Although it wasn’t until 1933 that the name Boston United first appeared, football had been played in the town since the late 1800’s and, indeed, always on the same site as the present York Street stadium.
In those early days there were two clubs, Boston Town, whose headquarters were ‘The Coach and Horses’, and Boston Swifts, who used ‘The Indian Queen’. In fact, as both the public houses were situated on ‘Main Ridge’ and the pitch was virtually just opposite, it wasn’t surprising that for the first 40 years or so that was what the Ground was called. A small stand was erected in the early 1900’s but other than that there were no decent facilities. The teams changed at the back of the appropriate pub!
Boston Swifts were not to re-appear after the First World War and it was left to the club called simply Boston to achieve the first giant killing in the F.A. Cup by beating the then powerful Football League Club Bradford Park Avenue 1-0 in 1925. The club was now competing in the Midland League, whereas its predecessors had played in the Lincoln League, local cups and friendlies although Town had also entered the F.A. Cup prior to the turn of the century.
By 1933 lack of success and financial problems resulted in a public meeting being called in an attempt to sort things out and save the club. Only one person showed any interest. That man rescued the club and remained its guiding hand for over half a century. His name was Ernest Malkinson. The club was re-formed under the new title Boston United and the town’s colours of amber and black replaced the white and blue in order to avoid clashes with other team colours. By this time, with entrances and dressing rooms at the west end of the ground it was known as ‘Shodfriars Lane’- and still is by some older supporters.
For a season or two after the Second World War, the clubs colours were light blue shirts and white shorts yet again. Due to a shortage of material after the war, clothing was rationed, and the only material available in sufficient quantities to make a complete set of matching shirts for the team was light blue. Since then however Boston have stuck fairly rigidly to amber shirts and black shorts.
In about 1969 Boston United decided they should have something a bit more exciting than the ‘United’ tag, so they decided to call themselves the ‘Pilgrims’. The main reason was that Boston has a connection with the Pilgrim Fathers. A memorial in their tribute, erected in 1957, is to be found about 4 miles out of Boston at Scotia Creek, Fishtoft. It marks the place where in 1607 a group of Puritans, who were to become known as the Pilgrim Fathers, were arrested attempting to flee to the religious freedom of the Low Countries. The ringleaders were subsequently tried and imprisoned in the town’s Guildhall. Eventually allowed to leave they settled in Holland before travelling on to the New World.
The only other nickname for the club was the ‘Stumpites’, which was briefly used back in the 1940s. The ‘Stump’ is the local name for the main church in Boston, St. Botolph’s, which is the largest parish church in England with a tower that is 272 feet high.
Boston United did once try to adopt the Boston coat of arms as its badge, but the town council objected. Though it was pointed out at the meeting that discussed the matter that the town could do nothing to stop the football club adopting its coat of arms if it wanted to the club didn’t go against the wishes of the council. Instead a design was created, containing The Mayflower three master who brought the Pilgrim Fathers to the New World and the three crowns from the shield of the town’s crest. These crowns are said to represent the Dukes of Brittany, Richmond and Suffolk. This emblem has been used on and off for the last two decades.
The present emblem was first introduced in the late sixties, along with the ‘Pilgrims’ nickname. There’s a striking resemblence to Plymouth Argyle’s badge, Argyle also being called the ‘Pilgrims’, due to their connections with the Pilgrim Fathers.