Clonmel Civic Reception Speech

Speech on the occasion of a Civic Welcome to Seamus J. King by Clonmel Corporation in August 1988, following the publication of Tipperary's G.A.A. Story 1935-1984


Your Worship, Mayor Norris, Aldermen, Councillors, Guests. 

I am extremely grateful and thankful for this honour conferred on me. It is the first time I have received such acclaim and I accept it with grateful thanks. 

That such an honour should come from the Mayor and Corporation of Clonmel makes it all the greater. You are a distinguished and ancient Corporation and this adds to the lustre of the honour. Ny colleague, Sean O'Donnell, has been researching your history and has informed me of your antecedents. 

You are generous towards me but that is but a reflection of the generosity you have shown in the past. I want you to cast your minds back to October 27, 1915. Cavan had defeated Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final as a result of a disputed goal. Tipperary objected to the goal and the scorer, Jim Smith. They lost the appeal. The following October Cavan came to Clonmel for a league match. Were there any protests? No. When the Cavan players arrived they were met by the Clonmel Pipers' Band. They were escorted to the Town Hall and welcomed by Mayor White on behalf of the Corporation and citizens. The Mayor extended a hearty cead mile failte and told the players that the county had been impressed by Cavan's displays in the All-Ireland semi­-final and final and were honoured to have them as their guests that night! Would you believe such big-heartedness! And what did Cavan do? They scored a penalty in the dying minutes of the game to grab victory by a point for the second time that year. Were you in goals that day, Jim? 

Role of Gaelic Games

I know, your Worship, that this honour is not only for me but for the games of hurling and football and the major part they play in Irish life. In conferring this honour you are giving recognition to the contribution Gaelic games makes to the lives of people, espec­ially in towns like Clonmel and in counties like Tipperary. You are recognising that the most important topic of conversation this week, last week, next week and the week after, is Tipperary and the All-­Ireland. 

You are also tonight, your Worship, paying tribute to all those who play and administer. the games in the county at large, in the south division in general and in Clonmel in particular. You are recognising the players and officers of the south board and of the six clubs that exist in this town. I should also like to have the occasion honour some of the greats of the past, a number of whom like Gerry O'Keeff'e, Jim Williams, Bunny Lambe and Theo English are among us this evening. 

Clonmel is the biggest town in Tipperary and I come originally from the parish of Lorrha, which is the Tipperary parish farthest distanced from this town. Before I came to live in Cashel in 1965 I couldn't have been in Clonmel more than once or twice. The division between the two parts of the county was very real. North Tipperary people didn't have much reason to go to Clonmel. They didn't pass through it to many places. In fact when I was growing up in Lorrha if you were going to Clonmel it was usually a case of being sent. Clonmel meant one place and one place only and that was St. Luke's. And, with the attitudes to mental illness at that time it was not a very pleasant thought. 

Things changed after coming to live in Cashel which many regard as a kind of dormitory town to Clonmel and many come to for the shopping bargains at Dunne's Stores and other retail outlets. The traffic between the two places is so great that it was best described by one of our Cashel Councillors, Tom Wood. In the course of a debate in the Cashel U.D.C. he said that any Cashel person coming to Clonmel would need to have three hands, two for carrying the bags of messages and a third for greeting all the other Cashel people he met carrying similar loads of messages. 

Increased mobility has brought us all more closely together and I am glad that not only have we Cashel people present this evening but my brother Liam and his wife Kathleen were able to make the seventy-odd mile journey from Lorrha. 

Johnny Gaynor

This is an occasion to celebrate Gaelic games and I should like to use it to recall one other person, whoi is now dead and gone. I do so not in any critical way but that he may not be forgotten. The man's name is Johnny Gaynor. He was one of the brightest hurlers in the parish of Lorrha in the early twenties and won·a divisional title in 1924. At the end o:f that year he began to behave strangely and was moved to Clonmel, to St. Luke's. Sean O'Driscoll got to know him there and used to talk to him about hurling and about an All-Ireland junior medal he believed he won at some stage at Dungarvan. When I was researching the Lorrha book I went to interview him but, by then, he was blind, in a wheelchair and his mind was scattered. I attended his funeral in May 1981 when he left St. Luke's after fifty-eight years. I recall Johnny's name on this occasion, not in any morbid or sorrowful way, Johnny Gaynor is a forgotten man but in his prime, in the early twenties, he was a brilliant goalkeeper. A contemporary, Tom Duffy, who is still alive, expressed himself vividly on his ability. 'He wouldn't let a midge past him.' I would like on this occasion to have him remembered for his hurling brilliance and his love of the game. 

Your Worship, I am extremely thankful to you and your fellow councillors for the great recognition you have given me. I shall cherish the memory always and look on Clonmel with deep gratitude for ever.