The History of An Old Club

Clonliffe Harriers - Cover copy

You might assume without reading Dominic Branigan’s historical account of the sporting club, Clonliffe Harriers (Original Writing €20), that it’s another bland historical book.

Instead, what you get is a well-written and researched account of a club that began way back in the 1800s, a time when sporting organisations like the GAA were in their infancy.

Clonliffe Harriers began in 1886 as primarily a general athletics club, being founded by a group of teenagers, also known as The Lads, who met at Knott’s Cottage on the Richmond Road in Fairview. As the author notes, the event didn’t exactly make the front pages at that time, it was the “beginning of the story of a sporting phenomenon which today sees the famous Wasps at the pinnacle of Irish Athletics.”

The club soon grew in strength, accumulating a cult following amongst residents in and around Fairview where it was first based. It would later move to Phibsboro and develop a famous reputation as the home of quality sportsmanship.

Over this period, the club delivered a number of notable contributions to history: it was one of the first Irish teams to compete for the Olympics, it had teammates fight and die in World War I, it was one of the first clubs to be inclusive to women (this started in 1912 and continued in the 1950s and 1960s, decades that saw women broadly sidelined within society), and was home to Jean Folan, the first woman to complete a marathon in Ireland.

The book is split into easy-to-read sections that detail the history of the club, and puts the events into historical context. The author obviously conducted his research; each piece is well placed and leaves the reader wanting more. His writing style is fluid and easy to understand. Bland this is not.

By Liam Cahill