Community historian Brendan Matthews with another retrieval from Drogheda's past.
At an Executive meeting of the GAA, held in Thurles, in 1886, two Drogheda delegates who attended the meeting expressed their concerns about the games not being extended to the counties of the north. And the Drogheda men, not only flew the flag of the Boynesiders, but were also greatly responsible for the initial extension of the Gaelic games into Ulster.
The delegates who attended the meeting were, Francis Wade and James Weldon and the first thing Mr. Weldon complained about was the inconvenience of delegates coming from the Boyneside all the way to Thurles, and he asked the Executive to consider holding future meetings nearer Dublin.
Mr. Wade then proposed that:
Ulster should be given two vice-presidents. And as Drogheda was the gap of the North and the first to take up the Gaelic cause, he would move that it be given one of the vice-presidents and that Alderman Mangan, who was the most popular man in that part of the country, be elected to the honorary position of vice-president.
The people in the North and in the district that he represented were of the opinion that you here in the South want to keep the Gaelic Association amongst yourselves and that you did not wish to give the North a look in at all. By giving two vice-presidents to Ulster it would show that you were not actuated by selfish motives and it would be a strong inducement to Ulster to join the association.
Mr. Bracken, a member of the Executive, denied this statement by Wade, saying that:
When they started the association in the South, Ulster refused to join and, not only did they stand idly by, but sneered at the movement and under that circumstances he would oppose the election of the vice-president for Ulster.
Mr. J. O`Crowley, another member of the Executive, took exception to the remark made by Mr. Bracken, stating that:
As far as Drogheda was concerned, they had joined the association in early 1885. Drogheda had taken up the movement earnestly and never in any town in the South did he see so much enthusiasm displayed for the success of the Gaelic as that which he witnessed amongst the people of Drogheda`.
Mr. Weldon said that:
It was all very well for Mr. Bracken to talk of the great headway that had been made in the South; they had matters there pretty much their own way. They had no enemy to fight in the South, as they had in the North and they had many difficulties to contend with in Drogheda. The Gaelic association never intended that it should be a provincial association and, to make it a national association, they should endeavour to win over Ulster; it was a country worth fighting for (hear, hear). There was as good Irishmen in Ulster as in any part of the country. He believed that if the vice-presidents were elected for Ulster it would be the means of bringing all Ulster into the association.
Mr. O`Crowley said that:
The men of Drogheda had firmly planted the association along the Boyne and that the movement in Drogheda was making gigantic strides in the North, while the fact that two delegates had come all the way from the Boyne to attend the convention was a strong argument that the people of Drogheda had thrown themselves heart and soul into the movement.
Several other delegates then expressed themselves in favour of conceding two vice-presidents to Ulster; however, the proposal was then deferred until the annual general meeting at the end of the year. As a result of this meeting, the seeds of the G.A.A. had now been planted in Ulster. But what would have happened if the two Drogheda men hadn’t made that faithful trip to Thurles in September 1886 and stated the case for their fellow countrymen in the North?
Raise a glass to the memory of Mr. Francis Wade and Mr. James Weldon.
- Old Drogheda Society - History, Archaeology & Heritage Millmount, Drogheda, Co. Louth, Ireland. Tel. 041-9833097