Naming the North Bank

One of the enduring chants by Arsenal fans at Highbury was:

We’re the North Bank
We’re the North Bank
We’re the North Bank, Highbury

northbank

Eventually fans in the Clock End reciprocated, and the chants would alternate back and forth.

But when could this chant have been first sung and who instigated it?

After moving to Highbury in 1913, the terrace at the North end of the ground was usually referred to as the Gillespie Road end or the Laundry End due to the presence of the Mayfield laundry at the back of the terrace.

Laundry

Looking through the matchday programmes, the earliest reference we could find to the “North Bank” was in a letter written by A.Green which was published in the programme for the game against Leeds on 12 April 1969 which is shown below.

1969-04-12 Letter referencing North Bank

Prior to this it was referred to by the club as the North terrace, as shown in this warning to fans in August 1967 following the pre-season “friendly” against Rangers.

1967-08-19 Stoke City (H) FL 03

Obviously, it is likely that the term “North Bank” was coined by fans rather than the club so it’s possible that it could have been used before this date but the club had resisted using it.

Shortly after taking over as editor of the programme in 1983, Kevin Connolly put out a question to fans asking if they knew when the name was first used.

1983-09-10 Liverpool (H) FL 09

Martin Wengrove and George Haydon responded and between them we can probably narrow it down to a couple of games.

1983-09-24 Norwich City (H) FL 09

It looks like they are possibly talking about the FA Cup fourth round game against Bolton on 18 February 1967 and the replay on 22 February 1967. But most surprisingly, it looks like the name “North Bank” may have been instigated by the old bill!

dixon of dock green

Evenin’ All

Can any of our more “senior” readers remember the Bolton games? Or can you remember calling it the North Bank prior to these dates? Did the police just use the name as they had heard it being called that by those on the terrace?

UPDATE

Shortly after publishing this, we were contacted via twitter by @EddieHatdu who included this picture:

eddie

This appeared in a Bristol newspaper on 28 January 1967 when Arsenal played Bristol Rovers in the FA Cup. This pre-dates the Bolton game by a few weeks. Just below the “N” in the word “NORTH” on the banner you can see a young Charlie George who was in his first season as an Arsenal apprentice. J Hoy too is in the picture.

Eddie also said “it was named by a group of us who stood there in sixties. It was easier to sing than laundry end”. So the police did copy the North Bank name from those who stood on it, week in week out.

A big thank you to Eddie for this illuminating information.

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Woolwich A and Crowd

9 thoughts on “We’re The North Bank, Highbury…But Who Named It?

  1. Martin Wengrow on 10 May 2015 at 1:06 am said:

    Their is a reference to me stating that the creation of the term of North Bank came about from a PA announcement asking fans at an FACup game in 1965/6 to move to create more space. From this point the guys who stood on the Laundry End (As it was previously known ) adopted the name of the North Bank as their own. I do not have any doubt about this even after all these years.

    • Hi Martin, I must admit I never expected one of the fans mentioned in this article to contact us!

      I think that between us (including Eddie in the update) we are there or thereabouts. With regards to 1965-66 we only played one FA Cup game – a sorry 0-3 defeat away at Blackburn, so it couldn’t have been that season. In 1964-65 both FA Cup games were also away.

      With this in mind how about this: the fans at the Laundry End had already started referring to that end of the ground as the North Bank around this time but the chant “We’re the North Bank” wasn’t sung until that Bolton game. Eddie’s picture shows that fans were already calling it the North Bank prior to the Bolton game.

      P.S. It must be satisfying after 30 years to have your correct name put to your comment 🙂

      • Martin Wengrow on 16 May 2015 at 10:39 am said:

        Hi Andy, yes it is is all a little surreal.

        I got my dates wrong , I should have googled it first ! It was of course the Bolton Cup tie the following season as I originally wrote. I was on the North Bank as usual for that game, and I can vividly remember the PA announcement and the almost instant reaction from those of us on the terrace. It is amazing that the “we’re the Noth Bank chant ” is still used to this day .
        Although The Gunners were going through that long 18 year trophy less period, they were great days and memories, and how sweet were the successes when they did come round.

        • Martin Wengrow on 16 May 2015 at 10:45 am said:

          Bye the way I was at the Blackburn cup game the previous season, and it was not a pleasant experience. The team did not turn up at all, and I believe that ths match was the beginning of the end for Joe Baker and George Eastham, the idols of that era.

  2. Ken George on 9 May 2015 at 6:55 pm said:

    The police were often throwing their weight around on the North Bank in the 1960,s dressed as Arsenal supporters . Before one game I was behind two males dressed up with woollen scarves and hat and on passing a senior uniformed officer responded by saluting and greeting him with ” afternoon sir “

  3. Micky C on 9 May 2015 at 1:19 pm said:

    Seems that the “stewarding” of the fans hasn’t changed much over the years? Then it was the old bill throwing their weight about. Now it’s the stewards!!!

  4. Michael Goldberg on 9 May 2015 at 1:13 pm said:

    Until the mid 1960’s there was no “organized” singing and chanting and “ends” didn’t really identify themselves. The first time I experienced this at Highbury was in two successive FA cup ties with Liverpool when the Kop took over the North Bank and created a completely different atmosphere. Slowly most clubs developed an “end” with a “mob” singing and chanting. At Arsenal this started on the “top side” of the North Bank and gradually grew down the terrace as more joined in. There was a need to identify yourselves so my belief was that we copied the name North Bank from Wolves and West Ham where the term was used by the Club, unlike at Arsenal where they referred to the North Terrace. Another phenomenon of the day was that supporters were allowed to move around the ground, so that you could stand behind the goal your team was kicking towards in both halves. At Highbury you saw a migration at half time from one end to the other through the west terrace ( before seats were put in). Until the mid sixties there were few away supporters ( a time before motorways and football special trains), once that started to change they stopped the end switching as it was easy to identify away fans, move towards them and cause trouble.

    • Michael, thanks for your contribution. I still do the end switching while watching non-league Bromley from the terraces.

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