Detached in its corner of the far North-West, the town of Barrow-in-Furness was slow to promote a football club of senior status. From a very small village in 1845 it eventually grew to a flourishing town by the turn of the twentieth century due to the industrial demands and the consequent growth of the iron industry and steel making trades. Thousands of immigrants flocked to Barrow for employment, many from nearby Scotland. They brought with them their love of the game to Barrow, as they had done to so many other towns. There was a Barrow club in existence in the 1880’s. They staged their matches on the Old Race course, now the site of the Furness Cricket Club. Later they played on the Parade Ground, now the site of Barrow’s fire station. Organized football ceased to function in 1894.
Despite the strong Scottish influence, it was a local publican, Mr Hinds, who was instrumental in the creation of Barrow FC in 1901 during a meeting at the Drill Hall in The Strand, now the Barrow Bowl. Their first ground was a pitch called The Strawberry Ground at Abbey Road and it was decided that the team would play in black and white striped shirts and black shorts. Arrangements were made for trams to run from the town centre to the Strawberry Hotel, which was to be used as dressing rooms.
After a promising start with crowds of 3,000 and 4,000 the distant location of The Strawberry Ground eventually deterred good support. The elevation of the ground was also a drawback. You see, in those days there were no such things as buses and if you wanted to ride to the Strawberry Ground then you rode from the town in one of the steam trams. Now those steam trams were uncertain performers on a rising gradient with a heavy load and often they were so overloaded with fans on their way to the Strawberry Ground that they stuck on East Mount.
When that happened, then out the passengers got and they all gave a hand in pushing the reluctant steam tram and trailer car to the top of the hill, there to jump aboard once more and ride down to the Strawberry.
And if a slope stopped the steam trams it was another slope, which gave trouble to Barrow when they moved to a new ground in Ainslie Street. The ground was more central, but the contour of the land meant that the playing area could not be billiard table level without a great deal of expense. There was, in fact, a decided slope from touchline to touchline and before the end of the 1904—05 season the club was on the move again, this time to a new ground at Little Park, Roose.
It was again far from ideal because it meant yet again a tram journey away from the centre By 1909 high unemployment hit the area and inevitably support started to dwindle. The club and its followers’ dissatisfaction about grounds continued and the non-central location of Roose prompted another move, this time to Holker Street. In view of the club’s overall record in their earlier days, the new ground’s previous use as a rubbish tip, coupled with its location next to the cemetery, just about summed up Barrow’s fortunes to that time.
In fact, Barrow FC can surely have no equal for prolonged misery. The club enjoyed Football League membership for over 50 years, and yet in all that time achieved just one promotion, but had to seek re-election on eleven occasions. Barrow FC started life as a League club in 1921 when they were voted into the newly formed Third Division North.
They kicked off their campaign in their new colours of royal blue shirts with white shorts, which also inspired their nickname ‘The Bluebirds’. A white ‘V’ was in alternative use between 1930 and 1959. Then the stripes of their initial shirts returned, alas, only for one season.
There’s a mention of another nickname, ‘The Ziggers‘. Club mascot of the late Sixties Jimmy Caldwell and his pals were trying hard to get the funny tag across. They manufactured a ‘Zigger’, translation or meaning totally unknown, using an old stuffed army kit bag, painted blue and white. They paraded it around Holker Street and part of the fans would chant: ‘Zigger-Zagger-Zigger-Zagger- Oi-Oi-Oi’. The older fans didn’t go for ‘The Ziggers’, so the nickname never really caught on.
Barrow-in-Furness’ arms were granted on 13th December 1867. The bend in the lower field shows a canting bee, an emblem of industry, and together with the arrow, forms a rebus (a pun to you and me) on the town’s name. The serpent and the stag are taken from the crests of the Duke of Devonshire and the Duke of Buccleuch respectively, who were the principal landowners. The ram’s head is from the arms of Sir James Ramsden, who was the first mayor of Barrow. To these three men the town largely owed its development during the nineteenth century. The ship in the chief (top) of the shield symbolizes the fact that Barrow-in-Furness is a major shipping port. The motto Semper Sursum means Ever Upwards.
There’s a lovely story to Barrow’s second and also present emblem. It originates from the late 1950’s. Clubman Wilf Livingstone was appointed to organize fund-raising for the club in conjunction with the well- established Barrow AFC Development Branch, then situated in Duke Street, Barrow. The new ‘Armchair’ and ‘Fireside’ weekly bingo schemes were introduced and proved a financial saviour for the club. Wilf also introduced a football souvenir shop and made an official approach to the Barrow town council of that period for permission to use the official town coat-of-arms as the Barrow club’s official badge for reproduction on several articles for sale to supporters of soccer in general.
Surprisingly, permission was refused in view of the fact that he intended to raise funds for the club by offering the badges of various types for sale to the public. Not to be beaten Wilf Livingstone produced the design for the now well-known badge. The motto ‘Spatiari ut Progrediaris’ was adopted when he was helped by the priests of St. Mary’s R.C. Church in Barrow requesting the Latin for ‘Strive in order to progress’. Hence the official club emblem was introduced. It features a submarine at sea, symbolic of Barrow’s rise to prominence as a shipbuilding centre. The arrow and the bee are still there, together with the the red rose of Lancashire and a football. There is a pair of parallel lines on either side of the rose and football, representing the touchlines.