Change must come!


I like many “liberal” Irish Protestants, admired Gaelic games and sportsmen like the eminent Sean O’Neill (whom Newry rightly honours among its greatest sons) and the remarkable Sean Hollywood – but the sad reality is that I could not feel that there was any real place for me in the GAA.

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John Torley

Jack the Hunt was the more common name for the acclaimed John Torley whose encounter with the Newry Board of Guardians can now be revealed under the 100 year rule!
Outdoor relief had now become the norm and Torley made personal application.  Indeed in anticipation of some revelry – for his reputation had preceded him – he was given permission to plead his case before the monthly meeting.
He wanted, he said, some compensation in order to get a pair of ‘relievers’ (laughter) to comfort him in the pursuit of his avocations among the ancient aristocracy in his representative capacity, which as they all knew, was associated with the Newry Harriers (Hunt!)  (more laughter). 
He hoped with greatest sublimity (laughter) that the honourable members of the Board in their sagacity (laughter) coupled with their renowned benevolence (laughter) would do him that one favour and thereby maintain the reputation of that co-habitable institution (loud laughter).
Chairman: What is it you want?
Jack the Hunt:  Something to help aid and assist, comfort and otherwise sustain my feet in this amphibious weather! (laughter)
Chairman: A pair of boots?
Torley: Please.
Mr P O’Hare: Long or short ones?
Mr Toman: A pair of hunting ones?
Torley: Bravo, Mr Toman!  (laughter)
The Chairman said that he was afraid that he could not legally entertain the application.  Mr Murtagh proposed that they ”send round the hat’among those present.  Mr Cardwell did just that and raised the sum of 17 shillings and 6 pence.  This was handed over to the Clerk with the request that he should purchase the required articles for the applicant.

GAA’s divisive role


There is an essential  dichotomy in the essence of the GAA’s role in Irish society. 

It is hardly necessary to explain this.   No one can be in any doubt that in its successful quest of popularising and maintaining core values of Irish culture, the GAA has also been a participant in the process of cultural separation.

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Pitch and Toss

In the middle part of the last century there was many a pitch-and-toss school in and around Newry. The one I remember most was the one in Dromalane Park. It usually started after 10.30 Mass down at the football pitch.

There were first the ‘looker-outers,’ usually young boys who had a ball and looked out for the police.  If they were seen then the shout went up and the members of the ‘toss school’ took up playing football. The boys had it down to fine art and I don’t remember anyone getting caught by the police at the toss.

Then there were the ‘stookies’.  They were in charge of the money of the person tossing the half-pennies.  It was their job to get as much as possible on for the person tossing the two coins who had to ‘head’ the half-pennies.

The call might go up ‘heads two shillings’ or whatever and if one was betting on him not to head the coins, then the reply was ‘harps your two shillings’ or what ever part of it you liked.  If he headed the coins then he collected the money and stayed ‘in’ until he harped the coins. The ‘stookie’ would get a few bob from the player if he won.  

The stookie would then start into playing the toss so the money went round. It was never ‘heads’ or ‘tails’ by the way it was always ‘heads’ or ‘harps’. 

It was pretty hard to cheat at the toss but people were sometimes found to have a two headed half-penny but woe betide the person caught with one.  To make sure that all was above board the ‘harps’ side had to be up front so that the punters could see them.  Many a wage was lost at a toss and many a person went away with quite a bit of money. This is one such story. 

One Sunday at about 1.30pm the toss was going well when a gentleman, who was on his way home from certain club for his dinner, stopped at the toss.  The call went up: ‘ Heads a pound’ and the said gentleman said,  ‘I’ll cover that.’ He duly did, and went on to cover any other bet with any one who would take his money.  The player harped the coins and lost. The gentleman won his money and continued to back ‘harps’ for about twenty minutes and won every time.  He then bid everyone good day and went home leaving the school nearly broke.

The next two Sundays he proceeded to do the same and again broke the school.  On the forth Sunday things changed. The looker-outers were told to forget the police and watch out for a certain gentleman.  The shout went up, ‘Here he comes!’