Echoes of 1951

It’s the time of year for reflection and so I’m delighted to welcome Akamore Man into the guest slot to provide some first-hand memories of the week he spent in Dublin in September 1951 to see the county claim its third All-Ireland title.

Mayo Team 1951

Photo: The Green Above The Red

Now that we have picked ourselves up and dusted ourselves down after losing another All-Ireland, I have been hearing echoes in my old head from the last time we won. That as everyone knows was back in 1951, sixty-two years ago.  What a different place Ireland was then.

Living as I was then and, indeed, all my life on a farm. I have seen a lot of changes. I’m sure the young and, indeed the not so young, could not imagine living without electricity, running water, or central heating.  Not to mention any TV, phones of any kind.  No computer, no laptop, iPod, and all the gadgets young people now take for granted. Not everyone even had a radio, or wireless as they were then called. If you were lucky enough to live in a house that had one you wouldn’t be let turn it on for the week before Mayo were playing in a big match, in case the wet battery went down.

Ration book 1951Times were hard living on a farm in those days. The war was only over a few years.  Rationing was just being phased out.  In fact the last set of ration books were issued that year. Those books were never used. I think that puts into perspective the hunger there is in Mayo for an All-Ireland when you think that ration books were issued the year we last won.

We produced most of our own food.  We worked six days a week, and we were lucky if we had the price of the pictures on Sunday night. Holidays were unheard of. They were something other people had.   The only people who had cars were priests, doctors, teachers, and big shopkeepers.

One of my sisters (I had seven of them!) got married in October 1950, just after Mayo had beaten Louth in the All-Ireland.  She and her husband Oliver were living in Dublin, and I was determined that if Mayo got to the final in 1951 I was going to be in Croke Park.  Well Mayo got there after a struggle and I got them to invite me to visit them and Oliver promised to take me to the match.

Everything was falling into place.  Now the big question was how to get there.  Money was very scarce. I had an uncle living in Claremorris who went to all the big matches.  I contacted him and he got me fixed up with a seat in a car.  He had already been offered a seat to Dublin and he cadged a seat for me too.

Adventure

This was a very big adventure for me.   Apart from a week I spent in hospital in 1945 when I got my appendix out, I had never spent two consecutive nights away from the house I was born in, nineteen years prior to this.  I was determined if I got away I wouldn’t be in any great hurry back.   My father was impressing on me all the work that had to be done.  I can tell you that I let it in one ear and out the other.

I had to cycle in to Ballyhaunis to meet the car from Claremorris.  On my way there I called in on a neighbour in Aghamore.  I knew that he went to the cattle market in Dublin every Thursday. I asked if he was going the following Thursday. The answer was yes.  I asked if I could have a seat home with him. Another yes. I then asked if he would pick me up from my aunt’s house in Chapelizod.  My grandmother was living there at the time and I knew my neighbour often called in to see her.  I left my bike with another aunt I had in Ballyhaunis and I met the car as arranged in the square.

I remember the car was an Austin A40.   It was driven by Tom Keane.  A son of his – JP Keane – played for Mayo later. I sat in the back with my uncle and another man whose name I have forgotten.  It was my first time to cross the Shannon.  I think that was a bigger adventure for me than when I first crossed the Atlantic on a flight to Canada in 1991.

My sister and her husband met me in Chapelizod and took me to their home in Brookwood Avenue, Artane.  Their’s was a new house.  Oliver was a builder, he had built it the previous year.  Everything was strange to me. I had never been in a new house before.  I had lived all my life in a house built by my great-grandfather way back in 1873.

Croke Park

Next morning we got an early Mass in Donnycarney church and hit for Croke Park. There were no tickets at the time: you paid at the turnstile. I don’t know how much it cost to get in as Oliver paid for me. We got there in good time. We were standing all the time in what I now think must be the Hill.  We were right behind the goal posts, in the middle of Meath supporters.  Oliver was a Louth man.  We had beaten them the year before, so I don’t think he had much sympathy for Mayo.  He daren’t say that out loud or he would have his wife and me to deal with!

I don’t remember all that much about the match itself. Only that we won easy after a bit of a shaky start.  Another thing I remember was that the Meath supporters were great sports.  Of course they gave me a bit of harmless teasing, but it was all in good humour.

The next morning Oliver was gone to work when I got up.  He had men working with him who left their bikes at his house and went off in the car with him.  I soon took one of them out for a spin up Brookwood Avenue.  When I got to the main road – I was later told it was called the Malahide Road – I was very surprised to find what looked like a big circle.  I really didn’t know what to make of it.  I must have gone round it six or seven times on the bike. I thought it was great fun.  When I got back to the house my sister told me it was called a roundabout.  Oliver later told me that it was the first one in Ireland and it is still there. Little did I think that day that forty years later I would be driving a car round it.

On Monday evening I was taken to visit another aunt. She and her husband lived in Marino.  When we were leaving I told her that I would see her again the next day.  Next day I set off on the bike, did a few turns on the roundabout, and headed off down the Malahide Road.  There was very little traffic: a few cars, an odd bus, and plenty of bikes.  I found my way without any trouble.  I think I visited her every day I was there.  At night we went out to the pictures a few times.

On Thursday Oliver came home at lunch time and took me to Chapelizod. My neighbour picked me up as arranged, and we headed for home.  When we arrived back in Ballyhaunis, my neighbour offered to put my bike in the boot and take me as far as Aghamore but I decided to cycle home.  To tell the truth I was in no great hurry to get there.

Sam Maguire in Ballyhaunis

When I went to went to my aunt’s house, I was told that Sean Flanagan was coming to town with the Cup that night.  There was going to be a big bonfire in the square and a victory dance in the Parochial Hall.   Of course I didn’t want to miss all that. I asked my aunt if she could give me a bed for the night. Of course she could, after all I was her godson as well as her nephew.

Needless to say I enjoyed all the fun at the bonfire.  Seeing Sean Flanagan hold up the Sam Maguire Cup is something I will never forget. We made our way up to the hall for the dance. I don’t remember what band played that night.  The hall was full and everyone was enjoying themselves. At one stage I felt a bit tired so I made my way up to the balcony for a sit down and a smoke. Everyone smoked at the time. I wasn’t there long when a person sat beside me and asked me for a match.  I looked up and who was there but the great Tom Langan.  I thought I had died and gone to Heaven!

I had a good lie in the next morning, and it was well into the afternoon by the time I rolled in home.  My father could not understand how I could stay away for a full week and all the work that had to be done.   My mother told me later that every morning as he was getting up, he looked in to my bedroom to see if I had come home after they went to bed.

Those are some of the echoes I have been hearing for the past few weeks.  While we didn’t win Sam this year, I have no doubt that James Horan and his great team will do so in the near future.  I will finish up by thanking the Mayo team, James Horan and his backroom crew for the wonderful year they gave us.  Five great wins, one better than the other.  Five days when we were all proud to call ourselves Mayo men and women.

This article first appeared in the 2013 edition of the Annagh annual magazine. Photo of 1951 ration book from Museums of Mayo.

22 thoughts on “Echoes of 1951

  1. Ahh man that’s a really lovely account,really enjoyed the part about the roundabout and also the night with Sam Maguire in Ballyhaunis. Thanks for sharing that.

  2. A great bit of writing. What did you do with yourself between 1951 and today?
    Imagine being told today that it will be 2052 before we contest another senior final!!!!!
    Could you believe that? Hard to fathom, especially if we had won the last 2 finals.
    That’s what the author, akamore man has seen. And really make it unbelievable, make it to a final after 38 years,we will go to seven finals inside the next 24 years and lose them all!!
    Mayo must really have annoyed the gods in 1951 on the trip back home with Sam.
    Maybe 2014 will change it all.
    Maybe God will do a Putin on it and say we are forgiven

  3. How lucky you were Akamore Man, to have been around during such a glorious period in Mayo Gaa history. Sadly for most of us, we can only imagine what welcoming Sam home would be like, or better still, be present in Croke Park to cheer them over the line. Looking forward, you seem confident James and the boys can do it in the near future, well I hope you’re right because unless they can do it in 2014, I very much doubt if James will stay around for another year.

    You mention those five great wins, five days when we were all proud to call ourselves Mayo men and women. Well I would sincerely hope that on the sixth day, (no need to mention the occasion) we were also proud to call ourselves proud Mayo Men and women. This is one Mayo man that was anyway….

  4. Class. Pure class, and great ammo for the brother, who farms the home place.Always says he hasn’t time to p– but you got time to write this great piece

  5. Hi Akamore Man,
    I really enjoyed your story and your neighbour who used go to the cattle market in Dublin went to Stoneybatter or Cowtown and that’s where I was born and reared. Sure maybe you will be up here next September who knows, cheers.

    Kind Regards,
    Martin the Dub

  6. Great piece this.

    Interesting that it contains more of the social history of his area and Northside Dublin than the actual match itself.

    The match account is very matter of fact – maybe displaying some Mayo condescension – about an All Ireland final win!

    Perhaps it contains lessons for us all about celebrating a big win.

  7. Akamore man … please know that you have summed up the trials & tribulations of many a Mayoman & Mayowoman over the years. I was not born in 1951 but my humble Mayo home was subsequently home to 2 All Ireland Winners Medals & 1 All Ireland Runners Up Medal won in the green & red under-age shirt. There is plenty of hope for all of us in 2014 & beyond.The only consternation in my early Mayo home was how we ended up with a Runners Up Medal ! Let us keep going to the well & eventually we will get to drink !

  8. I see the All-Ireland Intermediate Football Championship Semi-Final between Kiltane and Clyda Rovers (Cork and Munster Champions) is fixed for Sunday January 26th at 2pm in Ballinasloe.

    The Cork side includes Paudie Kissane, Cork’s All-Star and All-Ireland winning wing back and Ray Carey, another Cork senior star corner-back, who plays full-back for his club.

    It will be a tough match for Kiltane but I reckon thay can still win a place in the All Ireland Final. And the very best of luck to Martin Barrett and his team!

  9. Brilliant stuff Akamoreman , loved that piece , it really was some mission to get to dublin in those days.

    looking forward to the Kiltane game now , going back through clydas results it seems they have edged some low scoring games.
    kiltane on the other hand score for fun but are inclined to let the other team score a fair bit as well,
    it will be a fascinating contrast in styles in Ballinasloe.

  10. Brilliant stuff Akamore Man.
    Nice to read about a period in time when we won Sam, makes it seem like it wasn’t that so long ago after all…

    The one part I really liked but that also made me slightly jealous of you and melancholic was “Seeing Sean Flanagan hold up the Sam Maguire Cup is something I will never forget”.
    It’s something many of us have dreamed about for years and years and we pray we will see at some point in our lives..
    The thought of seeing Andy Moran, Keith Higgins or whoever it may be holding up Sam is a dream that keeps us all going. It’s a source of inspiration, frustration and desperation all in one.

    Happy New Year to you all

  11. Akamore man, I read your article in the Annagh magazine over the Christmas and bumped into Keith Higgins the same evening so it was all a nice coincidence. It can only mean one thing!!! Mayo for Sam 14 🙂
    Great article by the way, and from speaking in the past to some of the auld stock around the ‘Haunis about the homecoming, it was nice to hear about it again. Long before my time I’m afraid but our day will come.

  12. I read that in Annagh magazine, the Ballyhaunis local parish magazine my father has been involved in for the last 36 years. Christmas only starts when the magazine arrives in my exiled house. Its full of news of the locality and its rich history. The magazine is sent around the world to relatives and neighbours who really value its connection with home.
    This article really struck me and it was like that was me planning to get to Dublin, seeing the match and being in no hurry home to work.
    My father witnessed all that and says he remembers the first win in 1936 better! The team arrived by train and bonefires could be seen for miles around. Bangers were placed on the railway line to announce the progress of the train. No tree or bale of hay was safe that night. Crowds gathered at the station and the team was carried to the Square for more celebrations. Fond memories that live forever. Dad is 90 now and still is hopeful he will see another win.
    The square is still waiting for the next bonefire and the parochial hall is still there for a party. Firmly believe our day will come. Until then we can still dream.

  13. Time to move on guys, Akamore Man has a great story to tell and for sure he tells it well, but so too has so many more before him and to be quiet honest I’m getting tired of the whole thing. Year after year as Mayo teams face their destiny, we’re showered with the same old stories and countless interviews of our past heroes – now not for one moment am I belittling any of their achievements, which brought us much respect in those bygone days, but bygone days they are. It’s time to leave that stuff behind for now, dwell more on the present and hope to God that the current crop of players can write their own bit of history – now that would be a story worth listening to….

  14. Agree totally and my heart goes out to our poor Minors whose success was smothered in all the outpourings of grief,frustation and anger.

  15. I agree we should move on lads but i also think we need to honor the past heroes and their experiences.
    Somewhere we forgot what they did and look at us now. Trying to rewrite history when we should be just continuing a legacy.

  16. No doubt some of those minors will win senior medals with Mayo in a few short years. Keep the heads down and play the game like they can and they’ll be just fine.
    And the current seniors are within touching distance of massive glory, a couple of small tweaks and presto.

  17. Right on Mayo Mchale. I was 11 when Séan Flanagan held up the cup. I knew him well, he was our family solicitor. But 62 years; bit sick listening to it now. I would welcome Sam very soon.

  18. Akamore Man, I really enjoyed this piece and thank you for writing it – it’s a fascinating glimpse into the past and a completely different time and it made me smile.

    I don’t agree with the pair of boyos above 🙂 While I do think we need to look forward, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with remembering a glorious piece of our history and for those of us who might not have heard many first-hand accounts of it before, I’m delighted you shared it.

    Loved the piece about the roundabout, and also the part where you looked up and there was Tom Langan – that part sums up what’s great about the GAA to this day.

    Happy new year and like us all I hope you can get to experience another win in 2014. 🙂

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