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Minutes of 28 April 1914 of the Emergency Committee of the Leinster Football Association

Archives of the Leinster Football Association, UCD Archives, IE UCD P239/36

Part 4 of our Centenary Special. Original letter (and analysis by Conor Mulvagh) can be viewed here. All images from the Archives of the Leinster Football Association, courtesy of UCD Archives.

April 2014 presents a myriad of commemorative opportunities from the centenary of the foundation of Cumann na mBan on 2 April to the Larne Gun-Running on the night of 24-25 April. The latter event ominously received little commemorative comment North or South in the days around the centenary. Larne stands next to the Curragh Crisis (see last month’s From the Archives document) as one in a series of episodes that threatened to undermine democracy in Ireland 100 years ago. Academics did much to re-evaluate the Curragh Crisis – especially with an important conference held in Ceannt Barracks at the Curragh – and this is to be highly commended. However, Larne presents us with a real challenge. It is undoubtedly an event that will appeal more to paramilitaries than to politicians in the modern day but, if it is an event to be swept under the carpet politically, then it is one in which ahistorical and triumphalist reimaginings of the past will fill the vacuum left in the absence of historical and political commentary.

Ireland in the late spring and early summer of 1914 stood on a knife-edge of civil war. The narrowly averted conflict could easily have spilled across to Britain given that opposing Ulster and Irish Volunteer forces included contingents in Liverpool and other port cities on Britain’s western seaboard ready to dispatch themselves to Ireland to participate in martial struggle. Thus, with the foundation of one paramilitary organisation – Cumann na mBan – and the mass arming of another – the UVF – April 1914 was a tense month in Ireland’s pre-revolution. This month’s From the Archives document has deliberately been chosen to demonstrate a wholly different side to Ireland in 1914. Some of the most enlightening research into societies in conflict are those which examine how life went on as normal during times of crisis. I was always struck by the confidential reports of William Warnock, Irish Ambassador to Berlin during the Second World War, whose descriptions of Christmas shoppers at the centre of the Third Reich in 1939 show how ordinary people reacted to extraordinary circumstances and how this can often be forgotten in retrospectives that are understandably consumed by the particulars of the conflict itself.

While the linkages between Dublin in April 1914 and Berlin in 1939 might be tenuous, the point remains the same: in reconstructing the history of extraordinary times, we should not forget the way in which ordinary daily life continued unabated.

This month’s document is the transcript of the minutes of the Leinster Football Association, an organisation whose papers are held in UCD Archives as part of a large collection of records from professional, sporting, and trades associations which make UCD’s collections arguably the best in the country for the social and civic history of twentieth century Ireland. Among the 100 boxes of documents deposited by the Leinster Football Association is a vast array of minute books. These document the work of committees including the selection committee, the rules committee, and the rough play committee. The minutes selected for this month’s document are of the Association’s ‘Emergency Committee’, which appears to have met not-infrequently in these years.

The minutes of 28 April 1914 document both the vibrancy and the comedy of soccer in Ireland 100 years ago. On the one hand, the number of matches being played at various age-brackets indicate the popularity which soccer enjoyed in pre-war Dublin. Only a few months before these minutes were taken, football players had been the target of protests by workers during the 1913 Lockout. At a match between Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers played in Ringsend, scuffles had broken out between locked out workers and supporters. Dublin historian Donal Fallon explains that James Larkin stoked tensions by claiming that scab workers were playing on both teams. However, the junior players of the Leinster Football Association who feature in this month’s document appear to have been immune from any political controversy but were no strangers to dispute. It seem that impersonation was the single biggest issue with which the Emergency Committee had to deal at this meeting.

Unregistered and over-age players, linesmen playing in matches for other teams, and other ruses designed to pull the wool over the eyes of opponents and officials alike are unmasked in these extraordinary minutes. Competition was clearly intense among these junior level players and teams appear to have been extremely earnest in requesting that points not be awarded to teams violating the rules.

One thing that these minutes bear witness to is the seriousness with which voluntary work was undertaken in pre-war Britain and Ireland. In an era when the only volunteers that now appear to interest historians are those who drilled with rifles, what is resurrected in these minutes is the volunteerism of officials who meticulously managed the administration of sport in pre-war Ireland. Mr Robert Balbirnie, whose unusual name makes him reasonably easy to identify in the 1911 census, was either a 57 year old Scottish-born widower or – more likely given the young age profile of other committee members – his son (32) of the same name. In any case, the family were almost universally engaged in the confectionary trade in Dublin. Meanwhile, Mr Robert E.T. Richie (32), another member of the committee, was an assistant commissioner with the Irish Land Commission while the committee’s chairman, R.L. Edgeworth (28) was a commercial clerk. An important aspect in understanding the social history of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century Britain and Ireland is the advent of leisure and pastimes. That records as detailed and as comprehensive as those that survive for the Leinster Football Association exist is evidence of the care and attention that was paid to amateur sport and recreation in this period and the time put in by working men and women to the administration of the organisations they ran.

Moving from professions to faith, Richie and Balbirnie attest to the diversity of religious backgrounds within the Leinster Football Association in these years. The Balbirnies were Anglicans whereas Mr Richie was a Methodist. The committee’s chairman, meanwhile, was a Catholic. Whereas sport in Ireland began to display a degree of cultural and even religious exclusivity in the period after 1922, what we see here is both a religious and a class diversity to sport in Ireland before the First World War.

While politics, religious composition, and sociological factors are now topics of interest to the historian, we should not forget that the persons whose lives are preserved in these records were probably far more exercised as to whether Olympia had fielded ineligible players in their match against Caledonians then whether their association was facilitating cooperation between different communities prior to the re-calibration of political culture in Ireland. Both war and politics would increasingly crowd out the normalcy of life in Ireland in the months and years after the spring of 1914. It is important, before we focus on the commemoration of these seismic historical events, that we not lose sight of life as it existed on the eve of upheaval.

Conor Mulvagh
School of History and Archives
University College Dublin
April 2014

Transcription of IE UCD P239/36

Minutes of the Emergency Committee of the Leinster Football Association, 23 December 1902 – 20 October 1924
Archives of the Leinster Football Association, UCD Archives, IE UCD P239/36

A meeting of the Emergency Committee was held at 56 Henry Street on the 28th April 1914

The Chairman (Mr Edgeworth) presiding

Also present: – Messrs R. Balbirnie, P.J. McDonnell, R.E.T. Richey Hon Sec & the Secretary.

The minutes of the previous meeting were read & signed.

An appeal was received from Greenview against a declaration of the Junior Metropolitan League in making the points in their matches with Youths Own, & St Vincents go dead, 5% sent.

The decision of the League was given under Rule 10.

It appeared from the appeal that the name of the player who took part in the matches mentioned is W[ilia]m Heuston & that he was registered as J. Heuston.

Upon examination of the list of registered players of Greenview, it disclosed the fact that the player was registered as J. Heuston.

Upon the proposition of Mr Richey seconded by Mr Balbirnie. The appeal was dismissed.

An appeal was received from [word deleted] St Vincents against a decision of the Junior [end page] Metropolitan League. On the 28th Feb St Vincents played Greenview & after losing protested & claimed the points on the ground that W[illia]m Hewson, one of the Greenview players, played in Junior League matches for Avonmore & had not been reinstanted to play in Junior Metropolitan League, Greenview denied that Hewson played for Avonmore at any time Green St Vincents produced a statement from Avonmore testifying that W[illia]m Hewson played for them against Richmond Asylum & [word illegible] also for Jacobs against Avonmore in 1912-13.

The minutes of the Junior Metropolitan League were read, which stated as follows: – Greenview stated that no player by the name of W[illia]m Hewson played for their club  but that a player named played by the name of of W[illia]m Heuston. It was found that the name of player given in the list of players that played was a W[illia]m Houston not W[illia]m Hewson.

Upon the proposition of Mr Richey seconded by Mr Balbirnie. The appeal was dismissed.

An appeal was received from Olympia against a decision of the Central League in dismissing a proposal against Caledonian’s [sic] they being awarded the point for the drawn game played on 21st Feb. [end page]

Olympia played Caledonians & they protested on the grounds of having played two ineligible players therefore violating Rules 1, 5, & 8.

(1) The player who played right full back being over-age & also playing under the assumed name of Edward Fenelon, this player Edward Fenlon playing outside left the same day under the name of Geo[rge] White.
(2) That the player who played right half back being over age & also playing under the assumed name of W[ilia]m McLaughlin, their [sic] being no player of that name playing that day as the registered player W[illiam] McLaughlin acted as linesman.

The matter was before the Central League on the 19th March 1914 when Caledonians were instructed to bring W[illia]m McLoughlin & their linesman to the next meeting.

The minutes of the Central League of the 16th April 1913 stated: – The investigation of Olympia’s protest which had resolved itself into a question of whether W[illia]m McLoughlin had played for Caledonians, as alleged by them, was then proceeded with. There being no attendance on behalf of Caledonians it was decided to examine Olympia’s witnesses. Mr Ryan representative of Corinthians stated that he saw W[illia]m McLoughlin acting as [end page] linesman for Caledonians in the Olympia match & that he had previously seen him playing for Caledonians in a League match but could not say against which team.

J.R. Heffron (Olympia) stated that he knew W[illia]m McLoughlin through meeting him at Skerries College. He had played against Caledonians for Annesley & W[illia]m McLoughlin had played in the same match. He saw McLoughlin acting as Caledonian’s linesman in the Olympia match

P Hoban stated he had been connected with the Olympia club, said he had seen McLoughlin [be?] Caledonian linesman in the disputed match playing for that team against Woodville & Annesley. He was in the habit of watching Caledonian matches because he knew two members names Kearns. He said their colours were Black & White stripes (the actual colours being blue with white V)

Mr Kirwan (Annesley) said he saw McLoughlin acting as linesman in the Olympia match & had played against him for Annesley.

All the witnesses admitted that there were on the Caledonian team players whose names they did not know, any of whom might be named W[illia]m McLoughlin [end page]

Mr Fennell (Olympia) claimed that the Chairman should award them the points because Caledonians had failed to produce their linesman & player. The chairman did not rule. The protest was dismissed.

It was decided to refer the matter back to the League & that the club be asked to produce the two McLoughlins otherwise the protest be upheld.

R L Edgeworth

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