Thursday, December 25, 1997

Charles Campbell, Scottish Soccer International

Although born in Scotland in 1854 he always regarded Ireland as his native country. Charles Campbell came to Ireland in 1861 from Pertshire in Scotland when his father James took up the tenancy of a farm on the County Galway border. The following year the Campbell family comprising nine sons and three daughters with their parents James and Margaret took up the tenancy of the Duke of Leinster’s lands at Kilkea Farm in South Kildare.

Two of the sons were to become early members of the Queen’s Park Football Club based in Hampden Park in Glasgow. How or why the Campbell brothers Edward and Charles returned to Scotland I do not know but on the 7th July 1870 Charles enrolled as a member of the newly formed soccer club. His older brother Edward had joined a short time earlier and was elected a member of the club committee in April 1870. Edward was to marry Ellen Hewson, daughter of Reverend John Hewson, Rector of Kilmore in Co. Mayo in 1880 and the Queen’s Park Club records disclosed no further involvement by him in the Club’s affairs.

Charles, however, was to retain links with the club and with the Scottish Football Association for many years both as a player and as an administrator. He became a member of the Queen’s Park Club first team on the 25th October 1873. His first game was a Scottish Cup Tie against Dumbreck which incidentally was the first match played in Hampden Park. He went on to play 81 matches for Queen’s Park as a half back. During his football career he won six Scottish cup medals with Queen Park F.C. between 1873/74 and 1885/86. He also got two F.A. cup runner-up medals when Queen’s Park were beaten in 1884 and again in 1885 by Blackburn Rovers in the F.A. finals played at the Oval in London. He was capped for Scotland on 13 occasions although the Queen’s Park Club history published in 1920 only credits him with 10 international caps. In those early days the international matches in which Charles Campbell played were against either England or Wales. It was one of his great regrets that Scotland did not play Ireland in an international match during his playing career. While still a playing member of the club Charles was elected president of the Queen’s Park Football Club for the 1879/1880 season. The earlier mentioned Club history refers to Charles Campbell as

“wrapped up heart and soul in the Queen’s Park. He, during his many years of active connection with it did more for the Club than any other of its many eminent members. With all his exterior bearing of nonchalance Charles Campbell was an intensely nervous man and took sorely to heart any disaster which befell the team …. His eloquence [he was a capable public speaker] generally swayed the club committee to his views, nor was he exultant over a beaten opponent.
A specialist at after dinner oratory he often assured the defeated the game was the hardest ever he had played. The score (no matter how great) in no sense represented the run of the game and that Queens Park was lucky in winning …. A great player almost to the end of his football career he played the game fairly - too fairly according to the light of modern football. Charging was charging in those days not as today when if one man rubs shoulders on the field with an opponent the whistle is blown. Charles took with equanimity and gave back with interest the hard knocks he received. It is recorded Campbell always apologised when he grassed his man. In defeat he was never despondent, his axiom being `we must do better next time’. He has left his mark on the game and he can console himself in his retirement that he has won universal respect and admiration”

Charles Campbell retired from the club committee at its AGM in May 1890. His retirement was the occasion of a presentation to him of a gold watch and chain inscribed “Presented to Mr. Charles Campbell by the members of Queen’s Park Football Club in recognition of valuable services rendered - Glasgow 18th May 1890”. After his retirement he devoted much of his time to the training of young footballers in Glasgow. The Queens Park Club history noted that

“on the occasion of cup ties or special matches his nervousness was such that he could not bear to look on during the progress of the game. He had been known to remain downstairs in the second Hampden Pavilion while the game progressed, rushing up the spiral stairs when cheers denoted a goal had been obtained. On being assured that all was going well he would go down again. At the finish no man appeared more indifferent and he concealed from all observers the intense nervous strain he had undergone. Truly his heart and soul were in the Queens Park.”

A resident of Glasgow he carried on a successful career as a stockbroker for a number of years. In 1889 he was elected president of the Scottish Football Association which position he held until the following year. His father had died at Kilkea in 1876 and his mother in 1880 and the family farm passed to his older brother David. Charles subsequently inherited Kilkea farm when David died in 1897 but remained in Glasgow until about 1907 when he finally returned to Ireland. A bachelor Charles Campbell farmed at Kilkea until his death in 1927 at the age of 73 years. He was buried in the Presbyterian plot in St. Michael’s Cemetery, Athy surely the only Scottish international soccer player and Scottish cup holder to lie in that medieval graveyard.

Last week I wrote of the launch of John MacKenna’s new book which will be held in the Town Hall Library on Friday, 23rd January at 8 p.m.. Waterstones, the International Booksellers have just announced that MacKenna’s new book, `The Last Fine Summer’ has been chosen as their Book of the Month for February 1998 - a great achievement for a local writer.

Thursday, December 18, 1997

Writers of Kilberry, Ann O'Neill Barna, Dorothy M. Large, Winnifred Letts

Many writers have in the past been kind to Athy its people and the surrounding countryside. It is forty years ago since I came across the first of many books written by authors familiar with the locality. Ann O’Neill Barna the American born wife of John Ranelagh who fought in 1916 had her book “Himself & I” published in 1958. In it she gave a warmly amusing account of life in Kilberry and Athy in the 1950’s. Her descriptions of the different aspects of local country life were funny and remain delightful to read even today. Who can forget her account of an Athy character from the past known only as Mary who once manned the fish and vegetable stall in Emily Square. Here is part of what Ann O’Neill Barna wrote:
“The one elaborate stall which had place of honour in front of the Square was run by Mary from Dublin …. She was a scrawny dark little thing with snapping black eyes, lank black hair and a toothy but engaging smile. She wore a shapeless overcoat and an ancient cloche hat … She controlled everything with a loud sharp voice …. Chanting ‘cahbages and tomahtoes, ahpricocks, ripe bahnanhnas’ ….. ‘Never mind the green dearie it is only the outside. I’ll peel one for you.’ She took up a banana and held it high and with dramatic gestures peeled four strips until it was half done. The banana was unripe and hard as a rock. ‘I’m sorry it is not ripe enough I said feeling very embarrassed at the wretched banana which looked so exposed and at the silent crowd watching all this with bated breath. Mary snorted ‘not ripe sez she’ to the crowd in a voice that carried for miles, ‘not ripe! after me stripping me bahnahna for her”.

O’Neill Barna lived in Kilberry for a few years in the 1950’s as did at an earlier time, poet, playwright and fiction writer Winnifred M. Letts who was married to W.H. F. Verschoyle. Born in England in 1882 Winnifred wrote extensively between 1907 and 1941 producing many works of fiction and some plays which were put on in the Abbey. She wrote of rural Leinster and two of her books of poetry were titled “Songs from Leinster” and “More Songs from Leinster”. In 1933 she published a book of reminiscences titled “Knockmaroon” which was illustrated by Kathleen Verschoyle. A book of wistful charm Knockmaroon deals with her life in Ireland and of Kilberry she wrote “the stones of this place are very deep in history and I feel often as if the past possesses it and will not let it go. Ivy and nettles are so quick to cover up the stones and to make raids upon all that we would make of a garden. We are surrounded by little stumps of castles, one in the farmyard proudly rules the hayrick. Another, Castle Redy, in a field has its legends of buried treasure and of the old La Rede family who once rode about their fields, now given up to grazing beasts. Just by the avenue gate lies the old churchyard and the ivy buried nave of the church of St. Bride who has become “Berry” in these days. Ruins of the Abbey stand close to the house”.

Another female writer who may have lived in the Kilberry area was Dorothy M. Large. Born Dorothy Lumley in 1891 she is believed to have been a daughter of Mr. Lumley a tailor of Duke Street and that she married a Large of Castle Rheban. However, Tullamore where another branch of the Lumley family were living is sometimes stated as her place of birth and I have made certain assumptions regarding her link with the Larges of Rheban on the basis of her writings. In her book of short stories “The Kind Companions” published in 1936 one of her stories was called “The Cloney Road” and the place name “Cloney” is used in more of her stories. Indeed in 1934 she published a small book of poetry titled “The Cloney Carol and Other Verses”. “Talk in the Townlands” a book of short stories published in 1937 had its story centred on “Rathberry Football Club” an obvious reference to Kilberry. Dorothy Large wrote humourous novels and short stories but her sketches of country life however tended to be sentimental and heavily stage Irish.

It is quite an extraordinary coincidence that Kilberry should have been home to the three eminent female writers of the century. The works of Dorothy Large and Winnifred M. Letts were once extremely popular but are now out of print while Ann O’Neill Barna’s only contribution to the literature of the area is also difficult to find these days. However, antiquarian bookshops can still turn up copies of these writers’ works which are guaranteed to give a fascinating glimpse of Irish country life of a couple of generations ago.

If the Kilberry countryside and its people held a special fascination for these writers the same can be said for the contemporary writer John MacKenna whose love affair with Castledermot and South Kildare is well documented. John who had already written a social history of Castledermot of 1925 has managed to keep South Kildare and his native village especially at the very centre of his fiction writing over the last few years. His first book of short stories “The Fallen and Other Stories” published in 1992 won the Irish Times fiction prize the following year. This was followed in 1993 by his first novel “Clare” which dealt with the life of the English rural poet John Clare. Two years later his second book of short stories “A Year of Our Lives” was published by Picador to critical acclaim earning for the author the description of being “one of the most individual prose writers in Ireland”.

On the 23rd January in the Town Hall, Athy his second novel set in Castledermot and the South Kildare countryside will be launched by Mary O’Donnell the writer and poet. Entitled “The Last Fine Summer” the book will excite and delight those who have been observing MacKenna’s sure rise in the Irish literary world. He is an able writer of considerable stature and everyone with an interest in good writing should come along to the Town Hall on the 23rd January at 8 p.m. to show support for a local writer whose work is gaining in importance with each new publication.

Thursday, December 11, 1997

Simon Vierpyl

A visit to the National Gallery in Merrion Square, Dublin is always a must at this time of the year. As always there are discoveries to be made amongst the collection of old master paintings in the gallery which was established in 1854 to commemorate the generosity of Carlow man William Dargan in funding the Irish Industrial Exhibition the previous year.

I have visited the Gallery on many occasions over the years but it was only recently that I took note of the marble bust of William Robert Fitzgerald 2nd Duke of Leinster which stands in the first room of the Irish collection. William, Duke of Leinster was to marry Emily St. George and both of them have given their names to the principal streets of our town. The bust of William shows him as an officer of the Volunteers which were formed to defend Ireland against a feared French invasion in the latter part of the eighteenth century. The most interesting feature of the bust however was the name of the sculptor inscribed on its base. The name was Simon Vierpyl with the additional details London 1725 - 1810 Athy.

Vierpyl was born in London in 1725 and at a young age was apprenticed to the distinguished Belgian born sculptor Peter Scheemakers. Scheemakers in the 1740’s was one of the premier sculptors of London, feted in his day for his statue of Shakespeare which was erected in Westminster Abbey. It was in the studio of Scheemaker that Vierpyl acquired his taste for the statuary of classical Rome. In 1748 Vierpyl left for Italy where he was to spend the next nine years of his life. His particular skill was to make copies of the great sculptures of the classical civilizations of the Greeks and the Romans. He lived in the Palazzo Zuccarri in Rome where he shared rooms with many of the most famous artists of the age including Sir Joshua Reynolds. Vierpyl is one of the figures in ‘Parody of the School of Athens’ which Reynolds painted in 1751. It forms part of the National Gallery’s collection today.
Vierpyl was a popular artist and was busily engaged in commissions for patrons such as Lord Wicklow and Lord Charlemont. By far his largest and most significant commission came from Rev. Edward Murphy, Charlemont’s tutor and travelling companion. From 1751 to 1755 Vierpyl copied 22 statutes and 78 busts in terra-cotta of Roman Emperors and other figures from the Capitoline Museum in Rome. They were all sent to Ireland in 1755. Vierpyl later described the work in a letter to Murphy in 1774 ‘your happy, and, I believe, singular thought, (getting the whole series copied, and then by one artist only), has never before nor to this day been executed by any sculptor except me. So that your imperial series is the only one of the kind now in the world. I am certain that no eminent artist will here after stand four years, winter and summer (as I have done), in the chilling Capitoline Museum to model so many busts an statues with his own hand’.

Rev. Murphy bequeathed the collection to Lord Charlemont, whose descendants presented the set to the Royal Irish Academy in 1868. With the patronage of Lord Charlemont, Vierpyl came to Ireland in 1756 where he established his reputation to such a degree that his work is noted in the majority of Dublin’s finest buildings of the late eighteenth century. Charlemont engaged him to supervise the construction of Rutland Square, now known as Parnell Square. Vierpyl himself bought No.21 on the square in 1760. Lord Charlemont himself resided in Charlemont House (now the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery) where the collection bequeathed to Charlemont by Rev Edward Murphy were kept in the library of the house.

For Charlemont he executed much of the decorative sculpture for the Casino at Marino, a folly used by Lord Charlemont for holding parties. One of Vierpyl’s clever works was the sculpting of Urns for the roof of the Casino which disguised the chimneys.

Vierpyl’s work for Charlemont brought him to the attention of other patrons. Among his most significant work in Dublin included the earlier version of the Rotunda of the Rotunda Hospital, the facade of St. Thomas’ Church, Marlborough St., executed by him from the design of the Palladio in Venice. He also executed the decorative work on the Royal Exchange, now City Hall. For his contributions to the work on Poolbeg lighthouse he received the thanks of the Ballast Board.

From 1773-1779 he was responsible for the supervision and execution of the decorative stone work on the Blue Coats’ School, Blackhall Place, now the headquarters of the Law Society of Ireland. A painting by the artist Jonathan Trotter, dating to 1779 portrays the nine central characters involved in the construction of the school, one of whom is Simon Vierpyl.

Although his career was one of great distinction, it was his pupil Edward Smyth, an Irishman, who would achieve greater renown. Smyth’s sculptures adorn the principal public buildings built in Dublin in the late eighteenth century. His work graces edifices such as the Four Courts, the Bank of Ireland on College Green and most notably the Custom’s House. Smyth is responsible for the fourteen different River Gods carvings which are the keystones for the windows of the ground floor of the Custom’s House.

Vierpyl was married on the 26th December 1758 in St. Andrew’s Church in Dublin to Frances Dickson, who was a niece of a Rev. Dr. Henry of Kildare Street. Sleator’s Public Gazetteer described her as ‘ a most agreeable young lady , with a considerable fortune and every other qualification which can render that state happy’. They had a number of children including two sons, William and Charles, who became sculptors. However she was to later meet her death by throwing herself out of a window of their house on Batchelor’s Walk, Dublin, some time in the 1770’s. Viepyl was married again on the 30th of August 1779 to Mary Burrowes.

How Simon Vierpyl came to die in Athy on the 10 February 1810 is a mystery. A clue may lie in his second marriage to Mary Burrowes, a family name found in Co. Kildare and Co. Laois. There is no indication of where he lived in Athy and strangely enough his death certificate does not give same merely stating “father to Mrs Feranges from the Bachelors Walk Dublin”. We do know that Simon Vierpyl lived to 85 years of age and was buried in St. John’s Cemetery, Athy. One of the finest sculptors of his generation born in London of Dutch parents lies in an unmarked grave in the cemetery where the remains of the medieval monks of Athy probably also repose. It is ironic that an artist who spent so much of his life creating works of art in stone and marble today has no monument to mark his final resting place in St. Johns Cemetery.

Thursday, December 4, 1997

Annual Review of Articles

Another year has come and gone. It is time to look back on 1997 and some of the topics carried in past Eyes on the Past.

Kilkea born Ernest Shackleton was featured in the first article of the New Year. Twice during the year I made trips to the London auction house of Sothebys in an attempt to acquire Shackleton memorabilia and artifacts for Athy’s new Heritage Centre. On both occasions material was purchased and when the centre opens in March 1998 Ernest Shackleton the South Kildare man who conquered the world of polar exploration will be suitably commemorated.

At different times during the year I wrote of Eamon Malone local commander of the old IRA and of William Connor and James Lacey who were shot at Barrowhouse on the 15th May 1921. The local Urban District Council honoured Michael Malone by having its new housing scheme at Woodstock Street named after him. Malone Terrace will keep alive the memory of that brave man who lead by example during the War of Independence. Perhaps Connor and Lacy will also be suitably honoured in the not too distant future.

The visit of Archbishop Walter Empey to Athy on 2nd March for a confirmation ceremony in St. Michael’s Church was the occasion of a civic reception by the local Urban District Council and an Eye on the Past article. Archbishop Empey was generous of his time on the day of his visit and one delightful moment was captured when Tom “Tanner” Bracken met the Archbishop and the two reminisced of the days when the Brackens and the Empeys worked together as painters.

The closure of Herterichs pork shop on 29th March afforded an opportunity to write of Ernest Herterich and his family who came to Athy in 1942. The delights of Herterich’s home cooked ham are no more, a victim of the one stop shopping culture developed by the supermarket chains. Jack Murphy of Convent View at 94 years of age and one of Athy’s oldest residents passed away early in the year. He and his wife Margaret were good friends of Eye on the Past and the story of Jack’s long working life encompassed so much of Athy’s commercial history since the 1920’s.

St. John’s Cemetery was the focus of a training scheme during the summer which resulted in a general clean up of this most historic site. It also afforded me an opportunity to delve into its history and its many interesting reminders of Athy’s past. Soon afterwards St. Michael’s Cemetery and its interesting collection of headstones was featured in an Eye on the Past. Apart from the local men killed in World Wars I and II many other historic connections where found in the cemetery. A distant kinsman of Irish parliamentarian Henry Grattan is buried in a quiet corner of St. Michael’s. William Grattan was a lieutenant in the Connaught Rangers and fought in the Peninsular War. Another more recent find in St. Michael’s of which I have yet to write is the grave of a former Captain of the Scottish International Soccer team. More about that in a future article.

Another sport, boxing, featured in an article on St. Michael’s Boxing Club. The first full international boxing match involving Ireland and Canada held outside of Dublin was in the Grove Theatre on the 13th July. The Boxing Club is still going strong but sadly the Grove has closed its doors again.

Some of my travels during the year were remembered particularly two trips made during the 1400th anniversary of the death of St. Colmcille. A summer trip to Iona in the Inner Hebrides off the Isle of Mull brought me for the first time to this most historic and religious of places. A later trip to Derry to visit the sites associated with the Irish Saint before he departed these shores completed the pilgrimage.

Betty May and her family came back to Athy for holidays in the summer. In America since 1949 Betty formerly of St. Martin’s Terrace remembered life in Athy after the War and her friends in the Social Club. The emigration story of the Bradley Brothers who left Athy in the 1920’s for America to be followed by the members of the May family in the 1940’s and 1950’s was typical of those difficult times in Ireland.

A two part article on the first tenants of St. Plewman’s Terrace in 1936 drew an enormous response as did the later article on Ned Ward. The occasion of the article on the legendary Ned was the closure of his daughter’s betting shop in Duke Street. The Ward family had carried on business in Athy since the early 1920’s and the Ward name still manages to conjure up memories of times long past in Athy.

The story of George Lammon who holds a unique record as the longest serving employee of Tegral unfolded the most interesting tale of immigration from Newcastle Upon Tyne and how a Geordie name was transformed. As usual November 11th and the ending of World War I was remembered but sadly Mae Vagts whom I mentioned in that article as a daughter of Edward Stafford of Butlers Row has since died.

A Happy New Year to all.