Tomás Mac Curtain was the first president of Cork's oldest boxing club

Tomás Mac Curtain was the first president of Cork's oldest boxing club

Lord Mayor Cllr John Sheehan and Fionnuala McCurtain unveil the framed photo commemorating Tomás Mac Curtain's role as the first President of the Glen Boxing Club, Ireland's oldest club. Picture: Doug Minihane

THIS Friday marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Tomás Mac Curtain.

Mac Curtain was the first President of the Glen boxing club and the Lord Mayor of Cork.

On Friday night last at the Glen BC, the Lord Mayor, Dr John Sheehan, in the presence Fionnuala Mac Curtain, granddaughter of Tomás, unveiled a suitably inscribed framed picture which has already become a cherished artifact in the Glen's memorabilia collection.

Picture: Doug Minihane.
Picture: Doug Minihane.

Mac Curtain was born in 1884 in the townland of Mourne Abbey near Mallow. The family moved to Gerald Griffin street in Blackpool when Mac Curtain was under ten-years-old. He was educated at the North Mon school.

As a young man, he expressed a keen interest in poetry, Irish culture and music. His first job after leaving school was as a clerk with Steam Package Company who were coal distributors.

However, he wished to pursue a career as an Irish teacher and joined the Gaelic League whose objective was to encourage the use in Irish in everyday life.

Immediately, his talents were spotted and acclaimed, as were his communication and ability to organise. Mac Curtain was systematic and methodical about everything he did.

He set himself personnel goals and was acknowledged as a gifted strategist and an inspirational leader.

Mac Curtain's charisma gravitated people toward him, according to accounts. In 1904, when he was 20 years old, he was a prominent member of the St Nicks Gaelic Football team in Blackpool.

It was here that he developed a friendship with Pakey O'Mahony who played full back with the club.

Mac Curtain was also making an impression with many people on the Northside at the time and had become actively involved with the Irish Volunteers.

Meanwhile, Pakey O'Mahony was now concentrating his athleticism on boxing. In the intervening years, Mac Curtain married Elizabeth Walsh on June 28, 1908.

The couple tied the knot at St Peter and Paul's Church in the city centre. This is the same church where Cork's only World boxing champion, Jack McAuliffe, was baptised.

While O'Mahony impressed after winning the Irish heavyweight title in London and fighting for the British heavyweight belt against Bombardier Billy Wells, Mac Curtain was rearing a family and become a commander with the Irish Volunteers.

He was also a local businessman at the time, trading as a clothing manufacturer out of No. 40 Thomas Davis in Blackpool.

The business was run from a large ground floor area, and he lived overhead with his family for many years. In January 1916, a group of locals expressed the wish to establish an amateur boxing club in Blackpool.

O'Mahony had retired from boxing at this stage but let it be known he was prepared to act as the club's first coach. A meeting was organised at a house in Crosslane.

In addition to the O'Mahony brothers, those that attended included, Willie Rayn, Pat O'Shea and Connie Donovan, Matt O'Reilly and Jim Fitzgerald.

Pakey inquired what was the club going to do for a premises and suggested that he would approach his influential friend Tomas Mac Curtain who at this stage was the Lord Mayor of Cork.

The first meeting was then adjourned. The second meeting took place took place four days after the inaugural gathering, with Mac Curtain in attendance. Cork' s 1st citizen suggested a number of ideas, one of which was approaching the Gouldings Fertiliser Company which traded in the area at the time.

Mac Curtain was also elected the President of the Glen BC at the second meeting. Shortly after taking the helm, he successfully negotiated with Gouldings, and they provided a small terraced house for the boxing unit in Springlane.

The Glen BC operated out of this humble abode for 50 years until it was demolished in 1956. For the next four years after its foundation, in between rearing a family, running a business and political activity, Mac Curtain also found time to develop the boxing club.

At their first tournament, an open-air event in the Glen Valley in May 1917, he presented medals to the young boxers. He continued to attend regular meetings until his premature and tragic death at the hands of the RIC on March 20, 1920.

Glen BCs Clodagh Mackey Pelan presenting a commemorative plaque to Mary Newman of Glen Rovers. Picture: Doug Minihane
Glen BCs Clodagh Mackey Pelan presenting a commemorative plaque to Mary Newman of Glen Rovers. Picture: Doug Minihane

At the unveiling of the specially commissioned portrait last weekend, Fionnuala Mac Curtain announced that the family would be delighted to present the club with the Tomás Mac McCurtain Boxing Cup.

The Glen, the oldest club in the country, said they were proud to accept the generous offer and announced that they would host the Tomas Mac Curtain Cup later this year

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