Moment in time – 1st October, 1916

The further back in time that the work I’ve been doing on the results archive stretches, the more it throws up interesting nuggets.  The other week it was that fascinating photograph from the replayed 1946 Connacht final but the one I have for you today goes back much further, thirty years more to be precise and there’s a story to be told about this one too.

1916 is a year that has a very secure place in Irish history but, in the narrower world of Mayo GAA, it was an historic one too as that was the first year that we managed to reach an All-Ireland final.  This being the case, I was able to add to the bare bones of that final result – which we lost to the four-in-a-row Wexford team on a scoreline of 3-4 to 1-2 – because the Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games provides details of every team that contested the senior All-Ireland final right back to 1887.  I included those team details in the results archive for 1916 and thought no more about it.

But then Noel got in touch (all the way from Australia) to let me know that it had always been an accepted fact in his family that his grandfather was on that team but his name was missing from the list I’d put up (and, hence, from the team published in the Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games). As corroboration, he forwarded to me this wonderful photograph of the 1916 team, which was taken just before the Connacht final against Roscommon, a match that took place in Castlerea on 1st October that year.  Sure enough, his grandad is in there.

It is, to my mind, quite a haunting photograph (to view the full sized picture, double-click on the image) from what, at this vantage point, appears to be an impossibly distant era.  It was taken a little over five months after the Easter Rising had occurred and just three months to the day following the commencement of the slaughter on the Somme (which was still raging furiously when this picture was taken), with the War of Independence, the Civil War and all the rest still out there in the future.  Everyone in the photo, along almost certainly with everyone else who was at that game, is surely dead and gone now but it’s impossible not to sense the life force that must have existed within this group of footballers when the image was captured for posterity.

Thanks, Noel, for digging out and sharing this wonderful photo, which was published in a Mayo News supplement over a decade ago.  As I said in my email to you, I hope that my ongoing researches will be able to establish conclusively what the position is as regards that historic Mayo team.

18 thoughts on “Moment in time – 1st October, 1916

  1. I’m almost certain they were green and red by then, Roger. In his book The Green Above the Red, Terry Reilly quotes an article written by Sean Flanagan who relates the events at the meeting where the decision to first use these colours for the county team was made. No date is put on when this meeting take place but it’s clear that it was in the very early days of the Association, well before 1916.

  2. hi willie joe on a simmer line dose any one know the colours that was used in the 1950 and 51 all Ireland finals . i heard rumors that we played in a white top on one of those occasions

  3. if you look at the jerseys above willie joe i would just be curious to the actual shades of green and red worn there , the top half seems extremely dark and the lower extremely light , would be massively interested to know what the shades were.. ( apologies if that seems strange but i am very interested in club and international colours in all sports)

  4. I can see what you mean, Roger, and it’d make you wish they had proper colour photography back then. I have an additional impediment, in that I’m colour blind so particular shades of red and green are all a bit beyond me!

  5. red/green colourblindness an unfortunate affliction for a green and red clad mayo fan willie joe 🙂

    but some fellas who wear black seem to be completely blind and i am not talking about members of the clergy !

  6. Hi. Great photograph, by any chance would you know where i could find an image of the Wexford team?

  7. I don’t, I’m afraid, Mary Kate. I’m sure there must be a photo of them around somewhere – that Wexford team was four-in-a-row one after all – but I’ve no idea where one might be located.

  8. I believe James Reilly from Balla in the picture was arrested in May 1916 with five other Balla men including Dick Walsh, my Grandfather Pat Fallon, Tom Murphy, Pat Keville, and Michael Golden. They were arrested for having seized guns from National Volunteers (Redmondites) who were transporting them from Kiltimagh to Castlebar and had stopped in the hotel in Balla for refreshments. There was no real confrontation as the group in the Hotel saw the men outside taking the guns and didn’t confront them. John Eddie McEllin (also in the picture) may be related to Thomas J McEllin who was 20 at the time and agreed to hide the guns in his (family?) yard. The men were arrested and first brought to Castlebar and then to Richmond Barracks in Dublin. There was pressure put on from relatives and others and the men were eventually released having given back the guns. The reason I write this is that my Father always said that one of the groups putting on pressure was the Mayo county board who wanted Reilly out to play for the County team. I have no way of verifying if this is true, but it turned out that this happened just after the surrender in Dublin and the men were subsequently denied 1916 medals. The story can be followed in Dick Walsh’s statement to the Bureau of Military history here page 11-21.

  9. hi Willie joe. the green and red colours were chosen by dick walsh who was co board chairman in 1916.dick spent some time in jail in 1916 but was free by the time the final was played in December. Thomas Davis… a Corkman..wrote the song The green above the red in the 1840s and Dick who was an out and out republican firmly believed in the sentiments expressed in that song. Dick was a TD up to 1951 when his seat then passed to Sean Flanagan

  10. Michael. You may be interested in the Mayo News this coming Tuesday. There will be an article about the incident in Balla 1916. The men were arrested in early May, spent about ten days in prison in Castlebar and about three further weeks in Richmond barracks. So they were out long before the commencement of even the Connacht Championship. James Reilly in the picture became the Soith Mayo Brigade adjutant after the death of Michael O’Brien in the aftermath of Toutmakeady ambush. I suspect you are a relative of Dick Walsh’s? There will be more in the Mayo News about Dick Walsh before the centenary of the truce.

  11. Fab article WJ and photo from Noel.
    Strong Ballina influence, counted 9.
    My thoughts when you read from Daithi above all that was going onn in their own world, and in the world at that time, and they still gave the nation a sporting hour to forget the hard times.
    Amazing men.

  12. I am writing my father Paddy Horkan’s story, went to England with Pat Fallon of,Balla, who was a distance cousin, the money in the Munitions Factories was good 3 gold sovereigns a week compared to a half-crown at home. Pat returned home after some time and my father joined the British Army, wounded 3 themes awarded the Military medal, introduced to King George, returned in 1918, joined the local Castlebar Republicans, as a training officer, went anti-treaty during the Civil War, a long story, died in his 93rd. year at home in Spencer St. Castlebar. Had hoped to have the launch this November 1920, looks it will now be by Zoom,

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