The Athenry and District London Association – 2003

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The 1978 Committee: (Front Row) Kay Rabbitte, Rita O’Brien, Kathleen King, Mrs Heffernan. (Back Row) Gerry Heffernan, Fr Pierce Jordan, Mary Molloy, Frank Rabbitte, Martin King, Gerry Lennon, Anne Lennon (Connors), Kevin O’Brien and Steve Jordan. Missing from photo are Fr Joe Fitzsimons, Kathleen Kane, JJ and Eilish Madden

Fond Memories of Friends and Reunions abroad and at home.

The idea to form the Athenry and District London Association came to Frank Rabbitte and Gerry Heffernan when they met on a building site in London during 1977.

They were reminiscing about home and the good old days and the friends they left behind, and during the conversation the idea came to them that it would be great to get the people at home and in England together for a social evening.

So, they asked Kevin O’Brien and myself to join them to form a committee and so the Athenry Association was born. We contacted Steve Jordan, Anne Lennon, (Connors) J. J. Madden and Fr Joe Fitzsimons to come on board, and we inserted an advertisement in the Irish Post.

Huge success

Our first Social was held in the Swan in Hammersmith that same year and it was a huge success with large numbers from Chadwell Heat”, Goodmayes, Seven Kings Ilford and Walthamstow. It was an unforgettable evening and everyone had a ball. I remember a baker from the Clonakilty Association baked us a lovely cake, for the raffle, decorated in the Athenry colours. Martin Lynch, Treasurer of Junior Chamber, travelled to the function on that occasion to represent the people of Athenry.

Our first Banquet was held in Barkers Penthouse Suite in Kensington in April the following year with many friends from Athenry joining us on the night. Relatives took the opportunity to travel and meet members of their families who had gone to England many years previously. Included in the Athenry group who travelled to London were: Fr. John D. Flannery, Fr. Charlie O’Malley, Greg Rabbitte, Martin Lynch, Jimmy and Breege Somers, Sister Brid Brennan, Tom Mc Namara (Ballydavid) Sean Mc Govern, Mattie Feeney, Sister Mary Mc Dermot and Eamonn Whelan. Ned Waldron travelled as President of Junior Chamber to represent the people of Athenry and Seamus Cullinane went over as Chairman of the Community Council. The Benn Brothers supplied music for the evening. We presented a commemoration plaque to every person who attended the 1978 function.

McCarthy Cup

Tommy Quinn President of the Junior Chamber and his wife Mary travelled over to the function in 1979 to represent the people of Athenry, and I have been told that Peadar Monaghan travelled over as President in 1980.

The highlight of our 1981 function was the appearance of P J Molloy with the Liam Mc Carthy cup representing the Galway team — All Ireland Champions for 1980. That was a memorable occasion for us emigrants as Galway won the Railway Cup, and the Oireachtas Cup that same year. The following day, Sunday, St Mary’s Club, Athenry, played St; Gabriel’s London in a hurling match and to the delight of the home supporters Athenry won. That evening we had a get together at Mick Whyte’s pub, the Telegraph, in Brixton, and everyone had a great night.

A very enjoyable event that occurred during the 1981 Banquet was a wonderful display of Irish dancing by Siamsa, organised by Sean Casey (Chairman) who was accompanied by his wife Patricia, and I have been told that over 30 townsfolk travelled to London, which included Musicians, Dancers, parents, friends, and also supporters of the Athenry Hurling team. Unfortunately, l don’t have all their names, but included in the party were: Paddy and Kathleen Ryan, Bernie and Maura Ryan now (Larkin), Martina O’Brien now (Loughnane), John Anthony Kelly, his wife Della, and their daughter Mairead, Francis Tuohy, P J Reilly, his wife Eileen and family, (Ballyfa), Pauline Rabbitte, now (Murphy), Rose Kennedy now (Mc Mahon), Sister Celestine, Sister Vincent (Ena), Mary and Tommy Hansbury, (Castle Ellen), Carmel Hansbury now (Barrett) who met her future husband at the function, also Greg and Ann Rabbitte, Eddie Somers, Joe Keating, Mattie Feeney, Frank and Ann Sweeney, Gerry Loughnane, (Graig Abbey), Breege Mc Donagh and Mattie Higgins and his sisters. I also have been told that Brian Hardiman entertained his companions with his repertoire of songs especially on the journey home. Paddy Joe Rabbitte and Kevin Rohan played the music for the dancers. Their coach broke down on the return journey, on the A5, and Joe Keating made the necessary repairs. Also, Vincent Shields, President of the Junior Chamber, travelled over that year to represent the people of Athenry.

Loyal Friends

There was tremendous support over the years from people from home living in the London area and outer counties, and I believe that Sister Jane Somers, Sister Aggie Hession, Michael and Maureen Cawthorne (nee Crosby) (New Line), Maureen Sheridan (nee Whelan), Bridie Heffernan, Frances Heffernan, John and Mary Mahony (nee Delaney) (Ballydavid), Frank Madden and Gerry Madden  (Ballydavid), Sean and Florence Mitchell, Mary Molloy, Cross St (now Leslie), Donald Barrett and Rose and Tom Barrett, Tom Sweeney, Margaret Rose Barrett and her sisters, Bridie Gardiner and brother Mick from Ballydavid, Kieran Barrett, Michael Lally, (Knockbrack), Micheal (Mickie) Hession, (Athenry), Micheal Hession (Coolarne), Martin and Betty Fahy (Ballygurrane), the Loughnanes from (Ballydavid), the Redmonds (Caheroyan), Mary (Fay) Freeney, Peggy Hall, Esther Jennings, Joe Rabbitte (Church Street), Maura Burke and Family (Clamper Park), the Burke family (Cloonkeen), Sylvia and Delia Brennan, (Court Lane), Tom and Yvonne Heavey, Josie Crosby and Mickey, Denis and Barbara Rabbitte, (Cartymore), Margaret Hurney, the Burkes (Caheroyan), the Mulkerrins (Caheroyan Avenue), and Meryl and Patsy Staire.

Committees

The committee for our functions were: Fr. Pierce Jordan (President Carlisle), Fr. Joe Fitzsimons (Vice President Hoxton), Steve Jordan (Chairman), Martin King (Treasurer), Kathleen Kane (Newell) Secretary, (Caherdine Craughwell) Frank Rabbitte, Gerry Heffernan, Kevin O’Brien (Turloughmore), Anne Lennon (Connors) (Burkes Lane), J J Madden (Ballydavid) and Ann Brennan now (Kindregan). Later Maurice Brown (Athenry), Pierce Courtney (Ballinasloe), Bridie Gardiner (Ballydavid) and Paddy Jennings (Gloves) joined the Committee.

The home committee consisted of: Fr Charlie O’Malley (President), Jimmy Somers (Chairman), John Joe Brady, and later Fr Michael O’Malley.

We decided to hold the 1982 function at home in the Meadow Court. Kathleen and I were unable to travel that year due to unforeseen circumstances. Many travelled from the London area and other parts of England to give their support, and I have been told that it turned out to be a wonderful occasion.

New Venues

Unfortunately, Barkers decided not to continue having Banquets towards the end of 1982, and consequently we had to find new premises. We held two functions in the Irish Centre, Camden Town, a Buffet Dance and a Dinner Dance with music supplied by Kevin Rohan. We also held a Banquet in the Cricklewood Hotel, North London. Most of our functions were held at the Grosvenor Rooms, Willesden Green (North London). Our first function held there was a great success and continued for many years and we have fond memories of those years.

Cyril Farrell intended to present the Liam McCarthy Cup which Galway won in 1987, at the 1988 banquet in the Grosvenor Rooms, but he had to accompany the Hurling Team on holiday, and, consequently P J Molloy deputised for him.

We also held three functions in Athenry, one in the Presentation Hall and two in the Golf Club, during the early nineties.

Those who travelled to our functions included Greg and Ann Rabbitte, Tom Mc Namara, Dan Whelan, John Joe Brady, Anthony Freeney, Eamonn Whelan, Michael John Quinn, and his wife Evelyn, Dermot Caulfield, Dot Brown, Margaret Hurney, Mary (Fay) Freeney, Breege McDonagh, (Bengara) Redmond and Ita Carr, Paddy and Maureen Heavey, (Cloonkeen) Juno Barrett, Christie and Ann Barrett, Gerry Loughnane, (Craig Abbey) and Paddy Gardiner. Greg and Ann Rabbitte, Breege Mc Donagh, and Tom Mc Namara, travelled over almost every year.

Changes

The high cost of running such functions, eventually caused the majority of the Irish Associations in London to discontinue, which left only the County Associations to carry on the good work. The success of our functions was mainly due to the commitment of our Committee in London, the wonderful support of relatives and friends of the people of Athenry living in England, the support of the home Committee, and the loyal people of Athenry who made the journey to London on many occasions, for which we were most grateful.

On the 25th May 1996 the Association held a reunion in St. Joseph’ Social Club, Empire Way, Wembley. Many travelled from Athenry to enjoy a social evening among family and friends and everyone had a fantastic evening. Fr. Tony King travelled to join his parishioners and to meet members of their families. Luke Glynn came over to represent the Presentation College. A very interesting article on that social was written by Fr Tony and published in the Athenry Journal. For those of you who missed it, or were too young at the time to remember it, I guarantee that it will bring back fond memories to some readers.

If I have omitted any person that travelled to a function please accept my sincere apology, as it is very difficult to remember who travelled after so many years.

In conclusion may I say, speaking as a Connemara man, that it was a pleasure working with and sharing many anxious moments with the Committee of the Athenry London Association, also the home Committee, and I hold very fond memories of the loyal friends that I made during those happy years. I would also like to say many thanks to all those who donated prizes towards our raffle over the years.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh agus beannacht Dé.

Martin King is Chairperson of the Lady’s Well Committee and is very active in church and voluntary organisations.

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About this record

Written by Martin King

Published here 05 Feb 2024 and originally published Summer 2003

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