An Introduction to the History of The London Wexford Association
by President Michael Sills
A group of young Wexford men living in London went on a train journey from Paddington to Fishguard and then onto Croke Park in Dublin in 1954 to see the All-Ireland hurling final between Cork and Wexford. On their way back to London on the train were Jim Murphy and his brother Sean from Castlebridge, Tommy Quirke; Barntown, Peter Brown; Crossabeg, Jack Carty; Bannow-Ballymitty and a few more.
A social need to keep in contact, share news and stories of home, hurling and football, farming and pub-life and dances did influence their decision to form the Wexford Men’s Association. A meeting was called in Jim Murphy’s house in Cricklewood followed by another meeting on the 6th of November 1954 in The Red Lion Pub in Kilburn, London to elect officers and committee. Tommy Quirke from Barntown was elected Chairman and Sean Murphy from Castlebridge was Secretary and the Committe members consisted of Jim Murphy Castlebridge, Tommy Ryan Donard, Matt O’ Neill Adamstown, Jackie Walsh Wexford Town along with others. Tommy Quirke was later elected the first Chairman of the Father Murphy’s Hurling Club here in London in 1958.
The Association started off with fundraising dances in the Cricklewood Hotel where occasional whist drives would take place. The star attraction around the London scene at that time was the brave ‘Wexford Kiely Band’ from New Ross. They formed a Mumming set ‘The Wexford Association Mummers.’ Some of the organisers were Dick Gaul from Ballyhogue, Danny O’Leary from Bree, Pat McCabe from Selskar, Martin Whitty from Bunclody, Peter White and Mike Meyler from Tomhaggard and Patsy Newport from Mayglass.
Following the Assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy in the mid 60’s, the Association formed a Sub-Committee which Tommy Harrell was a member of. They were tasked with the idea to commemorate their anniversary on an annual basis. Hence The famous Kennedy Brothers Memorial Concert came to light and the venue was to be The Royal Albert Hall in Kensington in the month of November every year. Some notable guest artists who appeared there would have being John Roche, The Bachelors, Dana, Frank Patterson, Veronica Dunne, Eleanor Toner. Some Wexford artists who had the privilege of appearing there would have been The Kinsella Family from Boleys Cross in Tomhaggard and The Emerald Group from New Ross. The proceeds from all concerts was to go towards a fitting memorial for The Kennedy’s but was never erected.
When Michael Sills from Murrintown first came to London in February 1969 Danny O’Leary was Chairman at the time, and the members included Jimmy Murphy, Eddie Grace from Ballinaboola, Billy Ryan from New Ross, and Tommy Harrell from Horeswood who was the Father Murphy’s club secretary at the time. Michael proudly carried the Wexford banner in the St Patrick’s Day parade. He recalls Peter White from Kilmore saying: “Here young fellow, you carry that banner”. Wexford County Council later donated a large banner and Wexford Borough Council donated another banner to the Association.
Michael Sills said: “The reunions was the best way ever to meet someone from home. We had nothing then except the pub and the Association and dances. The Galtymore was known as the Ballroom of Romance which was in full swing at the time. We gathered in Kilburn in North London for masses on a weekly basis followed on into the Mazenod Social Club. Socialising was the main thing and charity was the next. There was lots of work in factories.Smiths Industries were makers of car parts. There was Walls Sausage Factory, Smiths Industries in Cricklewood, Heinz, McVitie’s and Guinness were in Park Royal In that era of time things were good and you could walk in and out of jobs if you were not happy”
In the 1970’s they continued with concerts, fundraising dances, coach outings and children’s parties. Michael Sills was chief steward of the Irish Festival in Roundwood Park, which ran for a period of 25 years. In the mid-1970s to the 1980s, Michael and Sean Deviney formed a The London Wexford Darts league in 1980, which is still running successfully by Jim Crozier.
Padge Reck was the first Mayor of Wexford to visit the Association in London. That was in 1980, starting the involvement of the Borough of Wexford with the organisation. The Association takes part in the Mayor of London St Patrick’s Day Parade and won the prize for the Best Float four years in a row in 2003. On occasions we were delighted to invite The Ballindaggin Pipe Band from Wexford to participate in The Mayor of London St Patricks Day Parade and on two occasions they had the honour to lead the parade.
In the mid 80’s the Association played an important part in helping to form a successful Fr Murphy’s Youths Club. In their first year they traveled over to Wexford at the invitation of Bannow Ballymitty Youth Club where they won taking the silverware home to London.The same group went on to win a London Minor Football Championship in the early 80’s.
Michael Sills from Murrintown, Co Wexford served two periods as successful Chairman of the Association. Jim Murphy from Castlebridge, Pat McAbe from Wexford Town, Theresa Flynn from Ballycullane, Kitty Watson from Ferrycarrig, Don Mahon from Enniscorthy, Ray Bailey from New Ross, Tommy Murphy from New Ross, Danny O’ Leary from Bree, Fr French from Wexford Town, Dick Gaul from Ballyhogue, Mattie Power from Cusionstown, Jack McCarthy from Larkins Cross, Tommy Quirke from Barntown, Tommy Harrell from Horeswood and present 2019 Chairperson is Lucia Butler from Clongeen.
Leading Wexford people over the years were Maura Doyle: Taghmon, Jim Murphy; Castlebridge, Danny O’Leary; Bree, (past Chairman), Tomás Ó Murchú; Bunclody, Martin Whitty; Bunclody, who went back to live in Wexford, Tom Bailey; New Ross, Jim Doyle; Adamstown, Patsy Newport; Mayglass, Catherine Byrne; Taghmon, Maura Doyle; Barntown/Taghmon, Pat Clegg; Ballymitty, Martin Kirwan; Glynn, Kitty Watson; Ferrycarrig, Anne Fitzpatrick; Oulart, Jim Ryan; Donard, Sean McGrath; Tenacre, Phil Roche; Whitechurch/Glynn, George Brown; Crossabeg, Martin Kirwan; Glynn, Michael Sills; Murrintown, Dick Butler: Adamstown, Noel Swaine: Ballycarney, Nancy O’ Hara: Oulart, Peter Fitzpatrick: Oulart, Anne Clover: Oulart, Martin Kirwin from Glynn served as Honorary Treasurer for 23 years, Sena Roche: Glynn, Sean Devereux: Ferrycarrig, PJ Fortune: Enniscorthy, Mickey Connors: Enniscorthy, Julie Devereaux: Galway, Martin Power: Cunnistown, Mick Bowe: Horeswood, Pat Byrne: Tinahely, Jim Howlin: Rathnure. Harry Roberts: Old Ross, From New Ross we had Gordon Reid, Billy Ryan, Michael (Socks) Murphy, Carmel Ryan. From London William Clegg, Maggie Ryan, Jackie Ryan, Maureen Grace@ Clare, Peter and Kitty Murphy: Rathnure.
Pat McCabe of Wexford Town, who went to Leeds, served as head of the provincial council G.A.A in Britain for a period of time, and was Chairman of the Association. Danny O’Leary was also Chairman.
Sponsors Trevor Diviney Director of Ground Construction London son of Life President Sean Diviney., Principal sponsor Justin Ffrench of Clonroche supplies the lorry for the float in the St Patrick’s Day parade in London. Liz and Chris Clarke are the artists from Ballindaggin, Kiltealy who have designed the themes for the float. Over the years, Paddy Doyle from Rathnure, Graham Power; Castlebridge, and Phil Roche; Barntown, who is kit manager for the London football teams, have helped build the floats. Breda Weller, Marie Doyle and Siobhan Talbott have helped decorate the floats, and Nicholas McGrath is always on hand to carry the banner each year. Other sponsors are Brian Wallace from Cullenstown, Eddie Neville from Rathnure, Sean Walsh from Glynn, Jacquie O’ Donovan from Cork & O’ Donovan Waste.
For the 1996 London Wexford Association annual dinner dance, it was an extremely memorable events with four of the Wexford All-Ireland Hurling champions in attendance was Damien Fitzhenry, George O’Connor, Tom Dempsey and Larry O’Gorman and special guest was The Liam McCarthy cup.
The Association now called The London Wexford Association celebrates it’s 65th anniversary – 2019. The association continues to to hold annual events in venues such the Done Our Bit club, The Mazenod Social Club, The Clayton Crown Hotel, and the London Irish Centre in Camden.
In recent years the Association has adopted a policy of introducing young second generation members to our committee, most of whose parents contributed to the functioning of the Association in previous years. This policy has born fruition in abundance. At present we are one of the few County associations being successful. We are certainly the most active one, with our calendar of events including our Annual Dinner Dance, St Patrick’s Day parade float and pipe band entry, Wexford Town’s annual Buffet Dance, Summer Barbeque and Senior Citizens Christmas Party, as well as other fundraising events. To sum it up, the Association is very vibrant and successful at present, and let’s hope that remains the case for many years to come. With the introduction of our new website kindly donated by Justin Ffrench it should open many new horizons for us. Our Public Relations Officer Lucia Butler will be updating the website on a regular basic keeping you all informed of any upcoming or past events with numerous photographs etc. Our membership numbers have now reached over a hundred people, which is an all-time high. New members are always welcome to a warm, welcoming and friendly organisation with a membership fee of £10 per year. Membership enquiries can be made through our contact page or through any committee member.