The year 1940 was a time of great social change in Ireland, a time when the State gave no assistance to the out of school education of young people, a time of war, a time of poverty. Prospects were not great. Recreational activity for the young of working class areas such as Shantalla, Bohermore, Claddagh, and ‘The West’ was virtually non-existent. The need for a club to provide social and recreational facilities for these people was paramount.
Father Leonard Shiel SJ recognised this need, and with the help of others founded Our Lady’s Boys’ Club. They were given the use of a clubhouse at the back of the Columban Hall in Sea Road, and they regularly had the use of the hall itself. OLBC catered largely for the needs of boys between 10 and 17 years of age. Its primary aim was to show the boys ways and means of developing self confidence, of securing their own destiny, and in many cases, of escaping the poverty trap. Club activities have as their cornerstone, belief in the value of transmitting Christian principles as a model for young people on which to base their lives. The Jesuits were a major influence and still contribute to the operation of the club.
It quickly established itself as an integral part of Galway life. There are thousands of men around the world who will tell you of the enormous contribution OLBC has made to their lives, and there are many who can testify to the difference it has made to the quality of life in Galway. It is the oldest boys’ club in the country and still continues to mould young males by training them, educating them, getting them jobs, helping them in times of trouble, and preparing them for adult life. It now has traditions that ensure its survival and is run entirely by ex-boys. Their unselfish willingness to serve, and their remarkable commitment to the youth of this city, is testament to what OLBC has done for them.
The club meets a number of times during the week, but the highlight of the year is their annual camp. This is a reward for loyalty throughout the year and takes the form of a week long holiday where there is no such a thing as boredom and everybody has plenty to do in terms of work and sports.
The first camp in 1940 had a budget of £28 which had to provide food and accommodation for 33 boys and some helpers. It was held in a disused farmhouse in Maree, Oranmore. The following year they went to Kilcornan House in Clarinbridge, and then Lord Gort gave them the use of Lough Cutra Castle in Gort for a number of years. They held camps in Roundstone, the Redemptorist college in Clifden, Oughterard, Lough Inagh, the agricultural college in Mountbellew, Mungret College, Ballinafad, and for the last few years they have been housed in St Colman’s College in Claremorris.
This year has been difficult for the club as they are building a new clubhouse, but they are still managing to take 75 boys on what will be the 69th consecutive camp. They have always relied on the generosity of the people of Galway to help fund this event, and this year is no exception. If you would like to help financially, or in any other way, contact Jim Cunningham at Number 1, Liosban Industrial Estate, Tuam Road, or any committee member. Their bank is AIB, 18 Eyre Square, and their account number is 2667 8312, sort code 937223. Please be generous with this great Galway institution
Much of the activity of the club centres around sports, so we thought to show you one of their successful soccer teams which won the Connacht Junior Cup in 1963 by beating Collegians of Sligo 2 – 1 in the final. They also won the Joe Ryan Cup that year, beating Bohemians in the final. They are, back row, left to right: Tommy Carr, Paddy Power, Sean Flaherty, Martin Noone, Peter Griffin, and Stephen Griffin. In front are Jimmy Carr, Billy Carr, Michael Burke, Aidan King, and John Carr.