Brugh Boys Manchester Reunion


Fifty years ago, I wrote to the Manchester Evening News in the hopes of developing connections with a youth group there to arrange a series of football matches, both at home and away. I was contacted by a Dubliner living in Manchester, Michael O’Keefe – originally from Rathmines, who was a mentor with St. Clare’s Youth and Football Club and who was very receptive to my idea. He suggested putting together a special trophy for the occasion which we called The Liam Whelan Memorial Trophy, after the Busby Babe who tragically died in a plane crash in Munich, Germany in 1958.

We started off early on Saturday morning, leaving Dublin on an early morning Aer Lingus flight. For many it was the first time they had been in Manchester, for others the first time they had been on an aeroplane so this was a big deal.

Michael O’Keefe met us at the Airport – he had also arranged for our party to go and see Man Utd play Tottenham Hotspurs which the Red Devils lost 0-2. Michael and his colleagues at St. Clare’s arranged for our team, our leaders and our club Chaplin Peter Lemass to be accommodated by host families, many of whom were Irish themselves.

After Sunday morning mass there was a guided tour of Old Trafford, where the boys got to meet many of their heroes such as Bobby Charlton, George Best, Dennis Law and, recent signing, Dubliner Tony Dunne.

The first of our games was played in Manchester on a football pitch that was beside St. Clare’s Church, with whom the youth and football club were associated. There was a huge turnout and the whole event was considered a terrific success.

Later that evening there was a tremendous reception held for us by the local community and we returned to Dublin with wonderful memories and experiences of hospitality afforded to us by everyone associated with St. Clare’s Parish in Blackley.

The association between the clubs lasted a further two years. But as our lads got older and moved on, the games had to be discontinued. Not long after, Brugh Pádraig Youth Club was wrapped up.

Past members continue to meet at our annual social gatherings each Christmas. With the 50-year anniversary coming up, I myself made contact with as many of the former members as I could. They’re all in their mid-sixties now and four are, unfortunately, deceased.

We agreed to re-enact that weekend from 50 years before, arranging a celebratory dinner, meeting in Manchester, going to see the Red Devils play and even taking that tour of the stadium again. Although we had fallen out of touch with the group leaders in Manchester, we made contact once again the same way as before, through the columns of the Manchester Evening News and we look forward to this epic reunion in a few short weeks.

A mass in St. Andrew’s Resource Centre will be held by members of Brugh Pádraig on February 7th at 7.30pm to mark the 25th Anniversary of the late Fr. Peter Lemass, Chaplin. Peter was a man of great vision, with innovative ideas, wonderful energy, great determination and commitment. During his tenure, he opened the windows and doors to change that epitomised the era of the swinging sixties. He introduced dancing to the club gym and we will never forget our adventures to Manchester. Peter was a wonderful man, a great priest and servant of God – a great inspiration to us all – OUR FOREVER FRIEND.