It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of one of Leevale’s original and lifelong member Mick Quinlan. After a long illness Mick passed away on Sunday evening. Mick was deeply involved in Leevale as an athlete and official all his life, he wrote the club constitution which is still in use today.
In this article Mick recalls Leevale members have always focussed primarily on sporting activities, but the club also has an important social scene. Mick Quinlan describes some of the recreational aspects of club life in the early years.
The Leevale Athletic Club Constitution states thats its objectives are:
(a) The promotion of the physical fitness of its members, and in particular the participation in and practice of athletics.
(b) To encourage social activities among the members of the club.
In the early years, there was an amazing and vibrant social aspect to club life. The highlight of the social years were the Dinner Dances which were always held around Christmas. Between 200 and 300 people would usually attend. Entertainment would always be provided by a top local band, plus guest celebrities. Because of the numbers attending, the functions were always run at a profit which contributed to the general income of the club. The events were held in various venues around Cork, such as Jurys Hotel, Norwood Court Hotel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Vienna Woods Hotel and The Victoria Hotel.
Spontaneous social events were a hallmark of the club. House parties would take place to welcome visiting guests and to wish ‘bon voyage’ to those leaving to go on scholarship to America.
Following Track and Field meetings and cross country races, we would retire to the local hostelry or, later in the evening, to Pa Johnson’s pub in Devonshire Street for refreshments and a ‘sing song’. The proprietor, Barry Johnson, was a member of St Finbarr’s Athletic Club and always had a warm welcome for us.
These sing songs were usually organised by Kevin Barry who also acted as MC. Kevin, who was affectionately known as Mr. Leevale, was not only chairman of the club for many years, but he took on anything that needed to be done in the fields of coaching, fund raising and appearing on radio and television. He also specialised in writing victory speeches and songs. Some older members of Leevale will remember:
‘Our friends and rivals are St. Finbarr’s
And we’ve got to admit that they’ve got three stars But alas for them it is six to score
So to beat Leevale they’ve got to find three more. Leevale, Leevale La La La.’
Other contributors, and their ‘party piece’, included:
Jim Archer – ‘Old Bog Road’
Dick Hodgins – ‘Shoals of Herring’
Sean Kelly (also known as ‘Jigie’) – ‘Big Strong Man’ Finbarr O’Brien – ‘Carrigdhoun’
Kieran O’ Donovan – ‘James Connolly’
Jack O’Callaghan – ‘A Mother’s Love’s a Blessing’
Joe O’Flynn – ‘Peggy Gordon’
Mick O’ Flynn – ‘Nothing Rhymed’
Mick Quinlan – ‘McCafferty’
Tony Shine – ‘I am the man’
All would be accompanied by Sean O’Donovan and Tim O’Mahony on guitar. Tim also sang many songs, the signature tune being
‘Games People Play’. The ladies of the club would also join in: Nuala Quinlan with ‘Scorn not his Simplicity’ and the quartet of Eileen Kiely, Blanche Gibbons, Mary Moore and Maureen McPhillips with a close harmony version of the ‘Four Marys’. We would regularly be joined by Bill Nestor who was secretary of the County Board and acted as starter at all Track and Field meetings. Bill would always regale us with ‘Old Kildorrery Town’.
Pa Johnson’s was also the place where, after the Cork City Sports meeting, visiting athletes would assemble for refreshments. The small intimate pub would be packed to overflowing.
It was also in Pa’s that many would gather to watch the European and World Athletic Championships and the Olympics. It was the only pub where athletics took precedence over soccer and GAA on the television. Barry, the proprietor, would organise a buster. Members would select who they considered would get gold, silver and bronze in each event and points would be awarded. The member with the highest number of points at the end of the competition being declared the winner. At a time when the internet did not exist, our main sources of information were the magazines ‘Athletics Weekly’ from the UK and ‘Track & Field News’ from the USA. The most knowledgable were not always the most successful, some ending up with the wooden spoon, presented by Barry.
Criticism of Leevale members’ socialising came from many quarters. However, as it never interfered with training or competitions, we would like to think that it added to the life of the club and those in it. It generated comradeship and team spirit and, rather than detract from performances, it enhanced them greatly.
The record stands for itself. There are not many clubs that have won as much as Leevale at county, national and international level. In addition, not many clubs have succeeded in building a High Performance Centre from its own resources for the benefit of all its members.