Belfast - Gibson Park

Cregagh Road : BT6 9GL Belfast - Gibson Park : Map credit PRONI Northern Ireland maps Belfast - Gibson Park : Image credit www.defunctspeedway.co.uk
Gibson Park was built in 1926 by the Willowfield football club and was named after the club's president William Gibson. The park consisted of seven grass tennis courts, three hard courts, a bowling green, a croquet lawn, a hockey pitch and a football and athletics enclosure with a 440 yards cycle track. There was accommodation for over 20,000 spectators.

The first bicycle races at Gibson Park were at the Northern Ireland Amateur Athletic, Cycling and Cross-Country Association sports on August 27th 1927. The big event was the 25 miles championship of Northern Ireland, which included a team race as well as individual honours. There were 31 starters with teams of five riders, three to count. The teams taking part were King's Moss, Moneyrea, Ulsterville, Northern and Belfast. There was an early break of six riders who quickly lapped the field and stayed away for the whole race, lapping the field once again. In the sprint, the favourite Bertie Cole of Ulsterville beat J McKee of Belfast by three lengths for the championship.

The Belfast News-Letter of August 29th 1927 reported that the 25 miles championship race was run over 109 laps, making the lap length 403.67 yards.

Willowfield FC ran an Easter Monday sports meeting in 1928 at Gibson Park with one and two miles open handicap bicycle races and a one mile novices scratch race. The one mile championship of Northern Ireland was held at Gibson Park on July 28th 1928 and the 25 miles inter-club championship was again held there. Willowfield FC sports on July 13th 1928 included 1, 2 and 5 miles races, the 1 mile scratch for the championship of Northern Ireland.

Willowfield Football and Athletics Club held a sports meeting on May 25th 1929, the outstanding event was the five miles open handicap race. Unfortunately, there were four accidents at the meeting, two of them serious. The Willowfield Club continued to hold bicycle races through 1929, including championship races over half, one and ten miles. After a busy few years at the track, surprisingly, from 1930, there was almost no bicycle racing at Gibson Park for the next ten years.

Racing resumed in 1942 with a short series of Friday evening NCU open meetings, with attendances up to 1,000 spectators and some Wednesday evening track league events. After this, bicycle races were held infrequently and the track never recovered its popularity after the war. The last bicycle races at Gibson Park were advertised to take place during Musgrave Sports Carnival, which was held on August 6th 1949.

Malone rugby football club, who moved to Gibson Park in 1935, eventually purchased the ground in 1953. The club still plays there.


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Photos : www.defunctspeedway.co.uk
Maps    : PRONI Northern Ireland maps