“Our Lady’s Boys Club has taught me three things. First it has taught me a better knowledge of my Religion and its principles; secondly it has taught me to seek to improve myself, and thirdly it has taught me that real happiness is to be found in helping others rather than in seeking self.” These words, spoken in 1960 by a young man who had grown up in the club and was by then a member of its committee, summed up beautifully the work the club has tried to accomplish since its foundation in 1941.
It was founded in 1940 by Fr Leonard Shiel SJ helped by Brother Crowe. They wanted to help working class boys in Galway and also give members of the sodality in the Jes the chance of doing some apostolic work. Peter O’Donoghue was the first president, Lorcan Kennan the first manager. Some of the early committee members were Seán Ó Máille, Michael McLoughlin, Willie Silke, Eoin McKenna, Michael Heaslip, Amby Roche, Dick Emerson, Ned Mulholland, John Donnellan, Thomas Cahill, Edward Burke, and Mick Lohan. Others who joined and later became presidents were Des Kenny, Gerry Glynn, Paul O’Dea, and Tommy Nevin.
It was very difficult to keep it going in the early years. Their activities which were based in the Columban Hall, were mainly recreational and most of the training of the boys was done through the medium of games, both indoor and outdoor. They first set up a boxing section, then a soccer section, and later a rugby section. They played table tennis, billiards and snooker, darts, draughts, and volleyball (as you can see from our photograph taken c 1955 ). The spiritual side of their formation was and is taken care of by the Jesuits. Each club night ended with prayers, and in the early days, a slice of bread and jam which was an important supplement to their diet. When you think of a boys’ club, you think of youth, activity, games. OLBC has those but much more besides, a deep sense of tradition and loyalty which goes back to its foundation. It has trained many leaders, moulded and developed their character and given them a sense of achievement and identity. Today the club is run entirely by men who trained within the club. The city is undoubtedly a better place to live in because of OLBC. One of its important traditions from the very beginning has been its annual camp where they take a group of boys who might never have a holiday on a carefree week long recreational period of fun and sport. The spirit of the club is very much in evidence when they go on camp and this year will be no different when some 70 members travel to St Colman’s College in Claremorris for the 76th consecutive one.
They have only been able to do this thanks to the continued generosity of the people of Galway and this year they are appealing once again to the public for their help. If you would like to invest in the future of Galway by making a contribution you can send your donation to Jim Cunningham, president, Our Ladys Boys Club at No 1, Liosbán Estate, Tuam Road, Galway, to any committee member, or to the bank account at AIB, 18 Eyre Square, IBAN 09AIBK 937223 26678312, (BIC AIB KIEZD ). Please be generous.