It was in 1955 that the late Thomas Waugh - for many years known as the unofficial Mayor of Millisle - the Bennett brothers and others formed a village team, Millisle United, in the Cardy League. They soon progressed to the Churches League as Millisle Presbyterian, with a second team in the Belfast Minor League and finally arrived on the Northern Amateur League scene in 1962.
Joining Amateur League
During their Churches League membership an unfinished cup tie between Millisle and McQuiston YM resulted in Thomas Waugh and Herbie Johnstone appearing before the league's management committee. At that time the pair weighed about 40 stones between them and they were the subject of some rude remarks which didn't please them.
When the judgement was announced it didn't please them either, and so they settled the matter amicably themselves. From this a strong friendship developed and Herbert pointed out the advantages of joining the Amateur League which prompted their switch. He also saved his friend the trip to
For 20 years the club coasted along in the Second Division, their only notable performance coming in 1968/69 when they finished runners-up to Cromac Albion in 2B. In 1983 ex-player Brian Adams became secretary and first team manager, and with the support of the founders, the Hegans and the McGimpseys, the club's fortunes began to take off. They reached the IFA Junior Cup final in 1988 and then won the Clarence Cup in 1990/91 while still a Second Division team. The club began developing off the pitch too, and a ground was purchased and facilities added. They then learned that a Health Centre was being demolished in Holywood and this was given to them, although it needed to be transported to Millisle in five sections before being erected as their new pavilion
In 1982 President Thomas Waugh suggested that the Club were not progressing enough in that they were too content to continue in Junior Soccer on a Council ground rather than aiming towards a ground of their own. This proved to be a great foresight as within a couple of years the Amateur League were deciding to expand the Intermediate section to include clubs with grounds of their own.
The search began, as did the money raising and seeking government grants. Over two dozen fields were inspected and farmers approached from 1983-88 without success. In 1980 the Treasurer, Gordon Moore, had reported that the Club was £1.23 in the black but by 1988 this had increased to £5,000. Meanwhile, grants had been agreed on by the Department of Education and the Football Trust.
Two fields, one on
Local councillors, and local MPs, Jim Kilfedder and John Taylor took up Villa's cause and both the local press and the Belfast Telegraph covered the conflict. As outrage continued, the coverage moved from the sports pages to the front page and what an effect this was to have.
Not only did the NIO put the deal back on the table but a certain Mrs Williamson, now seeing the Club's plight, offered them another field. This was the same lady who had owned the Council Playing Fields and this newly proposed sale was for the adjacent field. Within three moths the contracts were signed and Abbey Villa owned a six acre piece of Millisle. By July 1990 the bulldozers were in and a football pitch was underway.
The new ground, named
Brian Adams joined Abbey Villa in 1969/1970 and by 1981 was Secretary of the Club and remained Social Secretary until he gave up this position in May 2002. He became manager of the First Team in 1983 and led them to their first ever trophies, taking them through Divisions 2B, 2A, 1B and finally into 1A. The team also reached the Junior Cup Final, won the Clarence Cup and the Border Regiment Cup as well as reaching the last sixteen of the Irish Cup.
His planning and driving force led to the opening of
Brian resigned after 18 years as manager in 2001 and he resigned from the Club Committee in 2002. He is still a Vice President of the Club. He is now heavily involved in Ards FC.
The Waugh Pavilion was named after Millisle's most famous man, the founder of the Club, Thomas Waugh. At the Club's 30th Anniversary in La Mon House in 1985 Thomas, who was then serving as Club President, was honoured with an inscribed silver salver and gift.
He organised transport, got football kits, provided money when the Club had none and talked players into joining Abbey Villa. One of his last was Stephen McCready, who spearheaded the Villa's attack from 1987 to 1994 and scored over 100 goals for the Club.
Thomas always called a spade a spade and led the Club through the 1950s, 1960 and 1970s before becoming President and continuing to lead the Club in the 1980s and 1990s.
On 2nd April 1996 (a sad day for the Club) Thomas was present a monthly Committee meeting in his beloved Social Club (named after him) when he suffered a massive heart attack and passed away amongst his footballing friends. At his funeral, Millisle & Ballycopeland Church was full tothe doors with a large crowd alos gathered outside as Club Committee and Boy's Brigade members flanked the coffin, Never has a rendtion of 'Steadfast and Sure' saw so many grown men shed tears.