Lough Cuan Bowmen - History

In 1606 Sir Hugh Montgomery "built a great school at Newton [Newtownards] ... allowing the scholars a green for recreation at golf, football, and archery... " (from the Montgomery Manuscripts).  The Montgomery family still resides in Greyabbey, Co. Down.  This is the earliest recording of a recreational archery club in Ireland.  Although we cannot claim a direct decent from this early 17th century club it is appropriate that an archery club exists with links to Newtownards.

Lough Cuan Bowmen was formed in 1986 by a small number of enthusiastic archers, some of whom have been, and remain with, the club since that date. The Chairman was Ron Bell who subsequently went on to co-found the Irish Field Archers Federation (IFAA) with Bill James and Andy Haggan of Lough Cuan Bowmen (LCB) and Jim Boyle, Joe Coyle and Ted Breslin of the Donegal Archery Club (DAC). Ron Bell became the 1st President of the IFAA (26/07/1992) assisted by Vice President Jim Boyle (DAC), Secretary Bill James (LCB) and Tresurer Andy Haggan (LCB). Ron Bell later became President of the Northern Ireland Archery Society. Sadly Ron passed from this life in 2002 but is commemorated with a two day Field Shoot each year- the Ron Bell Memorial.

We take our name from the Irish for Strangford Lough which is an area of outstanding natural beauty and scientific interest to the south of Belfast, Lough Cuan being translated as the Inlet of the Harbours, or Safe Waters. The badge of two swans linked by a golden chain with a crown above set on a field of Royal Blue comes from the legend of Lugaid and Dergbforgal contained within the Courting of Emer- one of the legends that make up the epic Tain Bó Cuailgne and the only time that Lough Cuan is mentioned by name in the Ulster Cycle. Only the start concerns us as it becomes coarse as it progresses - not unusual with tales of its type. This stand alone translation comes from the journal Ériu (1911) v 201-18

'Derbforgall, daughter of the King of Norway, set her love on Cúchulainn because of the great stories told of him. She and her handmaiden set out from the east in the guise of two swans until they came to Lough Cuan, a golden chain between them. One day as Cúchulainn and his foster-brother Lugaid, son of the Three Finn-Emna, were by the lake, they saw the birds.

'Have a cast at the birds.' said Lugaid.

Cúchulainn threw at them so that she was struck between her two wings. Straightway two human forms were on the strand.

'Cruel have you been to me' said the girl '.  

'It is true.' said Cúchulainn. Then he sucked the missile from the maiden's side so that it came into his mouth with the clot of blood that was around it.

'It was in quest of you that I came.' Said she.

'Not so, O maiden,' said he, 'the side I have sucked I may not join with.'

'You shall give me then to whomsoever you please.'

'I should like you to go' said he 'to the man who is noblest in Ireland - that is to Lugaid of the red stripes.'

'Let it be so', said she, 'provided that I may always see you.'

The club is mainly Field orientated but with an increasing number of archers shooting Target with considerable success. We meet at the Ards Rugby Club on Thursday nights from April to August, 7.00pm to dusk and in the Ards Leisure Centre on Friday nights from September to March from 7.30 pm to 9.30pm.
We take part in a variety of competitions, some of which we host, Provence wide - and further afield- all year round.
Fees for the year are £79.00 for seniors per year  which provides membership of the club, affiliation to the Northern Ireland Archery Society, the Grand National Archery Society and the Fédération Internationale de Tir à l'Arc as well as associate membership of the Ards Rugby Club, with a £4.00 'target' fee for each week when shooting (juniors pay 1/2 price of all above fees). Some of us are also members of the British-Longbow Society, of the Irish Field Archery Federation and/or the Traditional Archers Society of Ireland.
Applications for beginners courses are welcomed.Run in the Ards Leisure Centre these are;taken by LCB Coaches for all ages from 9 years upwards. Courses for Juniors are being formulated Seperate courses for outside bodies can be considered - please contact us.
We are also involved with the Lough (Active Participation) Cuan Bowmen Club - where membership is free to all; with physical, sensory and cognitive;impairment and their carerers.