HOW DID a freed slave, and the first American sporting hero, end up being buried in a pauper’s grave in Mervue? The fascinating story of Tom Molineaux will be told in a new documentary to be screened at the Galway Film Fleadh.
Ag Trasnu an Atlantaigh Dhuibh (Crossing the Black Atlantic ), the latest film from Galway-based documentary company DesK Productions is the story of how this freed slave, turned champion boxer, ended up in Galway. It also examines Ireland's role in the slave trade.
"The film tells the tale of those who participated in the creation of the Black Atlantic and the way in which Ireland’s economy and politics were transformed by its participation in the slave trade," says Des Kilbane, who co-directed the film with Andrew Gallimore.
Having saved his owner’s plantation in Virginia by winning a fist-fight, Tom Molineaux sailed to England where he challenged the heavyweight champion Tom Cribb in a contest that is still considered one of the most shameful episodes in British sports history. Molineaux was cheated of the title and of all his money, so the first American sporting hero fled to Ireland where he died in poverty in 1818.
It was with the help of Galway historian Tom Kenny that Kilbane discovered how Molineaux was buried in Mervue. The film will also show rarely seen footage of When Giants Fought, a 1920s recreation of the controversial fight between Molineaux and Tom Cribb, the English champion at the time.