17 July 2009

Walsh Island, Co. Offaly













Walsh Island, Co. Offaly
Photographed by E. Timoney, July 2009 and A.Ryan August 2009. Information below from Walshisland GAA Club website http://www.walshislandgaaclub.com/ballalley.html

The history of the Ball Alley in Walsh-Island commenced on the completion of the structure in 1913. Hand ball became a very popular sport in the following years and produced some great players from the area who won many medals and trophies namely Paudge Duffy, Sean McCann, George Whittle. Kenneth Whittle, Eric Whittle, Bill Bryan, Sean O'Shea, Dickie Shaughnessy, Pat Corcoran and Tom McCann. Those men won the prizes but a lot more took part in the sport and on Sunday mornings after Mass there was a race to the Alley to place your 3d on the wall for a game and it was first come first served. So popular was the sport that most Sunday's men waited up to three hours to play a game. All this came to an end when the Ball Alley went into disrepair in the mid sixties.

Some of the other events that took place there over the years were meetings, boxing competitions and many other festivities. The first big event was the training of the old I.R A. during the war of Independence and this landmark would hold deep affection for many of the relations who still live Walsh-Island and surrounding areas. In the boxing competition we were honoured to have the late Ned Mooney who was at the time the Irish Guard Champion in the British forces and who gave great enjoyment to all who watched him box. He never lost a match in the Ball Alley. May pole dancing was also another annual event and attracted large crowds every year. The biggest event that took place at the Alley was the homecoming of the local giant of a man Jack Berry after having spent a month in jail for breaking the law of not removing his animals and implements of land commissioned, land in which he was in dispute with over the breaking up of an adjoining estate. Jack was cousin of the late Colonel Eamon 'Ned' Broy who played such a major part in our war of Independence. Such was Jack Berry's strength that he was often seen walking the Pike Road with a trunk of a tree under each arm to be used for firewood.

In his seventies he could be seen riding his white stallion bare back through the streets of Portarlington. He was held in such high esteem in the area that his homecoming was the biggest event to be held in Walsh-Island. Local people collected loads of turf, sticks and tyres for a bonfire at the Alley. He was carried shoulder high from the forge and the young people at the time lined up each side of the road with lit sods of turf which had been dipped in oil. The bonfire was lit and the festivities began with local musicians and dancers taking part in the all night entertainment.

Another big event took place on May 4th 1935 when the All Ireland Turf cutting competition was held in Monevane. Men from the four corners of Ireland took part in this event and the Toisceasch of the day Eamon Dev Alera cut the first sod. The main idea behind the turf cutting competition was to show Dev the vast amount of two of our natural resources namely peat and manpower. Fr Breen P.P. and Patrick Gormon came up with this idea, and after the turf cutting finished they took Dev to the Ball Alley so he could see the vast area of peat that surrounded Walsh-Island. He told the two men their idea could become a reality and he would have it discussed at cabinet level when he returned to Dublin. Within three years this did indeed become a reality and is known today as Bord Na Mona !

3 comments:

Brendan Walker said...

Please let me know if you have received my comments.
Thank you.
Brendan Walker

Anonymous said...

I love to read all about walsh island as my late father was from there. He used to tell me all about the alley and gave me two hand balls that were used there. Walsh island is a lovely quite area and the graveyard has to be the cleanest in ireland. Thank you for your input as i truely enjoyed reading it.

Anonymous said...

Hi just to inform you that the Ball Alley has been renovated back to a fully functional ball alley in 2015 a great addition to the village hopefully more events will happen there