Roscrea Garda Boys Club by Joe Coughlan
Roscrea in the 60s was a very desolate place for young people. Unless you made your own entertainment there was very little to do apart from hurling. The GAA organised street leagues and there were so many young boys in the town that each street was able to field a team. However outside of this the town was lacking in amenities for its youth.
In 1966 a young cork Garda Barry O Keefe from Roscarberry stationed in town saw this and came up with the idea of forming a club for boys between the ages of 10 and 14. Soon fellow Corkmen Garda’s Tim Curly from Mitchelstown, Nicholas Dowling Castlemartyr and David Barry also from Cork along with Sgt Val Ward Meath ,Garda’s Tom Green Wexford, Pat Costelloe Kerry, Tom Dolan Kildare, Pat Ford Galway and Sergeant Ed O Connor Waterford came on board.
The idea of the club was enthusiastically received by the people of the town. As soon as it was known that it was going ahead the whole town got behind it and donations started to flood in, among them some very large donations from the business and industries of the town.
In the beginning the parish gave them the use of the Abbey Hall but found out very shortly that it was not big enough to accommodate the one hundred and forty boys that turned up to join on the first night. This represented nearly all of the eligible youth from the town at the time. On November of that year North Tipp County Council who had charge of Damer House at the time gave it over to the club to be used for recreational purposes. On the opening night Father T Hogan on behalf of the people of Roscrea paid a huge tribute to the Gardai for the work they were doing and the great interest they took in the youth of the parish. On that night it was announced that Mr George Fasenfeld owner of Antigen Pharmaceuticals was donating and developing the Antigen field Free of charge as a sports grounds. Other donations were of a full size snooker and billiards table, table tennis tables and a boxing ring. The night ended with a variety concert organised by the local I.C.A at which Seorshe agus Bartley the children’s TV personalities were surprise guests.
The club opened 5 nights per week and on Saturday afternoons. Each guard gave freely of their time and supervised along with volunteers from the town. Mr Michael O Connell came on board and helped to form a boy scout troop which was to be the beginning of the scouts that are today. Gda Dolan and others trained the boys in boxing skills and fitness classes. Mrs Perry formed a boys’ choir which performed at many events in the area. There were also first aid classes and many board games to occupy the boys. Regularly the Gardaí would invite someone in to talk to them on specialist subjects and on one occasions a member of U.N.I.C.E.F came to talk and show a film on how children were suffering in Africa. The boys were so taken with this that they organised fund raisers for them and collected a substantial sum of money.
During the summer months trips were organised to places such as Tramore and Clonea in Waterford and in 1968 seventy of the Roscrea Boys joined the new club in Templetouhy opened by Garda Pat Costelloe an outing to Tramore.
In 1967 the club organised a two week festival of marquee dancing and a carnival to raise funds. Some of the top attractions in the country at the time were booked to perform such as Eileen Reed and the Cadets, Jerry and the Ohio, Kelley and the Nevada, Donie Collins, The Premier Aces, The Evergreens and the Roscrea Ceoltas Ceili band. As part of the festival there was a competition to find the Rose of Roscrea, the winner was Miss Philomena O Dwyer of St Cronans Terrace.
By the end of 1969 Muintir na Tira had taken over the old Boys school and the club transferred to them. This continued to become the youth club as it is today. Also in 1969 Michael O Kennedy spoke glowingly in the Dail of the efforts of the Roscrea Gardaí He told that through their inspiration there were now over 300 Garda boys clubs in the country.
So without the commitment of Barry O Keefe and his colleagues we may not have the successful organisations that are Roscrea Scout Troop and Roscrea Youth Club today.
Fifty years later as a one time member of Roscrea Garda Boys club I would like to thank them for their commitment and dedication to the town.
Photo : Mrs Perry and Roscrea Garda Boys Club Choir
Front:Donie Troy, Kieran o Connor, Tommy Fletcher, Billy Cummins, Noel Mc Carthy, Donal Carroll, Kevin Brady, Joe Conroy, Martin Matthews.
Second: Thomas Moten, Ray Fletcher, Pat Bourke, John O Meara, Joe Coughlan, Noel carroll, Jimmy Troy, Eamon Cahill, Pat Conroy, Pat O Meara, Eddie Maher, Martin campion, Patrick Mc Mahon, Michael Collins, Laurence Foley, Frank Fletcher.
Back: John Gaffney, Philip carroll, Michael mc carthy, John Delaney ,Taidgh Shanahan, Bllly Delaney,
Left picture shows Gda Tom Dolan traing boys in the boxing gym