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Grange Parish Blog

Article from the Grange Book suggested for reading this week (week 25)


The Name is O'Dwyer

This week's (week 25) book article is about the well-known and highly regarded O'Dwyer Family of Rahin. It is a most comprehensive account by several co-authors from the O'Dwyer clan as well as contributions from others. In fact, the article is a number of stories within a story.

As well as writing herself, Mary Gallagher (née O'Dwyer) planned the content and layout of the article and ensured that a cohesive and enthralling story was told.

Francis O'Dwyer (Upper Grange) introduced the article as well as writing about his parents, Pat and Helen. The story about John D O'Dwyer (1868-1940) previously told by Seán Gallagher, MLCC - 2005 was re-produced in part. The sporting achievements of Dan O’Dwyer (1898-1980), son of John D O'Dwyer above and father of Mary Gallagher and siblings, were chronicled by Michael Weekes who researched press reports in considerable detail. An engaging account of the life of John Gerard O’Dwyer (1934-1991) of Rahin was told by his son, Gerard O’Dwyer. John Gerard was the eldest son of Dan O'Dwyer and his wife, Bridget. The life story of another of Dan's and Bridget's sons, Mick O'Dwyer of Caherconlish, was beautifully portrayed by Mick's daughter, Pauline O'Dwyer Murphy. Mary Gallagher, daughter of Dan and Bridget, told her own life story with great passion, affection and humour - a wonderful read. Any account of the O'Dwyer clan would be incomplete without reference to the life and achievements of Major John Gerard O'Dwyer, horseman supreme. Mary Gallagher and Tommy Hourigan collaborated to research and tell some of the story. Finally, Mary Gallagher told the story of John O’Dwyer ('The Hurlers'), son of Major J G O'Dwyer and his wife, Bridie.

The following are extracts from what is an extensive article, which ought to be read in full in order to appreciate its many facets - see the link to full article towards the end of this post.

"The surname “O’Dwyer” is well known in Grange Parish, as it is in many surrounding parishes and localities, even nationally and internationally in the case of one of the clan, Major John Gerard O’Dwyer. One has only to mention Ireland’s fight for freedom, athletics, GAA, horsemanship, or the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association, to bring to mind immediately a member of the local O’Dwyer family. What follows is a collection of tributes to a number of O’Dwyer personalities who lived over the years and accounts of some who are living today. The tributes and accounts are of varying length, owing to the availability of recorded historical facts and reliable recollection. The primary sources with regard to the tribute to each 'O’Dwyer' are acknowledged. I am a proud member of the O’Dwyer clan and it is an honour for me to introduce this article." [from the Introduction by Francis O'Dwyer]

"Dan [O'Dwyer] was twelve years old when he lined up at a sports meeting in Holycross, held on 16th August 1910 and carried off his first prize by winning the

youth race. He repeated this achievement the following year at the same venue. Some half a dozen years later, Holycross was the venue again, when Dan, a fully-fledged novice, had his first victory in the 220 yards novice event. Shortly afterwards, he attended a similar meeting in Bruff and collected two 'seconds', having been beaten by M Moloney, Ballycampion, in the 'hundred' and by WJ Daly, Emly, in the 'two-twenty'."

"1918 was a great season for the Rahin lad. He ‘swept the boards’ at Kilteely, winning four events: the 100 yards, 200 yards, 440 yards races and the long jump. He gave an encore performance at Balliniscala, winning the same quartet of events. Later that season, he won the 100 yards and 200 yards races at three successive appearances at Banogue, Newtownshandrum and Ballysheedy; the 100 yards race at Dromin; the 100 yards and 440 yards races at Darnstown; and the 100 yards and 300 yards races at a second Kilteely meeting." [An account by Michael Weekes of Dan O'Dwyer's earlier successes in athletics]

"Another organisation to which he [John Gerard O'Dwyer of Rahin] was very dedicated was The Pioneer Total Abstinence Association. He was a founder member of the Bruff Branch of the organisation, Grange being represented by John and his uncle Richard O’Donnell. Bruff was quite a vibrant branch; however, over the years the numbers dropped, and the branch was disbanded."

"Amongst John’s other interests was the Volkswagen Beetle car model and a great love of dogs. Over the years, he owned various makes and colours of the 'Beetle'. His many dogs included Sandy - a brown boxer dog, Rex his collie and Max his wirehaired terrier. John married Peggy Lynch of Rathmore, Manister in 1960. Sadly, she suffered ill health and died in 1966. In August 1970, he married Nancy Leahy of Elton, who also nursed at St Joseph’s Hospital. They lived with their three children, Gerard and twins Adrian and Dermot in Rahin." [Life of John Gerard O'Dwyer by his son, Gerard O'Dwyer]

"Mick [O'Dwyer] hurled for a while with Bruff and Camogue Rovers. Having finished school, he worked for a period with Mrs O’Donoghue, Caherguillamore and that was

a great introduction to working life as she was one of the nicest people you could hope to meet. He later worked at Reardon’s Pub in Holycross for three years. His time there was also a very happy experience. Mrs Reardon came from Upperchurch in County Tipperary, and she was a lovely person, kind and appreciative of both workers and customers alike."

"However, many of Mick’s friends had emigrated, so in 1956 he decided he would go to Oxford - his neighbour and friend, Sam Bourke, was already there. He got a job straight away with Pressed Steel Motor Manufacturing Company. There was a lot of Irish people working there at that time. It was in Oxford that he met Ann Betson from Tullamore, and they got married in Dangan, Co Offaly in August 1963. They decided then that they would stay in Ireland, and he got a job at Shannon Foundry in Limerick." [Life of Mick O'Dwyer by dis daughter, Pauline O'Dwyer Murphy]

"While home on holiday, Sunday nights were spent dancing in the ‘Ballroom of Romance’ in Dromkeen - his [Pat O'Dwyer] long-time friend, Dan Conway, would

always accompany him. It was here that he met Helen Carew from Annacarty in County Tipperary. Love at first sight! So, that was the end of England. By this time, he had bought his first car for the princely sum of £80, a Ford Anglia, registration number BIU 5. The car provided transport for Pat and Dan to Dromkeen and other dancing venues. Pat and Helen married in 1969 (Dan was ‘Best Man’ at the wedding), and initially they lived in Rahin while a house that Pat had purchased in Grange Village was being renovated. It was at this house in the village that they made their home and reared three children: Rosaleen, John and Francis. Grandfather Dan (Pat’s father) also lived there and was lovingly cared for by them up to his death in 1980, aged 82." [Life of Pat O'Dwyer by his son, Francis O'Dwyer]

"Christened Mary Catherine [O'Dwyer], I was often called Mary Kate or indeed Kate Mary and in later years, Mary Gal [Gallagher]. I was comfortable with all versions. I am the only surviving girl in the family. My sister, Helena, was born in December 1940 but, sadly, she died three months later in March 1941. She is buried in Tullybrackey Graveyard with my grandparents. I was born on 24th January 1939. I had an idyllic childhood growing up in Rahin with my siblings, parents and paternal grandmother."

"I then went to secondary school to the FCJ Convent in Bruff where I did the Intermediate Certificate. I went to the Presentation Convent in Hospital for my fourth and fifth years where I did the Leaving Certificate in 1957. The journey to this school was eight miles each way and my good friend, Marjorie Moroney, and I would meet each morning at Mrs O’Brien’s in Holycross and then make our way to Hospital. I remember one evening when my bicycle was punctured, and it would have cost one shilling to get it repaired in Hospital - one shilling I didn’t have - so there was no option but to walk home. Needless to say, Margie walked with me. Almost sixty years later, we are still friends and meet up fairly often to recall and reminisce on those happy days."

"I worked for a number of years for Barclays Bank. Subsequently, I got married and had four children: Joan, John, Miriam and Brian and we travelled quite a lot, living in Germany for approximately seven years and in Singapore for three years, before returning again to England. It was while living in Singapore, a beautiful island, that I first encountered cable cars and had my first trip on one to the island of Sentosa. While the children loved it, I was absolutely petrified. It was also while living there that I travelled through Malaysia on one of the old type trains which had armed guards on board."

"As I said at the outset, my first great sadness was the day that my grandmother died. Well, the day that my world really fell apart was the day that my grandson, Andrew, died in an accident at Holycross soccer field. The passage of time helps one to cope, but that is as good as it gets. So, I have one grandchild in Heaven and seven on earth, and I love them all dearly."

"I thank God for my family, my friends, my neighbours and for all who helped to compile this book. It was always a very dear wish of mine that all our local knowledge would be recorded for posterity. A wealth of local knowledge, held by past generations, has been lost through the decades by not having been recorded. Hopefully this book will be enjoyed by many generations to come, long after those of us who struggled to put it together have left this world behind." [Mary O'Dwyer Gallagher's story told by herself]

"[Major] John Gerard O’Dwyer was born at Rahin. He went to the local Grange National School and later to Bruff. Like so many young men in the district, he joined

the Volunteers and in time became Officer Commanding the 3rd (Bruff) Battalion, and it might seem in the natural order of things that he should decide to become a full-time soldier and join the newly formed Irish Free State (Saorstat) Army and then it all began."

"As leader of the great Irish team [show jumping] which remained in the forefront of international competition almost since its inception in 1926, until it disbanded at the commencement of the Second World War in 1939, Major O’Dwyer and his colleagues not only made Ireland a country to be respected in international sport, but helped incalculably to further the Irish bloodstock industry and indeed the fledgling economy as a whole."

"Then in 1932, riding ‘Limerick Lace’, O’Dwyer, now promoted Commandant and appointed O/C of the Army School of Equitation really ‘arrived’ on the international scene. He was acclaimed in the German Press after his great performance in Berlin. Not only did he leave the German riders (the indisputable forerunners of the time) in his trail, but he withstood all the pressures and ‘stayed with’ the experienced and accomplished French rider, Lieutenant De Costries, clearing no less than 24 difficult obstacles. They agreed to a tie for the first place after jumping off faultlessly no fewer than three times. It was the start of many brilliant achievements over the next seven years, including the distinction of being the highest individual winner of all international competitors."

"Perhaps, Major O’Dwyer’s sweetest victories were at home. There must have been a great sense of achievement attached to captaining the Irish team in their five in a row win, 1935 – 1939, in our Nations Cup for the massive Aga Khan Cup, and in the face of the stiffest competition each year from four or five top international teams. These wins captured the public imagination and, for the first time, show jumping began to interest ‘the man in the street’, and man, woman and child felt a part of this great Irish team. An illustration of this is that despite limited travel facilities, 44,000 people attended at the RDS on Aga Khan Cup day in 1937, whereas the crowd of 26,000 two years earlier, was thought to be huge." [Major JG O'Dwyer, Horseman Supreme by Mary Gallagher and Tommy Hourigan]

"John [O'Dwyer] was the oldest of the four sons of Major JG O’Dwyer and his wife, Bridie – formerly O’Brien from Fermoy. He grew up with his siblings, Noel, Frank and

Anthony at Ballyclough House, Ballysimon, to where his parents relocated on his father’s retirement from the Irish Army. They initially lived for a short period at 'Roseneath', Mill Road, Corbally, prior to purchasing the farm in Ballyclough."

"He was married to Joan Neville, an Aer Lingus hostess, who was from Mulgrave St, Limerick. They lived for a short while in Grange and then bought 'The Hurlers' public house in Castletroy where he and Joan reared their seven children: Ged, Nollaig, Siobhan, Kevin, Michael, Niamh and Anthony."

"From 1967 to 1971 he was a Fine Gael member of Limerick County Council. He then resigned his seat due to his disagreement with his Party’s attitude to the Northern Ireland question, on which he felt a more advanced nationalist line should have been adopted by Fine Gael. He was a distant cousin of John D O’Dwyer, who was a member of Limerick County Council from 1920 to 1928." [John O'Dwyer - "The Hurlers" by Mary Gallagher]

The article The Name is O'Dwyer may be read in full HERE.

Next Week (week 26) we will suggest another book article for reading.

Kind Regards to All.


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