As it turned out, Paul Brush who was in England from Australia along with his wife and two daughters turned out to be a Crawley FC supporter. He had attended their match the previous day when they beat Burton Albion 3-0 in front of a crowd of 3001. Paul pointed out he was the “1” on the end of that figure! The reason we arranged to meet was because he is a distant relative of the 19thC Irish author William Carleton from Co.Tyrone. I am Chair of the newly-formed William Carleton Society, which runs an annual summer school at the beginning of August every year. Paul provided me with some useful information and promised to remain in contact as he attempts to explore his family tree.
Now for the second scarf. It’s green and white. Some thought it was a Celtic one. Others might regard it as an Ireland one suitable for soccer or rugby. But it’s none of those. It was purchased at Tallaght stadium when I organised my tickets for the three home games that Shamrock Rovers FC played in the Europa League. I wanted to show my loyalties especially when it came to the last match against Spurs. It proved to be the final game for the Hoops’ manager Michael O’Neill after three years in charge. Rovers went down 0-4 to the English Premiership side but O’Neill got a rousing farewell along with Enda Stevens, who joins Aston Villa next month.
The scarf was needed when I went on the annual mulled wine walk at Knockmany Hill near Clogher in County Tyrone. It is run by a number of ramblers groups from both sides of the border and also cross-community. I joined in the carol service after enjoying some warm gluehwein and mince pies. Then I proceeded to relate to the assembled crowd a story by William Carleton called A Legend of Knockmany. I did not have time to read it all but I summarised part of the tale about the giants Fin McCool and his great rival Cuchulain. When I returned home I posted a picture on facebookshowing me wearing the green and white scarf and remarked that this did not mean that William Carleton was a Shamrock Rovers fan! I then reflected on the matter and discovered that after all, there was a connection (albeit very tenuous) between Shamrock Rovers founded in 1901 and Carleton, who died over thirty years earlier in January 1869.
So here goes…….William Carleton in the days before his death was visited by Rev William Pakenham Walsh, rector of Sandford Parish Church, Ranelagh in Dublin, who also conducted his funeral. The chuch is beside an avenue that leads up to Gonzaga College SJ. The school colours are also green and white, by the way. When I went there in 1967 the back rugby pitches near Milltown Park were bounded on one side by a wall which also bordered Glenmalure Park, once home of Shamrock Rovers FC which had the best playing surface in Ireland. The Jesuits leased the land to the football club and there is a letter in the club shop at the new ground at Tallaght from the then SJ Provincial at the time the Hoops moved. So maybe the Shamrock Rovers scarf was appropriate in memory of the Sandford connection with William Carleton. In the case of Paul Brush, he would no doubt have preferred if I had worn a Crawley FC scarf to identify myself: no chance of that!