The first club to enter the newly formed Lancashire Amateur Football League did so in 1903. Taking the name of the professional / business club in the town, Bury Athenaeum rather surprisingly lasted just six years despite a reasonable number of achievements to their credit. A further effort to set up a football team from the Athenaeum Club became a victim of the outbreak of WW1 after just a single season of competition. Bury Doric's as it was called did not restart after the 1914-18 war.
So not until 1921, February 28th to be precise, did a further attempt to enter a team in the L.A.L. occur and as the Secretary's minutes record, 18 members attended a meeting at the Derby Hotel in the centre of Bury (now demolished) and passed the resolution 'That an Association Football Club be formed and application be made for membership to the Lancashire Amateur League'. The members seemed to find some difficulty in agreeing a name for the newly formed club and the discussion of the topic had to be suspended. Later in the evening a proposal by R. Taylor and seconded by R.A. Catterall suggested the title BURY AMATEUR ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL CLUB and carried. Despite the use of the singular word 'amateur' the Club is often referred to as Bury Amateurs.
For their first ever season in 1921 a ground had been acquired at the old Golf Links on Manchester Road but only rented and not purchased. The failure not to purchase a suitable ground in the earlier years of existence of the Club would be felt in later years. A substantial number of members felt that the future lay in becoming the Football Section of the well-equipped and organised Bury Sports Club and approaches were made. The two merged in 1925 but it was not to be a happy partnership. Even so, the arrangement lasted until 1934 when a new ground was sort off Manchester Road in Redvales, Bury.
The split with Bury Sports Club was due to the success of Bury Amateurs on the field, they naturally wanted to be independent of the Bury Sports Club but yet still an integral part of the host set-up. After three seasons settling in, Bury Amateur A.F.C. took over the Central Section (virtually the L.A.L. until 1929). Season 1923-24 saw them pick up the Division 1 and 2 titles and they repeated their success in the following 1924-25 and 1925-26 seasons.
An influential member in the early years, both on and off the field, was Major George B. Horridge and as Club President, he was an inspiration. A distinguished officer and from a family with industrial and business interest in the town, he also held the position of 1st Team Captain. Later in life, his playing days over, he became the President and major shareholder in the town's professional club.
Lancashire Amateur League Clubs, as a matter of course, always entered the Lancashire Football Association Cup but with rare success. Quite often the cup ended up on Merseyside and being drawn against a Liverpool side usually signalled a short campaign. In 1926 and with the Championship side enjoying league success Bury Amateurs did well to draw with the holders from Liverpool, Marine F.C. To lose the replay 9-1 must have been a bitter pill to swallow.
The following year saw an amazing goal scoring feat. Amateurs' player Norman Tattersall, playing for Lancashire against Birmingham scored seven, an amateur record at the time. The result 10-2 to the Red Rose County must have been very satisfying and particularly to the Bury player who scored 7 goals. Entries in The Lancashire Evening Post read 'Within just one minute of the start of the game at Deepdale, Tattersall had scored two goals and completed his hat-trick in a mere two and a quarter minutes. What a way to start a game!' As was often then, Tattersall missed his train at Bury and had to travel to Deepdale by taxi from Bolton almost missing kick off.
Another newspaper article told the story of a supreme triumph for both the Club and the LAL. The year was 1929 and the Manchester Guardian allocated no less than sixteen column inches and a photograph, reporting the Lancashire Amateur Cup Final played between Bury Amateurs and Liverpool opponents Collegiate Old Boys. The report was written in true guardian style and makes wonderful reading. Most important of all of course was the result, a 3-1 victory for Bury despite having gone one behind after only six minutes. It is hard to imagine but the final generated such interest that 2000 people turned up to watch. Played at Wigan Borough's Springfield Park the report tells us 'Liverpool sent a special train of I Zingari League enthusiasts, South-East Lancashire sent its best lungs to cheer Bury, and Wigan was represented by not a few white mufflers'. Stuart Hall eat your heart out.
1936 found the Club yet again on its travels and this time the Warth Riverside Ground became home. Lying as it did between the River Irwell and the Bury-Manchester electrified railway, a hefty clearance out of play meant either the ball floated away down the river or somebody dicing with death retrieving it from the lethal live third rail. During this pre-WW2 period the Club had the fortune to have services of an outstanding goalkeeper, Ken Whitehead. Such was his talent that on three occasions he wore the much coveted keepers jersey for the England Amateur International XI, all were victories including a 5-2 victory over Wales at Whaddon Road in Cheltenham on 28 January 1939. The side that day was:
Whitehead G.K. (Bury Amateurs); Burchell G.S. (Romford); Ellis R.(Wealdstone); Lewis J.W. (Walthamstow Avenue); Whittaker W. (Kingstonian); Leek T.H. (Moor Green); Perkins G.E. (Cheltenham Town); Edelston M. (London University and Brentford); Clements B.A. (Barking); Gibbons A.H. (RAF and Brentford); Finch L.C. (Barnet).
The disruption caused by WW2 took time to clear but the Club picked up two immediate post-war honours, winning the combined section in season 1945-46 and the Central Section Championship in 1947-48.
In 1955, Ammies player Francis Adams, left the club to sign for Bury FC going onto make 169 appearances for The Shakers between 1955 and 1963. He missed only three games in Bury's Third Division championship season of 1960-61, the most successful in the club's history in terms of goals scored and points gained. In 1958 Adams was involved in controversy when playing for Bury against Chester in the FA Cup second round. With Chester leading 1–0 in the closing minutes, their player Norman Bullock was brought down in the area with play stopping as the linesman flagged for a penalty. However, Adams picked up the ball and punted it forward and, with the ref deciding to play on, set up a late equaliser for Bury, who went on to earn an attractive tie with Arsenal in the third round after beating Chester in the replay.
The early sixties found a young twenty-year-old left-winger working his way through the lower teams until he reached the First XI. His footballing ability was reasonable but his speed phenomenal. So quick in fact that encouraged by the local athletic club, he gave up soccer and took up sprinting. Despite very poor local athletic facilities Barrie Kelly reached the top and represented his country at the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico. For several years he held the European 60 metres Indoor Record. Pity he didn't stick at football he may have helped the Ammies out of what had become a very barren spell in terms of success.
Season 1965-66 found the Club without their ground. An adjacent paint manufacturing company needed further room to expand their business and the two football pitches through the railway arch suited them ideally. Fortunately at the time, Bury was the base for the Lancashire Fusiliers Regiment. Often the barracks were empty but were maintained for when the Regiment returned from their duties in overseas. The facilities included a large playing field, changing accommodation and a large gymnasium. With the softening of the Cold War the barracks came under control of the local authority and sadly what were superb facilities deteriorated badly. Despite the disappointments a period of success was on the horizon.
Promotion to Division 1 was followed by immediate relegation and made for a mixed start to the eighties. On the recommendation of The Lancashire F.A., Amateurs appointed their first ever Manager / Coach. With team matters now in the hands of one person as opposed to a Committee, the club was on the road to revival. The all-round improvement brought to the Club soon showed itself and in season 1984-85 the club finished with both the Premiership title and the L.A.L 1st XI's Challenge Cup. A third Premiership title followed and a further taking of the 1st XI's Challenge Cup made for a satisfactory end to the 1989-90 season.
The 1990s saw the break up of the successful 80s side as players were cherry picked by clubs offering a higher standard of football. Even though the Amateurs had to dig deep to keep going they always turned out a first and reserve team week in, week out, mainly through the hard work of stalwarts such as Milton Colman, Roy Lindon and Pete Holden.
The 1980's and early 1990's were recalled in this extract from a Q & A section in The Independent on Sunday (Sunday 14 Feb, 1993) with the answer provided by Bernard Swarbrick, Barrowford, Lancs:
Occasionally we hear of goalkeepers scoring after kicking the ball straight from their area. Has a goalkeeper ever scored more than one goal in a game?
In a Lancashire Amateur League match which I refereed in the mid- 1980s, between Bury Amateurs and Hesketh Casuals, the goalkeeper for Bury Amateurs did indeed score two goals; moreover, they were the only goals of the game.
Both goals occurred in almost identical fashion. Bury Amateurs were favoured by a slight slope, a bouncy pitch, and quite a strong wind. The goalkeeper kicked the ball from his hand, and with the ball bouncing hugely in the direction of the goal, the poor away goalkeeper was confronted by a striker much larger than himself who gave every appearance of being about to place both ball and keeper into the net.
The threat was too much for the relatively small goalkeeper, who on both occasions remained rooted to the ground, as he watched the ball fly a good foot above him into the net. The striker made no contact either with ball or opponent.
Turns out the goalkeeper in question was our very own Pete Holden.
In the early years of the new millenium, the hardcore of players and particularly Glyn Haslam as manager, secretary and treasurer (along with his wife Geraldine), coupled with the return of several ex-players, stabilised the club. The long term future of the club was secured with the amalgamation with Prestwich based junior club, Drinkwater Warriors. Since then Bury Amateur AFC has gone from strength to strength with the club currently boasting 14 junior sides, a Youth Team and 3 adult sides.
At the conclusion of the 2010 / 11 season, the first team of the club broke away from Bury Amateur AFC to form a new club, AFC Bury, with a view to attempting to move up into the Vodkat North West Counties League.
The remainder of the club continued wth the ethos of the club to provide football for all and currently field sides in The Lancashire and Cheshire AFL, NBJFL, Tameside League and BBDFL. Further to all this the club has recently launched an Academy section which is proving to be very successful in search of the Ammies of tomorrow.