Ballinrobe Literary Institute Cup: Athletics 1873

1850 – 1869: set up somewhere between these years.

Mayo Examiner Nov 1 1869. Newspaper cutting referencing the Ballinrobe Literary Institute at the “Great Tenant Rights Meeting” in castlebar.

Also in “Nation” Dec 12th 1874 … “at the members annual meeting in 1874 expressed “heartfelt sorrow” at the loss of the parish priest Fr. T Hardiman who “since the foundation of the institution, evinced the liveliest interest in our progress”

As Fr. Hardiman was parish priest in Ballinrobe from around 1850 this would imply a set up date for the society of somewhere between 1850 – 1869.

1871: A soiree was held in “Quinn’s large rooms” in Ballinrobe, full title of “Ballinrobe Young Men’s Literary Institute” listed.

From the Ballinrobe Chronicle of Jan 7th 1871 “The soiree of the “Ballinrobe Young Men’s Literary Institute”, came off last evening, in Quinn’s large rooms, in this town, and was fully up to the expectations of the promoters. The attendance of the members and their friends was good, and the arrangements satisfactory. Dancing was kept up until morning, when the company separated highly pleased with the entertainment”

1873: First Athletic sports held in the Green with a Literary Institute cup being won by J. Barret as first prize for race no. 6 the 200 yards flat race. J.Regan was second winning a Meerschaum pipe with Cunningham a very close third. T.Stanners, W. Kearns and J. Valkenburgh finished in that order.

The Institutes assembly rooms were at this time located in Glebe Street. The Executive committee in October of that year was listed as J. W. Cunningham, Chairman. P. J. Monahan, C. W. Armstrong, W. Kearns, H. Monahan. The Institutes colours were Green and White.

Connaught Telegraph Sept 2nd 1876 “The fourth annual Athletic Sports, inaugurated and so creditably carried out by the members of Ballinrobe Literary Institute, came off, on Thursday last, on “The Green”” Implying that the sports of 1873 were the first to have been undertaken by the Ballinrobe Literary society.

Mayo Examiner of 20th Oct 1873 (page 2) we get a full listing of the proposed events of the day for the athletics to be held in the Green on 22nd October.


TO COME 0FF ON WEDNESDAY, 22ND OCTOBER, 1873, (Weather permitting) ON THE GREEN,

Which has been kindly given for the occasion by Captain JACKSON.

PATRONS. Thomas Tighe, Esq.. J.P      R Jones –  Bank of Ireland

Captain Jackson, 8th Hussars.               R. N. Button, Esq., 8th  Hussars                                                              

Dr Twiss.                                                Dr Kelly


J. W. Cunningham, Chairman.

P. J. Monahan          C. W. Armstrong

W. Kearns                H. Monahan


Dr Kelly. R. N. Sutton, Esq., 8th Hussars.

Starter and Referee – J. W. Cunningham.

Hon Treasurer – T. Stanmore.

Hon. Sec P. J. Grealish.

To commence at 11.30 sharp

1st Race – 300 yards (Flat) – 1st prize, 10s; 2nd, 5s. Civilias only,

2 – 300 yards (Flat) – 1st prize, 10s; 2nd. 5s. Military only.

3 – Putting 561b Weight – Prize, 7s 6d.

4 – Hop, Step & Jump (Running) – 1st prize, 7s 6d.

5 – Long Jump (Running) – lst prize, 10s.

6 – 200 Yards Flat Race (Members of LI only)  – First prize, Lit. Institute PRIZE CUP. To be won two successive years. Second prize,  A Meerschuum Pipe.

7 – 400 Yards, Hurdle Race, over 6 flights – 1st prize, 10s; 2nd, 5s. Civilians only.

8 – 400 Yards Hurdle Race, over same course as No. – 1st prize, 10s; 2nd, 5s. Military only.

9 – 200 Yards Flat Race (juveniles) – 1st prize, 5s ; 2nd, 8s. Open to Boys under 13 years of ago

10 – 600 Yards Hurdle Race over 6 flights — 1st prize, .£1; 2nd, 10s; 3rd, 5s. Open only to those who competed in events. No 7 and 8.

11 – Throwing the Sledge, prize, 7s 6d.

12 – High Jump (running), prize, 10s.

13 – Walking Match – once round the Green – (about one mile) 1st prize, 15s ; 2nd, 7s 6d.

14 – Pony Race. Heats. Twice round the Green.  (Over 4 Hurdles, 2ft 6in high) – prize, Saddle and Bridle, and £1 10s. Four Ponies, the bona fide property of different owners, to start, or no money will be added.

15 – Sack Race (50 yards), prize. 10s.

16 – Wheel Barrow Race (blindfolded), 100 yards, prize, 10s.

17 – Jig dance (best couple), 1st prize, 5s ; 2nd 2s 6d.

18 – Climbing, Greased Pole. Prize, Leg of Mutton.

19 – Old Women’s Race. 100 yards. (For women over 50 years). 1st prize, 10s ; 2nd, 5s

20 – Pig Race. Pig to become the property of the captor, on the conditions as may be hereinafter stated.

Entries for Events, No to 15, will be received by the Hon. Sec, Mr P. J. Grealish, at the Literary Institute Rooms, Glebe Street, from 7 to 10 o’clock, on Tuesday evening, the 21st inst.

Arrangements for Events, 16 to 20, may be made on the Ground.

No money allowed for a walk over in any Race.

The Patrons and Committee reserve the right to postpone these sports from inclemency of the  weather, or other unavoidable cause,

Further particulars can be ascertained on application to the Hon. Sec.

The Band of Mechanics’ Institute will attend.

The following week – Mayo Examiner 27th Oct 1873  an account of the events of the day with the winner of the Cup given as J. Barrett………

The inaugural meeting of the above took place on the Green on Wednesday last, in the presence of a vast and most respectable concourse, and seldom, if ever, had we the pleasure of witnessing a more  orderly and well-conducted assembly than on that occasion. Notwithstanding the rain of the previous day, and the harsh westerly winds which prevailed throughout the morning, the ground was in excellent order. About 4 o’clock, however, some heavy showers having  fallen, some of the events were not competed for. We have been at many such meetings, but never has it been our good fortune to see such perfection in the arrangements made for the several events. Nothing that forethought could prompt or experience suggest was left undone by the Executive Committee, each member of which was indefatigable in his exertions to provide for the comfort and amusement of the public, and to their untiring exertions and indomitable perseverance, the success of the sports is mainly due.

The enclosure, within which the several events were competed for, was about two acres in extent, the course for the different races being marked out by several varied coloured flags, which gave the Green, with the splendid scenery afforded by the view of the distant hills of Kilbride and Partry, with the not unruffled waters of Lough Mask in the foreground, quite a picturesque appearance, but we had  “something more beautiful still” in the presence of the fair sex assembled, lending a charm to the scene, which, we hope, may have softened the adamantine hearts of those who do not like to be called bachelors.”

Conspicuous in the centre of the enclosure, a spacious marquee, gaily decorated with numerous flags, amongst which we noticed that of the Institute, colours green and white, was erected where a champagne , luncheon of the most recherche description was provided by the members of the Institute for their friends, and during which the Minstrel Troupe of the detachment, 8th Hussars, dispersed a sweet selection of favourite airs.

If the number of entries (215) be an index to the success of the meeting, it must have exceeded the anticipation of even the most sanguine member of the Executive Committee..

Precisely at 11.30 the first event on the programme, a flat race of 300 yards, 1st prize, 10s; second do, 5s, came off. There were 17 entries, 8 only having come to the post, and after a well contested race, W. Killeen won, T. Mc Gann getting second prize.

The Military (8th Hussars only) Race over the same course, had six entries, all of whom started, Private Bartles winning as he liked; Private Tidder about I0 yards in the rere, taking 2nd prize.

The Juvenile Race (for boys under 13 years) created much amusement, 18 of the youngsters presenting themselves at the post. Indeed, it required all Mr John Cunningham’s powers of persuasion, physical, and vocal to get the little fellows off in anything like order, Thos Noone taking 1st place, Reilly second.

The  400 Yards Hurdle Race was very well contested. The distance to be traversed being twice round the course and over 4 flights. Eight started in the Ist round, Lenehan led with R. Stanton close up, while J. H. Peyton and J. McNamara were abreast a little distance behind, R. Stanton put on a spurt, took the lead till the 3rd hurdle was reached – the order of the remainder of competitors being unchanged – here Lenehan overtook Stanton, but owing to some accident or crush at the ropes, the latter slipped, Lenehan running in the winner about 10 yards of J. H. Peyton, who was awarded second prize.

The prize for patting the 56lbs weight was taken by John Kelly, distance, 18ft. 3in.

The 200 Yards Flat Race for Members of Literary Institute only. First prize – a Cup (to be won two successive years) ; second prize a Meerschaum Pipe, This was essentially the race of the day, and over which no inconsiderable amount of money changed hands. The following entered – Messrs. T. Stanners, W. Kearns, T Stanners, J. Valkenburgh, J. Regan, C. W. Armstrong, J. Barret, H. Monahan, and W. Stanners (but owing to some unavoidable circumstances Messrs. T. Stanners and Armstrong, although, we understand, being the favourites, did not start). After a fair start had been effected, Monahan assumed the lead with Barret very close up, followed by J. W. Cunningham, Regan, Stanners. Valkenburgh, and Kearns. At the first turn, which was rather sharp, Barret, by a very clever manoeuvre, gained a few feet; while J. W. Cunningham, whose style of running was much admired, lost about the same distance. As soon as the second turn had been passed Monahan was again up to Barret,, but here he slipped and fell, and Regan, putting on “more steam” tried to overhaul the leader, but without success, Barret running in the winner in excellent style. Regan second, while Cunningham was very close behind, Stanners, Kearns, and Valkenburg coming in the order given. Immediately on Barret breasting the tape he was afforded a seat on the shoulders of his brother members of the Institute, and treated to a bird’s eye view of the scene of his triumph. For the Pony Race four started, Boyle’s “Bessy” being declared the winner after a most exciting race in which young Boyle displayed great pluck and judgment.

Tbe Prize for the Best Jig Dancers (10s. and a Paisley Shawl) was awarded to Lawrence Noone and his fair partner, Bridget Conneally.

Perhaps the most amusing event of the day was the climbing the Greased Pole. Prize – a Leg of Mutton. After numerous vain attempts to take it down, John Brett succeeded amid vociferous applause in carrying off the prize.

The day’s sports were brought to a conclusion by a Pig Race. The animal was introduced to the public by his trainer and barber, Mr. Jack Burke, and was most artistically decorated with ribbons and “soft soap.” On being presented with “his ticket o “leave” he showed a racing form which reflected credit upon “Mister Burke.” After “soft soaping” the unmentionables of many of his would be captors, he at length surrendered to Mr. John Walsh alias “Johnny Bawn.”

The quiet and orderly demeanour of the multitude was, we believe, chiefly owing to the energy which had been exhibited by the patrons, amongst whom we particularly noticed Mr. Tighe, J.P.; but this has not surprised us as he has at all times been a generous supporter of anything calculated to create genuine and healthy enjoyment amongst the people of Ballinrobe and its neighbourhood.

The Members of the Institute and public generally ought to feel thankful to Captain Jackson and Mr. Sutton for their kindness in placing the Green at their disposal, as well as for the active part they took in promoting the success of the sports.

After the sports had terminated the Members of the Institute entertained their friends at their Assembly Rooms, Glebe-street – the comic delineations of the negro minstrels of the 8th Hussars tending much to the evening’s enjoyment.

The manner in which the sports were arranged, carried out, and concluded, is but another proof of the energy, public spirit, and unanimity which have ever been characteristic of the people of Ballinrobe. We shall look forward each year with pleasing expectations to the annual sports of the Ballinrobe Literary Institute, which have been so auspiciously inaugurated this year. We, however, would suggest that in future years the sports may be held earlier in the season.

 1874: A donation is made to the Institute towards the Athletic Sports Fund.

Ballinrobe Chronicle 9th May 1874, page ….The Treasures of the Ballinrobe Literary Institute acknowledges having received from Mr Thomas May, £7 16s 3d towards the Athletic Sports Fund.


1875: In June of 1875 the members of the Institute took part in the funeral of Mr George Chapman of Ballinrobe.

Mayo Examiner – Monday, June 21 1875, page 3 ….. Died on Thursday, 16th inst., Mr. George Chapman of Ballinrobe, in the …… Ballinrobe has lost a worthy townsman whose last act ere disease assailed him Was to present, at a cost of £160, a splendid marble altar to the parish Church. Ireland had fewer truer patriots, or the Catholic Church more edifying, practical children…… On Saturday solemn Mass de requiem was offered up for the eternal repose of his soul…. About half-past 12 o’clock the remains were borne from the Church to the graveyard on the shoulders of the members of the Ballinrobe Literary Institute, all wearing white scarfs and black crepe bands.


1875: Winner of 1875 prize cup of the Ballinrobe Literary Institute was Mr. Dann

Freemans Journal 19th June 1875, page 7.

BALLINROBE ATHLETIC SPORTS ….these novel amusements came off on Wednesday. The fickleness of the weather did not deter the attendance of almost everyone in the neighbourhood, of whom your correspondent noticed the following: – Major General Lynch, Mr. Martyn, of Curramore J.P. Mr Weekes?, Mr. Walsh, Mrs Walsh, Mr and Mrs Joyce, Blakehill: Mr. Dove, Mrs Pringle, Mr Duffy, Capt Boycott, Mr Rutledge, Mr and Mrs Griffin Mr and the Misses Stannes, the Protestand Rector of Ballinrobe nad family, and hte Catholic Clergymen of Cong and the Neale, &c: Mr Kilkelly and Mrs Kilkelly, Mr and Mrs Monahan, Mr Gore Kelly and the Misses Gildea, Mr Gibbons and Mrs Gibbons. Mr G Hearne, Mr Fergus and the Misses Fergus, Dr Kelly and Mrs Kelly, Dr Twss and family: Messrs Monahan, Armstrong, Cunningham Stanners, Browne, La?? Kelly, Daly, Egan, ,&c., with about 5,00 of hte s?? and stalwart peasantry of the barony of Kilmaine and neighbouring villages of Cong, Balla, Shrule and Hollymount.

The three prizes for running were won by a Mr. Nally from Balla, who carried all before him. The prize cup of the Ballinrobe Literary Institute was won by Mr Dann; Armstrong second; Stanners third. The Constabulary race was won by Keegan. Jig dance – Several local competitors carried off prizes in this part, but the best of the affair was that the gentleman who gave the use of the grounds to the club entered the list and astonished many by his flexible movements on the light fantastic toe, beating many parties who were considered au fait in the dancing world. The pony race was sharply contested between Mr Thomas Gildea’s bay mare Clear-the-way and Tobias Gildea’s Black Bess Topsy, and John O’Boyle’s chestnut horse Flyaway. Won after a severe struggle by Toby’s little mare Topsy. This concluded the Ballinrobe athletic sports for 1875.


1876: Sports were again held in September of this year.

Connaught Telegraph,Saturday September 2nd 1876

BALLINROBE ATHLETIC SPORTS….. on “The Green” a piece of land which, from its elevated position, gives a commanding view of the surrounding picturesque scenery, and leaves it the natural advantage of being one of the best-adapted spots that could be seen for carrying out to advantage the favourite amusement. It is only right to state that it has been gratuitously given each year by its liberal and much-respected owner, Isaac Mayne, Esq. The several young gentlemen of the Institute were very energetic in carrying out the liberal programme to perfection, and their efforts have been successfully crowned both by the fair number of competitors and the very large and fashionable attendance that put in an appearance on occasion. Despite the rather ominous and gloomy aspect of the morning, still the anger of the “Clerk of the Weather” seemed somewhat appeased from the previous meeting – for, although the forenoon was everything but encouraging, during the day, with the exception of a few light sprinklings of rain, Sol shone out in all his splendour, giving a halo of brightness to the pleasing and cheerful countenances, particularly of the fair sex, who put in no meagre appearance on the occasion. Giving justice to whom justice is due, it may be truly said that the Barony of Kilmaine can vie with any other perhaps in Connaught for fair and beautiful specimens of the gentler sex. The arena for competing was well arranged. The refreshment saloon (which was plentifully stocked with the best brands) and a well-got-up dressing saloon were erected within the circle; also a place was set apart for the Band of the North Mayo Militia. On the arrival of the 11 o’clock train at Claremorris, a brake, driven four-in-hand, was awaiting the Band, which took them to the grounds just in time for the first event, which came off at half-past twelve sharp. The best feature in their performance was that they did not deafen the ears of the large assembly with much of the shrill and unearthly noise of what, we believe, some people call music, under the different headings of “Marches” “Galopes” “Quicksteps” &c., – pieces that may be looked upon as musical to the ears of veterans in sable and purple; but a strain imbued with something more of the national element – such as ” O’Donel Aboo” “St. Patrick’s Day”  ‘Garryowen” or even if it was only “Padding Comes Marching Home” would be more likely to rouse the feelings of the assembly, and would certainly be more duly appreciated by a Ballinrobe audience. The best of order prevailed during the entire day, and it gives us unbounded pleasure to see that sobriety and temperance are making rapid strides over dissipation of any kind at public meetings. The well-to-do merchant and trader, together with their assistants, who toil behind the counter during the six days of the week, require their enjoyment. The sturdy tiller of the soil, as well as the artisans of the various trades, seemed to take their holiday in grand style, each forgetting their worldly callings for the day. The young athletes appeared all in full form, and the gentleman who was most successful and first in merit was Mr. P. W. Nally, who won all the prizes he competed for although handicapped in all races at the rate of giving 8 to 10 yards per hundred odds to his rival competitors Mr. McNeeve Nally won the pole-jump at 9 feet—Mr. W. J. Nally a close second. Messrs. Burke, Tunbridge, and Walshe (all Ballinrobe gents), were also successful in some events. The “Tug-of-War” seemed to create a very lively interest, and the event was richly enjoyed by the large assembly. The different trades were pitted against one another. The held their position against all comers ; the Carpenters were second in merit. The different events of the programme were gone through at seven o’clock, when the vast concourse dispersed to their respective homes, all well pleased with the day’s amusement.


1877: A committee for the Literary Institute was elected for the year. They were as follows

Connaught Telegraph, Saturday January 06 1877, page 5


At the Annual General Meeting of the Members of the above,

the following gentlemen were elected officers of the Institution

for this year; –

Mr. Patrick J. Monahan, President;

Mr. J. W. Cunningham, Vice-President.

Executive Committee – Messrs. H. Monahan, John Barrett, James Valkenburgh, and C. Cunningham.

Treasurer W. J. Hearne.

Hon. Sec. – Mr. Charles W. Armstrong.







Comments about this page

  • Hi Caroline.

    I have a medal with original ribbon for 1874 sports.

    Let me know if anyone local is interested.

    I look forward to hearing from you

    Regards, Conn White [[ London]


    By Conn White (12/05/2023)

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