Paddy Anglim (1904-1954) - Irish Olympic Athlete

On the occasion of the unveiling of plaque in his honour at Rosegreen Community Hall on July 8, 2016


On July 23, 1928 a party of 38 competitors, 33 men and 5 women, departed Westland Row Railway Station, Dublin for the start of a journey that would take them to Amsterdam for the Summer Olympics.

There were 11 athletes in the party and included were two Tipperary men, Paddy Anglim from Rosegreen, who was scheduled to compete in the ‘running broad jump’ and T. D. Phelan,  whose farther was a Clonmel man and who had qualified to take part in the hop, step and jump.
The party took the Mail Boat to London, having been seen off by President Cosgrave, and stayed there over night. They joined the Dutch Steamship, Orange Nassau, at Harwich the following day and sailed for Amsterdam. The boat was to be their accommodation and headquarters for the duration of the Olympics.

In an editorial on the day of their departure from Dublin, the irish Independent took a realistic attitude to Ireland’s chances of winning medals: ‘If we may judge from recorded performance this season, only one of the Irish team, Dr. O’Callaghan in hammer-throwing – has a reasonably good chance of winning his event. In the long jump, for example, the Irish representative (Paddy Anglim isn’t named) will be doing well if he exceeds 23 feet; a score of his foreign rivals will be under their best if they do not exceed 24 feet.’

Paddy Anglim qualified for the Olympics by virtue of his performance in the Irish Athletic Championships at Croke Park in June 1928, when he won the long jump with a jump of 24’ - 41/2” or 7.12 metres, the best jump in the national championships since 1906. It was a spectacular performance as there wasn’t much known about the athlete at the national level before then.

Paddy was born in Rosegreen on September 6, 1904, the only boy in a family of four children. His father was a farmer. There is very little information available of his younger years. He started in Rosegreen National School in January 1910 and was registered under the name of Pat Anglim. He attended only twenty-four days during the first three months. He remained there until 1920. In his last year he was in seventh class. There was only one other pupil in the class, a girl, and whether that had anything to do with the matter, he  attended for only twenty-seven days in his final year. It is believed that Paddy attended Rockwell College for some time but was unhappy there and finished his secondary schooling in Clonmel High School. Presumably he helped out on the farm during the holidays though from an early age he had little interest in farming. 

When he became aware of his athletic ability we don’t know. Neither do we know for certain when he joined the fledgling An Garda Siochana. The Civic Guard had been formed by the Provisional Government in February 1922 to take over the responsibility of policing the new state. It took over responsibility from the RIC and the Dublin Metropolitan Police. Later the name of the force was changed to An Garda Siochana with the creation of the Irish Free State in August 1923.

The first Commissioner was Michael Staines but he lasted only eight months and was succeeded by General Eoin O’Duffy. The latter was a physical fitness enthusiast and he put a great emphasis on the physical development of the new police force. He favoured the athletic types and any members of the force, who showed athletic talent was given every opportunity to develop and improve it.

The best information we have on how Paddy joined An Garda Siochána comes from Seamus Leahy. He got to know Paddy Anglim in 1952 at the time of a diphtheria outbreak in Nenagh, following which Paddy became a visitor to the family home. He recalls one conversation in which they were told how Paddy joined the new force. He was performing at some sports and this man arrived and began to take an interest in how Paddy was performing. At some stage he asked Paddy of his plans and whether he was interested in joining the new police force. The man turned out to be General Eoin O’Duffy.  He gave Paddy the fare for the train to Dublin and the following Tuesday he left Rosegreen with a suit case and presented himself in the Phoenix Park, where he was taken on as a new recruit.

Paddy’s athletic ability must have impressed the recruitment officers because when he applied to join he was a half inch short of the required height, 5’ 81/2 inches instead of 5’ 9”. So he got the name as the smallest  member of the force!

It would appear that the year was 1924, when he was twenty years of age because in that year the family farm was leased and was to remain so for nearly 30 years until Paddy’s second son, P. J., took it back in 1953.

There are many gaps in our knowledge of Paddy Anglim’s life during his first four years in An Garda Siochana. It appears that his first station was in Oylgate, Co. Wexford from which he was transferred to Clonmel. Later he was moved to Roscrea and he finished up his life in Puckane in the north of the county. He remained an ordinary policeman all his life and was never interested in becoming a sergeant.

Paddy was a member of Clonmel Athletic and Cycling Club and represented the club in many sports in the years before the 1928 Olympics. We read that on July 1, 1928 he took part in a sports meeting in Ballinasloe and ‘secured a very fine silver cup for the 100 yards open handicap.’ The following day he performed at the Cappawhite sports. His son, P. J. told me that at one stage a case he had for holding medals contained no fewer that seventy-three. Sadly this impressive collection was dispersed over time as the medals were taken by members of the family, and more, plus other athletic prizes, given away to friends. It appears that Paddy didn’t put too much store on his winnings as if taking part was the most important thing.

We do have a reference to achievements of his in 1926. He represented Tipperary against Limerick in an intercounty contest in that year and another reference has him winning the long jump and the pole vault at the Clonmel sports.

At any rate whatever he was doing during these years must have convinced him that he was above the ordinary in his athletic ability and quite capable of competing at the national level. He made his first appearance in the Irish Athletic Championships at Croke Park in June 1928 and made a winning long jump of 23’-41/2” or. In metre measurements, 7.16. It was a sensational jump and shot him so much into the national headlines that he was chosen to represent Ireland the following month in the Summer Games.

Unfortunately his achievement in Amsterdam didn’t live up to expectations as his best jump was 6.81 metres or 22’ 4”, well below his 7.16 in the national championships. He came 21st out of 41 competitors and well behind the winning jump of 25’ 5” of the U.S. athlete, Hans.

Paddy came 3rd in the long jump the National Championships in 1929 and second the following year. Then came his glorious achievement of six championships in six years, 1931-1936 inclusive. During these years he never bettered the mark he set in the 1928 championship. His best recorded jump was made in Tipperary Town on August 24, 1934, when he reached 24’ 6”.

His versatility as an athlete was revealed during these years. As well as the long jump Paddy won four National championships in the Pole Vault in 1931, 1932 1933, and 1934, and he came second in 1935. Also in the 1932 National Championships he came third in the javelin.

Michael O’Dwyer, who has written extensively on the exploits of Tipperarymen in sport, has this to say about Paddy Anglim’s achievements: ‘As well as his 24 ‘ 6” in the long jump, he could throw the javelin over 150 feet, he was a handy sprinter, a 37 feet shot putter and 5’ 7” high jumper, once recorded 15.8 seconds in the 120 yards hurdles, and on August 23, 1931 at the Templemore Garda Sports, he jumped 11’ 7” in the pole vault, beating his own Irish record.’ An impressive record indeed.

Paddy first represented Ireland internationally at Croke Park in 1929, competing in the long jump against Achilles AC. He won the long jump in the international v England and Scotland at Crewe in 1930, the only Irish victory with Pat O’Callaghan’s in the hammer. He won twice in internationals in 1931 in Dublin and was victorious in Edinburgh in 1932, his achievements internationally following his national championship wins.

He travelled to Wales in August 1934 to compete in the Swansea Valley Athletic Sports, where he not only broke the Welsh long jump and pole vault records but he also won the shot putt and discuss events.

He took part in the 1936 Irish All-Round Championships, or the Decathlon, held at Killarney Stadium and finished second to Ned Tobin.

Probably the greatest disappointment in Paddy Anglim’s life was his failure to qualify for the long jump at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. At the Irish Olympic trials the standard set was  23’ 10”. In his final jump Paddy landed out over the 24’ mark but fell back on one hand and the measuring tape had to be put on the hand mark, which was 23’ 8” from the board. He was convinced that had he got to Los Angeles his jump would have improved greatly and he was always disappointed that he never got the chance of joining O’Callaghan and Tisdall, who did so well at the games.

Paddy married Kathleen Carroll in 1931 and the couple had seven children, six boys, Willie, P. J., Francis, Matt, Thomas and John, and Rita, who came in the middle of the six boys. Matt and Rita have departed this life.

Paddy, himself died tragically at the young age of 49 years on March 3, 1954. He had been in bad health for some time and had been out of work since the previous September. It is appropriate that we should remember his passing on the evening that Mass was celebrated in Rosegreen Cemetery, where he is buried.

Equally important is the celebration of his life, which the unveiling of this plaque to his memory is all about.  Galteemore in the Nationalist on the occasion of his death, referred to him as ‘a splendid all round athlete’ as indeed he was and as these remarks about his athletic achievements bear eloquent testimony of. The village of Rosegreen and the wider parish of Cashel & Rosegreen have to be proud of him, their most distinguished native son, whose achievements have never been equalled let alone surpassed.

It has been a great honour to me to be asked to say these few words in honour of Paddy Anglim and I hope they do justice to his greatness as well as encouraging others to look closely at his life and achievements with a view to emulating them.