Our Lady’s Boys’ Club

This club has been a source of guidance and inspiration to the youth of Galway, especially those of working class background, since its foundation by Fr Leonard Shiel SJ, a priest of great vision, in 1940. Indeed this wonderful structure owes a great debt to the Jesuit Order. Since the beginning the club has been based behind the Columban Hall in Sea Road. From the first nervous day of membership, right through their teens, and even in adult life, the spirit and ever watchful eye of the club is with the boys.

The need for such a club, especially in the early years, was enormous, as there was little or no recreation available to the youth of Shantalla, Bohermore, The Claddagh, and ‘The West’. Here at last, they could get together in the spirit of fellowship and enjoy whatever games and competitions the committee could organise for them, and all for a nightly fee of one penny if they could pay. Teams were formed and indoor games, supervised by the committee, were organised. Each team played two games per night and points were awarded. As the club was advancing, competition games changed from darts, rings, and draughts to volleyball, basketball, groundball, and skittles, and towards the end of the season, the tension could become almost unbearable.

In addition, they could play table tennis, billiards, and snooker. After the games, prayers were said and boys were instructed on how to behave in company or at home, how to treat their girlfriends and, later on, how to prepare for marriage. The evening would end with a mug of tea and a thick slice of bread and jam, often an important supplement to their diet.

The soccer section was started up by Eddie Fahy and Mickey Sullivan. They produced many great players, two of whom, Paddy Power and Miko Nolan, were awarded Irish caps. Fr Ó Brolcháin SJ introduced Irish dancing and this was carried on by Peter Joyce. Amby Roche and Mick Lohan set up a boxing section. Swimming and lifesaving was introduced by Fr Ó Brolcháin and Father Michael McGrath SJ set up the rugby section. ‘Fr Michael’, as he was known, arrived at the club in 1949 and lost his heart to the cause. He organised an annual retreat for the boys. For those who stepped out of line, the club was always ready to intercede with the authorities and had many successes in terms of sparing boys a criminal record. For those few who did go to jail, they often organised visits and followed their cases to the last.

Since its foundation OLBC has made a remarkable impact on the quality of life in Galway and all of this wonderful work was, and is, done on a voluntary basis. The highlight of the club year has been, from the beginning, the annual ‘Camp’ where they take a large group of the boys on a week’s holiday. Anyone who has experienced ‘Camp’ will tell you that some of the happiest days of their life were spent there. At the end of this month, some 70 boys and a number of committee members will set off for St Colman’s College in Claremorris but, as always, it costs money so they are appealing once again to the generosity of the people, so please be generous to this remarkable Galway institution. Contact Jim Cunningham, president OLBC, at No 1 Liosbán Industrial Estate, Tuam Road, any committee member, or indeed directly to the club’s bank account at AIB, 18 Eyre Square. The account number is 266 78312

Our photograph was taken in 1964 at the annual camp in Clifden and shows, front row; left to right: Des Folan, Michael Grealish, Paddy McDonagh, Jim Cunningham, Martin Burke, Michael Kelly, Tony Burke, Martin O’Neill. Back row: Des Kenny, Tommy Kelly, Noel Ó Beara (Irish Water Safety Association ), Gerry Traynor, Joe Walsh, Des Kenny, Gerry Curran, Brother Hugh Monaghan SJ, Jimmy Lawless, Michael Walsh, John Seery, and Fr Michael McGrath SJ.

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