Friday, October 7, 1994

Athy C.Y.M.S.

The earliest extant record of the Catholic Young Mens Society in Athy is a Minute Book dating from January 1879. However it is believed that the Society was established in Athy in 1862. In its formative years the members of the Society met every Sunday at 6.00p.m. in the Christian Brothers School, St. John's Lane. Lectures and debates were the principal Sunday evening activity and in time a Library was provided for the members. Minutes of the meeting of the 15th of January, 1879 noted that in the absence of entertainment on Sunday evenings a member was to be designated to read a chapter from Irish history to the other members. The Society's Committee in 1879 included Christopher Timmons, P. Murphy, Mick Nolan, Mick Doyle, William Kealy, Sean Cantwell and Mr. Butler. The local curate Rev. John Staples was President of the Society.

In January 1881 the Society members appointed a Committee to establish a Band and to set up a singing group. This followed the formation in the previous year of another local band, the Athy Fife and Drum Band, which catered for juvenile musicians. This Band broke up in disarray in July 1881 following a dispute amongst members which culminated in Court proceedings against Henry Greene for retaining certain musical instruments.

The C.Y.M.S. established a Brass Band whose members enthusiastically practised every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. However, the enthusiasm soon waned and in November 1884 we learn that the Brass Band had gone the way of the earlier Juvenile Fife and Drum Band. Happily no Court proceedings resulted.

In 1892 the Sisters of Mercy had a new school built alongside their Convent and gave up possession of an older school building at the corner of Stanhope Place. The C.Y.M.S. gained possession of this L-shaped building and they were to remain in occupation until 1960.

As the C.Y.M.S. took over their new premises The Mechanics Institute, a non-denominational society acquired a billiard table for its premises in the Town Hall. The C.Y.M.S. obviously believing that the attractions of a 19th century pool hall were unlikely to be countered by lectures and books decided to acquire a billiard table for its own premises. In time billiards and snooker proved very popular with the members necessitating the purchase of a second full size billiard table. When the Mechanics Institute eventually closed, it’s billiard table was sold to the C.Y.M.S. and is still in use today.

The setting up of a Technical School in Athy in 1900 in part of the C.Y.M.S. building fronting on to Stanhope Place curtailed the Society's activities. It retained one large room for the playing of billiards and a small room as a card room. Card playing was so popular that the room provided proved too small and uncomfortable and in time became known as "the Dog House".

In 1906 the Club was involved in setting up a Football and Hurling Club in Athy which operated for a few years under the name "Athy C.Y.M.S. Hurling and Football Club". The present G.A.A. grounds in Geraldine Park were first used by the Club for inter county and inter club games around that time. Indeed so successful was the Club in promoting Gaelic games that the Athy pitch was generally regarded as the best available in County Kildare.

In 1940 a new Technical School was built on the Carlow Road and the then Parish Priest Canon McDonnell indicated his intention to pass on the rooms vacated by the Technical School to the Sisters of Mercy. The members of the C.Y.M.S. protested as they expected that the premises would be re-allocated to their Society. Negotiations between the parties in which James McNally, Parish Clerk, played an important role resulted in a compromise whereby one of the vacated Technical School rooms was handed back to the C.Y.M.S.

The L-shaped premises at Stanhope Place continued to be occupied by the C.Y.M.S. until 1960 when they were demolished in preparation for the construction of the new St. Michael’s Church.

In return for giving up its home of almost 70 years the Society was allocated St. John's Hall, formerly the home of the Social Club players in St. John's Lane. Here the Society remained until 1984 when by agreement with the then Parish Priest and with the support of the Sisters of Mercy it relocated its activities in Mount St. Mary's where it remains to this day.

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