Articles

Commemorating 1916 at Birr Golf Club

To fully understand what the climate for golf was like in 1916 we first need to have a glimpse of the country as a whole with regard to golf at the time.

 

Golf in Ireland for the last 100 years

In 1901 there were an estimated 12,000 golfers in Ireland.  By 1914 Ireland had 190 golf clubs i.e. just under half the number that exist today. After the outbreak of the first world war in March 1915 club competitions were often abandoned. Golf clubs in Ireland raised substantial funds for the war effort.

It is difficult to know precisely what Irish nationalists thought about the newly arrived game of golf. In the GAA`s rulebook however, golf was never designated as a foreign game.

 

Birr Golf in the last 100 Years

Birr Golf club was founded in 1893 and so at the time of the 1916 rising was already 23 years in existence. Its initial location was at Barone Court in Riverstown. The fourth Earl of Rosse was elected the first President. He and his successors held the office until 1984.  The Countess of Rosse held the office of Lady President from 1935 to 1982.

The committee that was elected in 1893 reflected the military presence in the town as it did the commercial and landed persons. In 1909 the decision to re-locate was taken and Birr Golf club took a lease from Lord Rosse for the lands at the Glenns for fifty years to 1959.

The membership of the club in 1916 consisted of military officers some landowners and town merchants. The officers were from the First Leinster regiment stationed at Crinkle barracks.

Colonel Newbold was attached to the Leinster regiment and was the club captain in 1916.  He was the donor of a cup now displayed in the clubhouse cabinet. The winner of the captain`s prize that year was a Mr. Henry Mussen. The winner of the Hackett cup in 1916 was Mr. JJ Kennedy.

Given their association with Ireland's political and social elite, golf clubs inevitably had a difficult time during the War of Independence and the ensuing Civil War.  A number of club houses were burned down and competitions abandoned.

The role played by sport in binding up the wounds of a decade of conflict was noteworthy and may have been underrated. The Golfing Union of Ireland continues to run golf throughout the island of Ireland.

In keeping with the commemoration of 1916 Mr Captain Brendan O'Carroll and Lady Captain Mrs. Margaret Feehan donned costumes from the era for their Captains drive-in which took place on Feb 7th 2016. The drive-in was attended by a large crowd in spite of the inclement weather.