in a few pubs and bars before, but not a lot because I wasn’t working and didn’t spend a lot of money on it, I bought CDs and paid for football matches instead! In 1996 – 1997 I had been served alcohol in The Crawfordsburn Inn (Cousin Michael’s Wedding in August 1996 was the first time I was served in a bar), The Jamaica Inn (where I went in sometimes during school hours wearing a change of clothes as it was always quiet during the day and I told them once I was 19 and had just finished tech so they never asked for ID again, unless the staff changed dramatically), The Lock And Quay (In Groomsport, I’d been in there once with Gavin) and Wolseys Bar (I got served in there during 1997 a lot actually) but I remember The Windsor being quite a bit more strict, initially. So as I had my week sorted out – Monday – Friday was studying journalism, politics, radio and I was out and about with Castlereagh Ulster Unionist Jack Beattie quite a lot (attending events – I was there the day David Lloyd announced a new leisure complex in Dundonald, Belfast). If I’s took photos of them Belvoir days, there’d of been some memories there! Anyhow me and my mate Gavin (who was actually 14 months older than me, so would have been 18 already) would spend Saturday nights on the town and it started off being Wolseys Bar and Legends (we got in easily enough) before I found a new place – The Windsor Bar, on Quay Street, Bangor. That was heaven for me – it was a great wee pub, age bracket was 18 – 50. I got to know the bouncers over the next few months and would get in no problem, even the bar staff got to know me, as I slumped into a seat ordering a pint of Harp while I waited for Gavin to come in, or I read the Glentoran match reports in the Ireland’s Saturday Night. The Windsor in 1997 was a thriving pub and club!
Let me describe it…the downstairs had four seperate sections as I saw it
– THE FRONT BIT: there was the front section by the door, which I didn’t like as it was near the bouncers at the start and I didn’t want them to ask me for ID even after I’d got in, plus there was less atmosphere there
– THE MIDDLE BIT: There were booths in between two sets of double doors, such a traditional style of British Pub, and we often sat in the booths if there were 6 of us, to chat and be all together.
– THE ALCOVE BIT: Off to the right there was a sort of alcove bit which came to the back of the bar, I didn’t really sit there much, and still wouldn’t.
– THE BACK BIT: My favourite part of the pub. There was the end part of the bar – quick easy service, near the toilets, there was a pool table and an excellent dukebox.
It was in “THE BACK BIT” where I enjoyed most of my time in The Windsor Bar (or as I always will call it “the wins”). I would sit opposite the ladies toilets in a stool which was on the raised section and there was a brown wood high ledge to set your drinks on. I would be the second seat in the first bit on the right hand side, Gavin would be the first seat and then Michael, Begzi and Chris (my best mates at the time) would be around the ledge area, or we’d swap and they’d sit down. We would normally meet in there EVERY Saturday night, when I was 17. It was like some kind of release from the world outside. No politics, no parental control, no hassle, just a decent place to meet yer mates, catch up, talk shit, eye up ladies and get drunk. That’s what it was and that was total bliss, even if it passed me by at the time. It wasn’t just the downstairs bar though, it was the upstairs nightclub. Normally what would happen is we would meet in there from 8 pm ish (sometimes earlier as the bouncers started at 8 pm), stay downstairs for about 2 hours getting drunk and then head upstairs to the nightclub. There was sometimes a danger of being asked for ID again when going upstairs into the nightclub depending on who was on the door, but thats what made it exciting. There was a risk. I was too confident on Harp Lager by that stage (and although I did get thrown out once cos I didn’t have any ID, it was the ONLY time before I turned 18 that I’d been refused or removed!! And that was from over 30 times in a bar/club before my 18th). Anyway you would join a massive queue on the carpeted steps up to the Windsor Nightclub. Entry used to be something like £3 before 10 pm and £4 after that, sometimes that even included a free drink! Once in the nightclub was just amazing. There was a great resident DJ, DJ Flem as I recall. There was a massive balcony over looking the dancefloor. There were two bars. One on the main dancefloor section, another in the corner upstairs. There was a spiral staircase, a very very small toilet and a cloakroom, where in Northern Ireland we ALWAYS left our coats in. It was too cold I think in those days and 50 pence wasn’t a lot. This was the dancefloor where I enjoyed my first drunk dance, my first proper snog, my first fumbling under knickers and many many memories of ladies in there, and also my mates and me altogether on the dance floor having fun. There was not a time like it, and I think the time was October – December 1997. Come 1998, I was turning 18 (on March 30th) and The Windsor began to lose its buzz as I was known to the bouncers well before I was 18, and once I turned 18 there was no risk involved, I would always get in. By the year 2000 I had stopped going to The Windsor as the nightclub part closed down (and I think is still closed) and it lost that vibrancy of 1997. Its still one of my favourite bars in the world. Two weeks ago on a return to Northern Ireland I went in there, ordered a pint of Harp and texted my mate Gavin (who hasnt ever moved away from Northern Ireland). The text read something like “I’m in the wins, usual seat.” and he knew where to find me. MY 1997 seat. The days when we got drunk for fun.
Its amazing that I still have some fliers from those days (a rare one on this blog…), and one day I took a photo of the pub as it was in 1997 from the outside. One thing missing seems to be a photo of me drinking an underage pint (some from the Crawfordsburn Inn 1996 just), but thanks to Gavin and my seeming lack of ageing, I have a photo which was took, not in 1997, but might as well have been, as thats the way I looked and thats the place I sat back in 1997, when I first discovered alcohol, freedom and passion in Bangor’s The Windsor Bar. Great times, great memories, I wish I could do that all over again.
When I Started Going Till The Windsor – October 1997
What Was It? – A Bar on Quay Street Bangor (opposite the Marina) which was part of a hotel (The Royal) and had an upstairs nightclub.
What Price Was A Pint? – As I remember a pint of Harp was £1.65 when I started going there.
Name A Girl Who I Met In The Windsor And Dated Briefly – Angela Murray (you spring to mind, my dear).
Songs which charted around that time:
Oasis – Stand By Me
Elton John – Something About The Way You Look Tonight/Candle In The Wind
Spice Girls – Too Much/Spice Up Yer Life
The Verve – Them Drugs Don’t Work
Ocean Colour Scene – Travellers Tune
U2 – Please
Blur – Middle Of The Road/Swallows In The Heatwave
Kylie Minogue – Some Kind Of Bliss
Robbie Williams – Angels
Songs which charted and/or were played upstairs in The Windsor nightclub during late 1997:
Dario G – Sunchyme
Robert Miles – Children
The Weather Girls – Its Raining Men!
Darude – Sandstorm
Van Morrison – Brown Eyed Girl
Robbie Williams – Angels
Chumbawamba – Tubthumping (I get knocked down, but I get up again)
The first time I remember being in The Windsor Bar – last Saturday of October, 1997.
Main drinks I drank then – Harp Lager, Smirnoff Mule (RIP), Huskys Clear (RIP) and Southern Comfort and Lemonade.
The Windsor on “Beer In The Evening” (thanks to me!) –
The Royal Hotel Website –
The Only Mention of The Legendary Windsor Bar on That Website –
I Found This Image Of Its INterior –
Fact – The Windsor used to be a Theatre and a Picture House and as such, my 1997 seat was beside two old posters for the following films/plays – The Diamond Frontier and The Girl In The News (I once wrote a song using the words)
HERES THE BEST SONG TO SUM THIS POST UP, AND FUCKING TRUST ME KIDS – THOSE DAYS DONT LAST FOR EVER, ENJOY THEM AND….THEYLL PASS YOU BY; GLORY DAYS (in the blink of a young girls eyes; glory days):