Finn Harps – When was the club founded? By Bartley Ramsay

Newspaper clipping of Harps game in 1953

The actual date that Finn Harps was founded has always been shrouded in the mists of time. In the definitive club history – The Finn Harps Story – which was published in 2008, I had not conclusive proof.   I would point you to the following paragraph which I put into the book:

The exact date of the formation of the Finn Harps Football Club is not known, but it is generally accepted that the club was formed in 1954.  Patsy McGowan recalls in his book ‘The Strings of My Harps’ that a meeting took place in order to change the name of the then existing club Ballybofey Wanderers ‘It was suggested at the meeting that the name of the club be changed to Finn Tigers but someone said this was too aggressive and that the name Finn was alright but the second part of the name should be something milder with a bit of rhythm and that is how Finn Harps were born.’ ”

My research since the date of that publication, has thrown up evidence that the name of Finn Harps was being used at least a year before in 1953.   To date I have found no evidence of a team playing under the name of Finn Harps before March 1953.

In both the Derry People (now of course the Donegal News) and the Strabane Chronicle – of the 28 March 1953 there is mention of a Finn Harps side defeating Killybegs in a friendly match.  (I am assuming St Catherine’s of Killybegs but there is no mention of a team name in the report!).  Intriguingly there is mention of Harps playing Lifford the previous week and that the display against Killybegs was a big improvement in their form v Lifford.

I have searched in the Irish Newspaper Archives for any mention of Finn Harps prior to 1953, but to date have not been able to locate any.  The soccer club is referred to as Ballybofey Wanderers in October 1952.  They were playing in Division B of the Donegal Soccer League and had fixtures scheduled to play Kildrum Tigers, Raphoe and Lifford.   The only result I have been able to find from that League was that Raphoe and Ballybofey played a 1-1 draw in Raphoe on 23 November 1952.

I live in hope that one day a minute book from the meeting to change the name of Ballybofey Wanderers to Finn Harps will surface…or that someone will find something like a letter in which the change of name is sent to the Donegal League. As time goes and the people who were involved, the chances of us ever finding  out the true date will lessen.

For the record that Finn Harps team in March 1953 was recorded as:

Liam McMenamin, Paddy Gallagher, Willie Hart, Brendan McNulty, Anthony McGready, Raymond Curry, N. O’Hare, Raymond Thompson Michael Timoney, Noel McNulty and Willie Duncan. The scorers were Raymond Thompson, Michael Timoney and Willie Duncan.   Noel McNulty, Raymond Curry and Brendan McNulty were the best for the Harps.   The referee was John Harkin from Ballybofey.

Now the biggest question of all is should the current crest be changed to read 1953 as opposed to 1954………