Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Jimmy Curtis

The name Curtis is one you will find as you search back through the records for people who lived for generations in this part of South Kildare.  It’s a family name which emerged from the shadows of the First World War when three young brothers from Rockfield, Athy had their lives wrenched from them in the muddy battlefields of France and Flanders.  Laurence, Patrick and John Curtis had enlisted, never to return to home or family and they left behind grieving parents and two younger brothers, Michael and Dan.  The Curtis brothers were not to know that from the neighbouring village of Crookstown another young man, just recently married and a reservist in the British Army had also rejoined his unit.  He too was to die and his grieving widow had his remains brought back to Ireland from Netley Hospital where he died to be buried in Crookstown Cemetery.  Last Sunday, 31st May, was the 100th anniversary of Andrew Delaney’s death.

Two generations on, the two families who suffered those losses in war were brought together when Jimmy Curtis, a nephew of the three Curtis brothers, married Margaret Murphy, granddaughter of Andrew Delaney.  Jimmy Curtis celebrated his 80th birthday last week and this week I want to pay a small tribute to a man who in his young days was one of the more sporting and elegant footballers ever to have played for Castlemitchell Gaelic Football Club.

Jimmy was just 18 years of age when he togged out for the Castlemitchell team in the Intermediate Final of 1953 when the team won the first championship title for the club founded 14 years earlier.  The victory was recorded by the late Mossy Reilly, who himself played on that team, in a ballad which included the lines:-

‘Here’s to Jimmy Curtis, the baby of our side
He kicked balls to the forwards
Some were scored and some were kicked wide.’

The suspension of the entire Castlemitchell team in 1956 did not deflect Jimmy Curtis from advancing his footballing career.  In October 1959 Jimmy was picked for the Kildare Senior County team.  He played full back in that first match against Westmeath in what was the O’Byrne cup final, only for Kildare to lose by 1 point.  Other local players on the team that day included Mick Carolan and Brendan Kehoe.

Jimmy continued to be picked for the County Senior team, always for the full back line and for the most part played alongside Danny Flood who held the full back position for many years.  Jimmy’s last game for his native county was in February 1963 in a National League game against Cork which was played in Cork city. 

Jimmy Curtis continued playing with Castlemitchell and in 1960 the club’s senior team included Jimmy’s brothers Mickey and Lar.  He continued playing with the local club for many years thereafter and captained the Castlemitchell Intermediate team which lost the Intermediate Final in 1965.  He was also on the losing side two years later.

At 40 years of age Jimmy was still gracing the football field when he helped Castlemitchell to win the 1975 Senior League Division 2 title.  I am told that he continued to play for the club until he was 43 years old.  His contribution to the Castlemitchell Club was recognised when in 1980 Jimmy received the Kildare County Board Clubman of the Year award.

I remember Jimmy Curtis not only as a talented footballer but also as a worker in Minch Nortons for almost 35 years.  He was 27 years of age when he married Margaret Murphy, formerly of Convent View, whose father and mother, Jack and Margaret Murphy, were some of the earlier supporters of Athy’s Heritage Centre, having contributed a lot of original material relating to Andrew Delaney who was killed in World War I.  Jimmy and Margaret have 7 daughters, numerous grandchildren and one great granddaughter.  Congratulations to Jimmy on his 80th birthday.

This week we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the ordination of our much loved former Parish Priest, Fr. Philip Dennehy.  Fr. Philip, who was the subject of an Eye on the Past many years ago, continues to work in the Parish of St. Michael’s which he first joined as a young curate in 1963.  He has been with us for 40 years as curate, Parish Priest, and Emeritus Parish Priest.  His spiritual legacy endures, as does the sporting legacy of the Castlemitchell player, Jimmy Curtis, who graced the playing fields in a footballing career which spanned over 25 years. 

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