An exhibition about a leading African-American bare-knuckle fighter of the 1800s, who later lived and died in Galway, opens at the Galway City Museum tomorrow.
The life of Tom Molineaux, a freed slave and the first American sporting hero, who ended up being buried in a pauper’s grave in Mervue, will be examined in Tom Molineaux (1784-1818 ): The Slave Who Fought His Way To Freedom, runs in the foyer of the museum from tomorrow until Saturday November 24. The official opening will take place on Thursday July 26.
In the summer of 1818, an African-American bare-knuckle prize fighter by the name of Tom Molineaux was discovered sick and destitute on the streets of Galway. Aged just 34, the washed-up fighter was given shelter in the band room of the Shambles Barracks in Galway (where St Patrick’s national school today stands ) by three drummers from the 77th (East Middlesex ) Regiment. Despite this act of kindness, Molineaux died on August 4 of that year and was buried in an unmarked grave in St James’s Cemetery in Mervue.
In 1810 and again in 1811, Molineaux had fought the English champion, Tom Cribb, and was defeated both times in what were the first and second world title fights. Afterwards, Molineaux had gone on a tour of Scotland and Ireland where he fought off challengers, gave public displays of his skill, and taught the ‘sweet science of bruising’.
The Galway City Museum will mark the 200th anniversary of Molineaux’s death with this exhibition, which also includes a talk by boxing historian Patrick Myler and a screening of Des Kilbane’s documentary on the fighter, Ag Trasnú An Atlantaigh Dhuibh (Crossing the Black Atlantic ).
In the lead up to the anniversary, Galway Civic Trust, in partnership with the museum, will unveil a commemorative plaque at St Patrick’s national school. For more information contact the museum on 091 - 532460 or see www.galwaycitymuseum.ie