GAA 125 – The Seven Founders by John Arnold
The meeting that led to the formation of the Gaelic Athletic Association was held in Miss Hayes’ Commercial Hotel in Thurles on November 1st, 1884. We can be certain that at least seven people attended the Association’s inauspicious beginning but there may have been more – there is no doubt however that Cusack, Davin, Wyse, Power, McKay, McCarthy and Ryan do deserve the title of the GAA’s Founding Fathers and they deserve to be remembered and honoured in this, the 125th Anniversary year of the Association
Born in Carron, Co. Clare on September 20th 1847 – one hundred and sixty two years ago today! He qualified as a teacher and worked in schools in Connacht, Ulster and Leinster before setting up his own Private Academy in Dublin in 1877. With Maurice Davin, Cusack was the inspirational force behind the summoning of the Thurles meeting. Cusack served as GAA secretary from 1884 until 1896. He was narrowly beaten on a 19/17 vote in 1901 when he attempted to regain the position of GAA Secretary. Michael Cusack died in Whitworth Hospital in Dublin on November 27th, 1906. He is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.
A native of Deerpark, Carrick-on-Suir, Maurice Davin was born on June 29, 1842. An all-round athlete Maurice and his brother Pat were National and International stars at various athletic pursuits. These included hammer and weight throwing, shot putting and long and high jumping. Davin advocated that Athletics in Ireland should not be governed by English rules. He was appointed first President of the GAA in 1884.Though he resigned in 1887 he returned to the GAA the Following year to help heal the split after the stormy Thurles Convention. The 1904 All Ireland Hurling Final between Kilkenny and Cork was played on the Davin farm at Deerpark. Maurice Davin died on January 26, 1927 and was buried in Dysert-Churchtown Cemetery.
A native of Co. Down, John McKay was a reporter and journalist. He worked with the Cork Examiner newspaper and along with Cusack was one of the First joint Secretaries of the GAA. He later moved to London. In 1934, when the GAA celebrated it’s 50th Anniversary and again in Centenary Year, 1984 extensive efforts were made to try and find out more information about McKay’s latter life- all to no avail. Recently due to the research of Donal McAnallen it has been established that John McKay died in London in 1923. He is buried in a London Cemetery in an unmarked grave and Cumann Luthchleas Gael plan to erect a suitable memorial.
Joseph Kevin Bracken was born in Templemore. A stonemason and building contractor by trade, Bracken was very involved in athletics. He was a member of the IRB and at the 1886 GAA convention was elected National Vice President. He became the First chairman of Templemore UDC. The Bracken family moved to Kilmallock Co. Limerick in 1904 and two years later J.K. Bracken died. He is buried at Tankardstown Cemetery near Kilmallock.
John Wyse Power.
John Wyse Power was born in Waterford. He was a member of the Fenian Movement and a journalist by profession. He worked for the Leinster Leader and the Freeman’s Journal. He was the official GAA athletics handicapper for several years. He also served as Honorary Secretary of the GAA and Dublin GAA Board Chairman. His wife Jenny was an elected member of Seanad Eireann. He died on May 29th, 1926 and is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.
Joseph Patrick Ryan.
Joseph P. Ryan was born in Carrick-on-Suir in April, 1857. Having qualified as a Solicitor he practised in Callan and Thurles. He would have known Maurice Davin well and that Friendship was possibly the reason he attended the meeting in 1884. In 1899 Ryan emigrated to Canada. He settled in Cranbrook, British Columbia where he became inmmersed in local life – the Board of Trade, the Mining Industry and as a Police Magistrate as well as becoming a prominent journalist. He died in March, 1918 and is buried in Cranbrook.
Thomas St. George McCarthy.
The longest surviving GAA Founder, Thomas St. George McCarthy was born in Bansha, Co. Tipperary in June 1862. Like his Father George, Thomas St. John joined the Royal Irish Constabulary. He joined Michael Cusack’s Academy in Dublin and it was Cusack who prepared him for his Cadetship Examination in 1882. At the time of the November, 1884 meeting McCarthy was stationed in Templemore. He retired from the RIC in 1912 and lived in the Ranelagh area of Dublin. He died on March 12th, 1943 at the Linden Convalescent Home in Stillorgan. He is buried in Deansgrange Cemetery in an unmarked grave. Cumann LOthchleas Gael intend to erect a Fitting memorial shortly.