London GAA teenagers get taste of Irish history

1916 GPO tour for Southall Shamrocks GAA team from Featherstone High School

In Dublin’s GPO yesterday evening it was a history lesson like few others for the group of London teenagers.

"There were 144 men in here and one woman, and she was Winifred Carney, James Connolly's secretary, with her Remington typewriter."

Guide Lorcan Collins was concluding his 1916 tour for 17 members of the Southall Shamrocks GAA team from Featherstone High School in Southall.

Almost 99 per cent of the school’s 1,500 pupils are from an ethnic Asian/African background.


The GPO was “the TV station of its day”, explained Mr Collins, and he advised them that if they ever planned to overthrow Britain they should take over the BBC.

He showed them the spot where Pádraig Pearse read the 1916 Proclamation and suggested they see the film Michael Collins with Julia Roberts.

Geography teacher and GAA team mentor Brendan Doherty, from Curry, Co Sligo, said he had arranged the Rising tour as some of the students had an Indian background and because of the links between India's and Ireland's struggles for independence. It was also the case that Gerry Wadwa, principal at the school, is of Indian background while his mother is from Foxford, Co Mayo.

One of the young men, Emmanuel Ladipo , has been playing Gaelic football since last September and likes the pace of the game as well as the handpassing. "It's a really great game to play," he said.

He and team-mates have watched it on You Tube, particularly last year's Dublin-Kerry All Ireland semi-final. Harmeet Kumar liked the fact that Gaelic football was so different from cricket and soccer, which he also plays.

“It’s a very quick, contact sport,” he said.

Mr Doherty, a NUI Galway graduate, said: " They just can't get their heads around the fact that it's an amateur sport."

He and his young charge s arrived in Dublin yesterday, where they visited Croke Park before their Rising tour.

They went to Galway last night, where today they will play a selection from schools in Galway at Pearse Stadium, before going on to the Connacht GAA Centre of Excellence in Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo.

They return to London from Knock tomorrow.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times