MAYO HONOURS MONAGHAN MAN

Tommy McKenna with his son Tom McKenna, wife Regina McKenna and daughters Siobhan & Regina and friend Fr Paddy McMahon, Emyvale, of the Monaghan Association, Manchester. Photo: © Bernie O'Brien.

Tommy McKenna with his son Tom McKenna, wife Regina McKenna and daughters Siobhan & Regina and friend Fr Paddy McMahon, Emyvale, of the Monaghan Association, Manchester. Photo: © Bernie O’Brien.

MONAGHAN MAN RECEIVES MAYO AWARD IN MANCHESTER

Monaghan footballers were overwhelmed by Mayo at the weekend, but in Manchester, Mayo gave an honorary award to a Monaghan man. Tommy McKenna, a native of Longfield, Carrickmacross, was singled out by the Mayo Association for giving over thirty years’ service to the Irish Community Care charity in Manchester. Tommy said he was delighted to have been named “Mayo” man of the year. He was presented with a commemorative crystal bowl by the Manchester Mayo Association President Marcella Wilkinson and Chairperson Patricia Gallagher. He was joined by his family at the event: his wife Regina, son Tom and daughters Siobhan and Regina.

Tommy is a very successful businessman, having set up a civil engineering and building contractors company after emigrating to England in 1954. At one stage he also owned an entertainment venue called the Ardri Ballroom. He would bring over performers such as Big Tom, with their showbands. It was thanks to his sponsorship over the years that many bands were brought over from Ireland to take part in the annual St Patrick’s Day parade. Tommy still has brothers and a sister in the Carrickmacross area and returns a couple of times a year to Longfield, where he has a house.

Irish Community Care was founded by Tommy and other members of the Irish community in 1985. The charity now has two centres in Cheetham Hill and Levenshulme, staffed by ten people and a team of fifty volunteers. The centres provide a wide range of services, offering advice and information and providing outreach support, including to the travelling community. The charity runs a bereavement service and also gives support to survivors of institutional abuse. It also runs a reminiscence project, collecting stories about the experiences of emigrants.

Tommy McKenna, Carrickmacross, is congratulated by Manchester Monaghan Association President, Fr Paddy McMahon from Emyvale. Photo: © Bernie O'Brien.

Tommy McKenna, Carrickmacross, is congratulated by Manchester Monaghan Association President, Fr Paddy McMahon from Emyvale.  Photo: © Bernie O’Brien.

One of the first to congratulate Tommy on his award was another emigrant from Monaghan, Fr Paddy McMahon, who comes originally from Drummully, Emyvale. Fr McMahon attended Edenmore school followed by St Macartan’s College in Monaghan, before being ordained. He has been based in Manchester since 1968 and one of his first assignments was a parish in Old Trafford, where Manchester United football club is situated. Over the years he became friendly with a number of the people at the club, including former manager Alex Ferguson and he has been following the Red Devils ever since.

He is now parish priest at nearby St John’s in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, where the late Matt Busby lived. Sometimes Fr McMahon says prayers at Mass for United and he has been known to give out the Premier League results at the end of Saturday vigil Masses. Despite the rivalries between the clubs, he has also welcomed to his church Manchester City supporters and occasionally one of their players. Fr McMahon helped to form the Monaghan Association in Manchester around 1975 and is still President of the group.

Tommy McKenna, Carrickmacross, receives a commenorative crystal bowl with his award from the Manchester Mayo Association President Marcella Wilkinson and Chairperson Patricia Gallagher. Photo: © Bernie O'Brien

Tommy McKenna, Carrickmacross, receives a commenorative crystal bowl with his award from the Manchester Mayo Association President Marcella Wilkinson and Chairperson Patricia Gallagher. Photo: © Bernie O’Brien

The Irish community in Manchester is now busy preparing for St Patrick’s Day. The Manchester Irish Festival is Europe’s biggest Irish Festival outside of Ireland. The city will be turned Green and Red on Friday 6th March at 8pm for the launch of a special promotional event sponsored by Mayo County Council. The annual Irish Festival runs from Friday 6th for a fortnight and features over 200 events. They include headlining gigs from Nathan Carter, The Script, Noel Gallagher, and Young, Gifted & Green.

For more information about any of the events in this year’s Manchester Irish Festival visit: www.manchesteririshfestival.co.uk.

Note: These pictures are copyright B. O’Brien. My thanks to photographer Bernie O’Brien in Manchester for giving permission to use these photographs, which I used in the article in this week’s Northern Standard (see Carrickmacross News p.35).

Northern Standard: Carrickmacross News Thursday 5th March 2015 p.35

Northern Standard: Carrickmacross News Thursday 5th March 2015 p.35

 

 

BUSBY BABES

Old Trafford Memorial

Old Trafford Memorial

Five years ago when then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern needed a quick summit meeting with the British Prime Minister Gordon Blair to discuss the problem over the devolution of  justice and policing powers in Northern Ireland, he went to Manchester. They met on a Sunday morning in a conference room at Manchester airport. Mr Ahern was accompanied by the Irish government press secretary Eoghan Ó Neachtain (now TG4 rugby pundit). Myself and an RTÉ News cameraman from Belfast were the only ones allowed to do the “pool” pictures, along with a local stills photographer from PA.

Bertie Ahern & Gordon Brown (PA Pool Picture)

      Bertie Ahern & Gordon Brown (PA Picture)

No questions were allowed to be asked as they sat down together, it was just a photocall. An Taoiseach however did agree to answer a couple of questions for me after the meeting. Both he and Mr Brown then left separately to go to Old Trafford, where Manchester United were remembering the 50th anniversary of the Munich plane crash. I did not get into the ground, where the two leaders were sitting in a VIP box, but spoke to some supporters as they arrived for the game. It gave me a chance to see the Munich memorial attached to a wall at the side of one of the stands, and the memorial clock attached to the south-east corner of the stadium. A special match programme was also issued to remember those who died.

Munich Clock

Munich Clock

Eight Manchester United players from the “Busby Babes” team, among them Billy Whelan from Cabra in Dublin, lost their lives when the Airspeed Ambassador plane they were travelling back to England in crashed on the runway during snowy conditions at Munich airport. Three staff from the club and a number of well-known English sports journalists were also killed. Others were lucky to survive, such as Bobby Charlton and goalkeeper Harry Gregg (then 24) from Northern Ireland. He attended the funeral of veteran sports journalist Malcolm Brodie in Belfast on Monday. Thinking now of the victims and survivors of the crash.

The Flowers of Manchester

One cold and bitter Thursday in Munich Germany

Eight great football stalwarts conceded victory

Eight men will never play again who met destruction there

The Flowers of English football the Flowers of Manchester

Matt Busby’s boys were flying home returning from Belgrade

This great United family all masters of their trade

The pilot of the aircraft the skipper Captain Thain

Three times they tried to take off and twice turned back again

The third time down the runway disaster followed close

There was slush upon that runaway and the aircraft never rose

It ploughed into the marshy ground it broke it overturned

And eight of the team were killed as the blazing wreckage burned

Roger Byrne and Tommy Taylor who were capped for England’s side

And Ireland’s Billy Whelan and England’s Geoff Bent died

Mark Jones and Eddie Colman and David Pegg also

They all lost their lives as it ploughed on through the snow

Big Duncan he went too with an injury to his brain

And Ireland’s brave Jack Blanchflower will never play again

The great Matt Busby lay there the father of his team

Three long months passed by before he saw his team again

The trainer, coach and secretary and a member of the crew

Also eight sporting journalists who with United flew

and one of them Big Swifty who we will ne’er forget

the finest English ‘keeper that ever graced the net

Oh England’s finest football team its record truly great

its proud successes mocked by a cruel turn of fate

Eight men will never play again who met destruction there

the Flowers of English football the Flowers of Manchester

Author: Eric Winter (1958)