Branch History - Chapter 10

Bohemian Travel

(This article was written by Richard Robertson some time after the trip to Dublin to play Bohemians in 1985)

(One or two additional notes have been added to ease understanding. These are in brackets)

Getting Organised

When the draw was made in July 1985 United were paired with Bohemians Dublin. The view of the committee was that it presented an easy introduction to European travel and a logical extension of the trip to Manchester the previous season. The first committee meeting to discuss travel arrangements was on the 5th August 1985 — at the meeting it was agreed to properly organise the trip and communication be made with the official Bohemians supporters’ club to arrange events for our members.

The background to this was the announcement made by the SFA from Ernie Walker that all the participating clubs in Scotland had “agreed“ that they should not encourage travel by their supporters for “the good of the game in Scotland“. This resulted in a flood of correspondence to the SFA, Dundee United and Garda in putting over our point of view that it was better that travel arrangements were organised and officially sanctioned. The reply from Ernie Walker was consistent with previous and subsequent utterings from that organisation i.e. “we have made our decision and you can like it or lump it”. Dundee United were placed in a difficult position but unofficially noted that we were travelling and asked to watch our behaviour. The Garda were pleased that we had thought of notifying them and wished us a pleasant journey.

By the time of the next committee meeting on 3rd September most of the arrangements had been finalised for the match on 18th September. The only problem was the slow uptake of places on the coach – the cost had been based on 30 people travelling , this number also gave us free bus passage on the boat.

We’re Off to Dublin in the Tangerine

On the Tuesday night of 17th September , 22 hardy souls in the recognised meeting place of Palmers (now the Shakespeare in Lothian Rd.) as Willie Mason’s best bus turned up at 6.45 pm. At 7pm prompt we voyage west in the setting sun along the M8 with choruses of “We’re off to Dublin in the Tangerine”.

All was organised down to the finest detail---the catering arrangements would have done the Sheraton proud. An assortment of sandwiches with appetising fillings cut and made at great labour by Ken and Linda (Smith). Unfortunately one thing now obvious from European travel is that people make their own catering arrangements for the outward journey and that demands on catering are made on the inward travel. It is also a fact that day old sandwiches are not greatly in demand therefore the sight of the 30p sandwiches virtually reduced to nil value. Indeed Ken was seen to beg people to eat them rather than explain their return to Linda.

One problem facing the committee (minus Aidan) (Hegarty) was the 30 people required for free bus passage. No problem! It was suggested that an exploration of the drinking houses in Stranraer would gather up 8 willing supporters to resolve our dilemma. On reaching Stranraer parties were set out to press gang the requisite numbers and seek refreshment for the remaining part of the journey, of course! It seems that the latter took precedence along with an alarming lack of other supporters travelling at that time. The coach therefore had to be paid for and luckily Tony (Martin) came to the rescue as the only one with a cheque book and credit card.

A 2.5 hour boat trip across the Irish Sea starting at midnight offered a chance to relax and partake of further refreshments but not Ken’s sandwiches. We left Larne and headed south, Belfast at 3am was as much as one would have expected. Leaving the empty streets we headed for Dublin on the motorway. Several hours later being the only passenger awake I noticed that Dublin had disappeared from the sign posts. Gus the driver and I agreed that somehow we had missed the correct turn off but that there was no need to go back simply turn off at the next exit and head south.

I innocently enquired about how much sleep was needed prior to such a long trip and was amazed that Gus had been awake since 6am the previous morning and was feeling tired!!! I suggested that black coffee would be advisable and made the strongest coffee I have ever made and kept him full of it until Dublin. The trip from the motorway took us through some strange country and towns where gates restricting access for traffic were luckily left open, eventually we reached Newry close to the border. At 5am the high fences around the court buildings, the floodlights, the pill boxes, the grey landrovers, the speed bumps, the bombed out buildings all presented an eerie sight in the quiet of the approaching dawn. The long continuous climb out of Newry and the border was reached and passed. Wait!!! We stopped, reversed to the border post, surely we would be searched or something. A look around and knocking on doors revealed nothing. We continued half expecting flashing blue lights of pursuing vehicles for the next few hours.

Dublin At Last

Dublin was reached before 7 in the morning. We queued at the Irish Wimpeys equivalent as recommended to us and resolved to meet back at the bus at an agreed time to allow Gus the driver to get some sleep. My first port of call was a local hostelry to sample the world famous Guiness at 8.00am!! Once the cost of 1.14 punts had been worked out at the exchange rate of 1.10 to the £1 the cost became irrelevant since the taste more than compensated for the expense. Another port of call was at the sports shop run by Billy Young the Bohemians manager who wished us the worst of luck with typical Irish humour. Across the road we met a large group of United supporters who were availing themselves of the best Guinness in town along with the best and hottest Irish soup full of meat and vegetables.

Suitably refreshed we headed back across the Liffey and witnessed the poverty of beggars on the bridge at O’Connel Street but were overwhelmed by the friendship of the people who all seemed to want to stop and speak to us, even the Garda.

Friendships Are Made

We rendezvoused at 5pm and picked up other United and Bohemian supporters at the infamous Post Office in O’Connel Street and headed for a hostelry near the ground. The place was full of United supporters and we got everyone to sign a copy of “Rags to Riches“ (Mike Watson’s book on history of United) and presented it to Tony of the Bohemians supporters’ club as a token of our friendship.

The match presented us with the opportunity of singing throughout the 90 minutes since it was a superb United performance which was acknowledged by the Bohemian supporters who gave our team a standing ovation at the finish. The United supporters were invited to a man into the supporters club under the main stand at the end of the match. The feeling of friendliness comradeship in the hours after that match is what the spirit of football is all about. We have retained contact with our friends from across the Irish Sea and they came over for the second leg and more recently for the Gothenburg match at Tannadice.

A Successful First Trip Abroad

The return journey was uneventful mainly spent in sleep and wishing that the bus had an on board toilet. Edinburgh was reached in the morning rush hour and first stop was bed to catch up on missing sleep and to dream of the pleasant memories the trip gave me and all the others lucky enough to have gone to Dublin.

The trip was indeed a milestone for the club, it proved that we could organise such trips and make it a success for the members present. It highlighted the financial problems of such trips and we learned from our mistakes. Above all it gave a yardstick to gauge other future European trips and led to the success of our next European adventure - the trip to Lens.

Richard Robertson