Games and Pastimes – Athletics

In History, Our Parish by Pete Coghlan B.A. by admin


Our Parish has always been interested in Athletics especially running, jumping and cycling. As long as any one can remember, it was considered a great feat to leap across the River Giddagh at Jimmy O’Shea’s field, a distance of 24 feet. The reason the jump was so difficult was that the jumper had to take off in a ‘lios’ in Jimmy O’Shea’s field and had to leap over two small mounds of lios and so had a very short run, just a few paces to take off to the real jump. The jump was west to east and for year’s only one man, ‘Bulker Doyle’, Denny’s and Pete’s granduncle succeeded in doing it. The record stood for many years until John Connor; Cooleanig brother of Thadee Michael did the jump after some failures in the year 1918. It has not been attempted since. The place is about 300 yards south of Giddagh Bridge. John Connor represented Ireland at the Tailteann Games in 1924. Johnnie Coffey (Postman) won Munster Championship in Hop, Skip and Jump doing 45 feet. Coneen Connor, Cullina also did well in this competition. Jerh Breen, Gerah excelled in the Long Jump. Patrick Galvin, Beaufort won County Championship in High Jump. Patie Connor, Cooleanig won many Army Championships as an All Rounder. Pats Connor, the Gap, was an outstanding long distance runner, winning the famous Killarney Round Aghadoe Race in 1917. Dan Sullivan, Crossderry, The Valley, was also a first class long distance runner too and in 1951 came second in the great marathon race from Moll’s Gap, through the Gap of Dunloe to Killarney Race Course, a distance of 24 miles. The man who beat him by a short distance represented Ireland in many International Sports. But our outstanding long – distance runner was Charles O’Shea, Kilgobnet. Charles won many cross-country events including four County Championships and one Munster Championship. Ton Carson, Beaufort, was an outstanding cyclist in the early 1900’s and won many events all over Munster. John Mangan, Ardlahas, is our greatest cyclist. He won many Irish competitions including second in the Rás Táilteann. But it is in the Continent that he has won many honours and in France is looked upon as a great hero and won several energy – sapping road races there. He was unlucky not to be allowed, to compete in the 1980 Olympic Games. Mick Galvin, Beaufort, was a good handballer and was often called upon to play in exhibition in Killarney. Donal Coffey (Dote) The Gap, won races – 100 yards and 200 yards all over Mid Kerry as a Juvenile. Bob Ferris won Three Jump Championships. Our youngest championship is Trudy Joy, Gortnascarry who won the Gold Medal in the Long Jump at the Community Games in Mosney 1979.

Boy Scouts

In 1931 Fr. M. E. Dennehy founded a troop of the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland with Pat Hartnett as Scout Master. It lasted for a number of years but gradually disappeared, not getting sufficient support. Those in the group include John Clifford, Pete Coghlan, Gilbert Fitzgerald, and William Coghlan. Many of the groups either emigrated or died.

St. Mary’s Boy Scout Group (8th Kerry)

Beaufort 1935 (Approx.)

Back Row: Oliver Mason, John O’Sullivan, Patrick Hartnett (Scout Master) John Clifford, and Tom Mcgillycuddy. Third Row: Jerry Fogarty, Pete Coghalan, NT, Gilbert Fitzgerald, NT, William Coghalan NT, Con Sullivan, and James Coffey. Second Row: Jackie Mason, Dan Shea, Dermot Coffey, Patrick Scully, Denis Moriarty, John Kelliher, Michael Sullivan. Front Row: Michael James Sullivan, Brendan Sheehy, Teddy Curran, Patrick Sullivan, Giles Williams, David Hartnett.


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Card – playing is a great form of pastime in the Parish or should I say “was” because like many other outdoor pastimes, television and bingo have ruined the interest of card playing so that many teenagers scarcely know the names of cards. “Thirty – One” is the favourite game in this Parish as it is in all parts of Kerry, but peculiarly enough, dose not seem to be played outside of Kerry. “Twenty – Five” or “Forty – Five” played in the same way as “Thirty – One” except with a difference best trump seems to be more popular in other counties. In the past, in every locality there was a private house, where people gathered nightly in the long winter nights to play cards. Eight players usually formed a “table” with every two sat opposite each other as partners. They played for small stakes usually a few pence a game. Before Christmas, however, turkeys or geese were “put up” as prizes and the games for those were really marathon as several tables had to be played to make up the price of the prize with a little extra as profit for the donor. Finally the winners at each table had to play the final to decide the winners. The church too and many elders frowned at those long nights spent as they said in gambling and such tales as “the rattle of the devil’s chain were heard under the table” were often broadcasted. Some were very skilled players and were called (Caru – ig) and certain localities had the reputation of producing first – class “Cul – Chearbhaig” gamblers. The Black Valley was a very high in the list but Carnahone also produced fine champions.   There are many old sayings, which have sprung from card playing such as “Keep a guard to the Knave, Thirty dirty never won a game, or in Irish “An triu cluiche, cluiche an chearrbhuig meaning, “The Third game is the gambler’s game”. Alas card playing like many simple old Irish pastimes is very much in the decline and seldom we hear of the “rubbers” being played now except perhaps in Public Houses for a short time before Christmas when “hampers” are played for. Whist was occasionally played in the Parish Hall but again people seem to have lost interest in Whist Drives. Other games – Bridge, Solo Poker never seem to have caught on in the Parish at any time.


Irish Step Dancing was always a great feature in our pastimes and dancing “masters” were frequent visitors to our parish from 1850 onwards. Those dancing teachers taught the various steps and figures in the many Irish dances. They had no halls and had to be satisfied with a farmhouse lent for the occasion and even sometimes had to hold classes in the open air, perhaps on the roadside. They also had to be satisfied with the small amount each pupil could afford to give as payment. Shanacloon Cross was a very popular centre for dancing classes especially on Sunday evenings, when they could dance outdoors. Denny Coffey, Ardraw and Paddy Breen Shanacloon were best know of the last generation of exponents of the art. In later years, dance teachers visited the local schools on a regular basis, first time – when the ordinary school – work had finished but in modern times, Irish Dancing is recognised as a subject on the curriculum. In the 1920’s Sean Sweeney from Macroom gave lessons and later in 1930’s, Lizzie Murphy (Mrs. Keogh) cycled from Killarney each week and then Paddy Sexton in 1940’s and in 1950’s and 60’s Mrs. Bracken visited the schools and at the present time Mrs. Irwin is the teacher. At the beginning of the 20th Century, “Set” dancing, especially “Polka Set” became very popular. This had to be carried on indoors and people lent their kitchens for a night’s dancing. “Around the house and mind the dresser”, was a shout often heard. “Ball nights” were held at various times, such as to spent the money collected by the “Biddies”. Those dances usually lasted all night until well after dawn. Each group of eight took the floor in turn and danced the full set – all five figures. Dances too were held as a climax to the “Stations” or to finish a wedding celebration. People did not go to hotels for wedding breakfast, but after the ceremony and the “drag” which meant a trip through the country – side in a cavalcade of side – cars, the whole party returned to the bridegroom’s home, where they spent the night in feasting, drinking and dancing. Thing was no such thing as a honeymoon and the newly married couple had to turn into work after a few days as if nothing had happened. Some uninvited guests came to the wedding festivities. They were called the “Strawboys” as they wore ropes made of straw over their clothes and masks to hide their identity. They usually were treated with a drink and after a dance or two they departed quietly. Priest frowned on those all night dances, especially if they were held on a Saturday night as they interfered with the proper attendance at Mass on Sunday. Those Saturday night dances were often the subject of a scathing sermon from the pulpit. In the early nineteen twenties indoor dancing gave way to that open – air. “Platforms” made of cement were constructed on the roadside at suitable places, where road margins were wide and would not interfere with traffic and of course traffic mainly consisted of slow horse – drawn carts. The platforms were generally about 15 to 20 feet long and about 10 feet wide and of course were made by very willing voluntary labour. The dancing was usually carried on on Sunday or Holiday afternoons in spring and summer. The music was supplied by local melodeon or fiddle players of which there has always been a plentiful supply in this parish. Some of the best known “Platform” were:

  1. At Laune Bridge where Jack Scully’s shop stands.
  2. At Leaba na Bo or Whiskers Cross.
  3. On the Green Road near the old kiln at Dennehy’s.
  4. At Sweeney’s Cross, Shanacloon.
  5. At Scully’s Cross, Dunloe.

The remains of many of those “Platforms” are visible today. No planning permission was needed nor was a licence required to carry on dancing on those Open Air Plasain Rinnce. In 1930’s people became more sophisticated and looked for more sheltered places for dancing during the whole year round and of course for longer and later hours for dancing. In a short time some sharp-minded individuals saw a chance of supplying the need which also be a source of revenue to themselves and so introduced the dance halls. Halls of all descriptions grew up like mushrooms in every town and village. This changed the whole pattern of dancing and even the very dances themselves changed. The “set” as we knew it gave way to the Waltz and Foxtrot and many variations of those dances such as the Charleston and in very modern times, Rock ‘n Roll and Punk Rock. The whole business became very commercialised and in a short time became a very big business. For a time in those halls dancers were satisfied with a very small band, two or three musicians. The musicians in our Hall at the onset and for many years were John Clifford, Patie Sullivan with Paddy Sullivan Drummer.   The Dance Halls in this Parish in this Parish were Shanahan’s in Beaufort where the shop store now is, Galvin’s in Beaufort which is now the Parish Hall and in Reilly’s in Shanacloon. As transport became more easy and cars very plentiful, young people wished to travel afar from home “Is glas iad na cnuic I bfhad uainn”, and hence grew up those dance halls in towns capable of accommodating 1000 dancers or more, with the result that bands had to increase in number and so had to change exorbitant fees for their services often up to £500. Small country halls could not compete with all this commercial rat – race and the result is that many village halls were compelled to close down. Our hall survived the onslaught with of course a great reduction in the number of dances during the year. However the picture is changing slightly, mainly through the efforts of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann. The “set” is gradually popularity and if this should continue the very big dance halls should feel the pinch.

Gaelic Football has been the most popular game in this parish as it has been in most parishes all over Ireland ever since the foundation of the G.A.A. in 1884. Ever since the 1890’s a club has been in existence here, often perhaps only in name but still keeping local games going without, perhaps hitting the highlights. The earliest name of the club was Tuogh Parnellties, composed chiefly of young men who had supported Parnell during the Parnell split.Our greatest rivals, as now, were Laune Rangers but perhaps more so in those days. J.P. O’Sullivan who has given his name to the Killorglin Playing Filed, the J.P. O’Sullivan Park, and who was founder of Laune Rangers, was a Tuogh man as he was bred born, reared and lived in Brookhill.However, with Dan Murphy, Tullig, elected to play with Killorglin rather than with his native Parish. This of course led to rivalry and bitterness, which lasted a long time. There is a record in the County Library of a game played in Meanus between Laune Rangers and the Parnelltes, which ended, almost in a riot.Owen Kelliher remembers people speak of a certain Rangers’ player named Hayes, perhaps Lobby Hayes of Killorglin fame, who wore some spikes in his football boots and trod on the foot accidentally or otherwise, on one of the Parnellites and injured himself badly as in those days many players played in their bare feet and that ended the game which became a free for all.The Tuogh Parnellites Team was lead by Jamsey Doyle, Ardlahas, or as he was locally known as “Scrathar Doyle”. Jamsey also kept racehorse, one well-known one was “Busy Body” which won a big race at Baldoyle in Dublin. However, we were not too free from unseemly scenes ourselves in our own internal club games. Many remember the famous or was it infamous contests between both sides of Giddagh. Those games did not always end with the best displays of sportsmanship and did more harm than good to preserve unity in the Club. Many games of football were played between both sides of the Giddagh, which scarcely ever ended peacefully. One terrible struggle took place in Jimmy Shea’s Inch. The leaders on each side were Batt Coffey, Carnahone, Batty’s Grandfather and Denny Coffey, Coolmagort, Jerry’s father and for the west were Jamsey Doyle (Strathar). The last game played between those teams was in 1946 in Jack Connor’s field, Beaufort, now Darby Guerin’s and that game never finished. It was not until 1930 or so that the whole Parish united properly as one club, under the leadership of the late Pat Hartnett, Dunloe and included such players as Owen Kelliher, Mossie Foley, Danny Breen, Bob Ferris, Tom Doyle (Milltown), P. Coghlan, Jerry Doyle, Mick Sweeney, Mick Coffey, (Gortbee) and perhaps with one or two players from out side such as Denis O’Leary, Ballyhar. That team played many games in the East Kerry League. During the War years our juveniles won many Honours in inter parish competitions. During the fifties and early sixties the Club struggled on without gaining any honors, but not until the late sixties did we begin to hit the high spots when our Juveniles beat everything they met including the Junior team of St. Brendan’s, Killarney. That team included Pat Breen, Shanacloon, Pat Breen, Kilgobnet, Jerh Sullivan, Carnahone, Gerald Foley, Tullig, John Donna, Shanara, Jim Coghlan, Beaufort, Denis Moriarty, The Gap, Davy Fleming, Cooleanig, John Mangan, Ardlahas, Paudie Lynch, Beaufort, Pa McGillycuddy, Coolmagort, John Coffey, Beaufort, Brendan Lynch, Beaufort, Mick Sullivan, Shanacloon, Ian Joy, Tullig, John Clifford, Cullina, Joe Cronin, Carnahone. That team laid the foundation of our present Senior Team which has won the Mid Kerry Championship five times in a row – a record not easily broken. They have also won the Mid- Kerry League several times and also the County League for the third year running. The names of those players over the past ten years are: Pat Breen, Brendan Breen, Tom, Pat, Gerald and Fr. Michael Kelliher R.I.P., Mick and Simon Sullivan, Tadgh and Dermot Sullivan, Ian Joy, Gerald Foley, Michael Dennehy, Frankie and Bernie Coffey, Kieran, Eamonn and Desmond Breen, John Coffey, Jim Coghlan, Brendan and Paudie Lynch, John and Denis Scully, Aidan, Colm and Fergus Kelly, Donal James and Francis Courtney, Dominic and Dan Coffey, Pat and Donal Hartnett, Denis Paul Cremin, John Connor, Donal (Dote) Coffey, John Guerin, D. O’Sullivan, Fr. Brian Coffey, Charles O’Shea, R.I.P. Sgt. John McGrath was trainer and player in most of the victories. Brendan Lynch won three All Ireland medals and Paudie 5, 4 in a row. Many players from the parish played in County Kerry teams in all grades – Minor, Junior, Under21 and Senior. Thadeas Kissane (Brookhill), Mike Coffey, Richard Fitzgerald, Kevin Coffey, Liam Coghlan, Brendan Lynch, Paudie Lynch, John Coffey, Dan Coffey, Donal Courtney, and Frankie Coffey. Besides, Brendan Lynch and Jim Coghlan, helped Mid Kerry to win two Senior County Championships. Few Parishes with such a small panel of players supplied so many members to wear the Kerry colours.


G.A.A. Beaufort Team County Champions (Novice) 1972

Back Row L. to R. Moss Breen, Pete Coghlan, Desmond Breen, Donal Coffey, Dan Carey (at back), M. Dennehy, G. Foley, K. Breen, (Goalie), Denis Scully, Jim Coghlan, Ian Joy, Fr. Kelliher. Front Row L. To R. Brendan Lynch, A. Kelly, C. Kelly, P. Lynch, M. Sullivan, John Scully, (Captain), John Coffey, Pat Breen, Tom Kelliher.

Children’s School Games

DUCKS OFF Ducks off was very popular by school children in the 20’s. As many players as wished could take part. Each player got a fairly round stone about ½ lb. In weight and a bigger flat stone was placed about 10 feet away. Each player pitched to the stone and the player farthest away from the stone or “jack” as it was called had to place his stone on the “jack”. The other players threw their stones at the “jack” the aim being to knock the stone off the “jack”. If the player missed he then had to put his stone on the “jack”. If a player having thrown his stone and having hit the “jack” had to get back behind the “tep” line before being touched by the person whose stone was on the “jack” and if touched had to place his stone on the “jack”. The danger in the game was if a player knocked the stone off the “jack” the owner rushed to put it back up again and sometimes the next player might have thrown his stone thus striking the player in the hand dangerously on the head. Each player’s atone was called a “duck” and hence the name “Duck off”. SALLY OUT Two teams chased each other in rotation one from each side. The idea was to “tip” the player in front of him before been touched by the opponent after him. The best runner of course won and often the chase went far out of school bounds. We had to play on the roads the playground being miserable and reserved for the younger children. “TAWS” OR MARBLES “Taws” was a very popular game by boys of all ages and even girls sometimes took it up. It was played either as single or as partners. Three holes were made in the ground about five feet apart and about two inches in diameter. In singles the game was to get into each hole in turn to the end and back again. Partners was different: one player was called a “drainer” to get into the hole and the “Pinkers” object was to prevent the opposing “drainer” from entering the holes. Each pinker had to be a good shot with his “taw” so as to be able to hit another taw at a far distance away. There was a certain way for holding the taw between thumb and finger and each hole had a special name – first hole, second hole, top hole Middle – a set, first – a game, middle – a game and game hole. Adults even got interested especially Gap Pony Boys as they waited their “turn” and it is said that Michael Moriarty could hit a taw fifteen feet away. SKITTLES Skittles is a game mostly played by adults. The aim is to knock over as many pins – large wooden skittles tapering to a point – as possible in one, two or three throws. Jerome Coffey, late proprietor Kate Kearney’s Cottage was an expert at the game.


“Gobs” is the oldest game played by young girls. The game was played with five small round pebbles on a grassy plot. Each player had to toss the stones one by one and at the same time hold each on as it fell and final to hold the whole five as they fell, not an easy task. Each player followed in turn and the player who had the least number of mistakes won the game. PICKIE OR HOPSCOTH Pickie is a game generally played by girls of ages between 8 and 14. Eight squares were drawn on the ground with a piece of stick or pointed piece of stone or slate. Each square was about 2 feet square in breadth. The first player threw a piece of flat stone or slate into the first square and had to hop on one foot and picking up the “Sligger” or piece of stone on the way back. If she succeeded in doing the round without a fault she would mark her choice square by making a big X in the middle and every other player had to skip over that square and the player who won most squares won the game. The rules of the game differed from locality to locality. SKIPPING Skipping is played by girls all year round. They use a rope about 12 or 14 feet and two players catch the rope at each end and twist the rope so as to make a sort of loop in the middle of each person and the rest jump in and as the rope comes around jump over it. Sometimes two or even three or four can jump over the rope at the same time. A simpler form is where one person twists the rope around herself. Oui à l’Emploi, Oui à l’armée de métier, mais Non au service national sous contrat de travail, Non à l’absurdité.


In the past, most wedding breakfasts were held in the house of the bridegroom. After the marriage the wedding party went for what was called the “drag” which consisted of a cavalcade of sidecars led by the married couple in a “covered car” – a four wheeled vehicle drawn by a horse and usual journey was from the Parish Church, on to Beaufort and to Killorglin by the “Over Laune” Road and home to the bridegroom’s house by Meanus. Then the festivities began – eating, drinking and dancing which went on all night. Uninvited guest, any young men in the locality who were not “asked” to the wedding went incognito to the festivities. They wore masks so as not to be known and bound ropes of straw around their clothes – hence “Strawboys”. They were offered a meal and some drink and after a dance or so departed quietly. A usual question asked by people who were not at the wedding was “Were they strawed”. The change to hotels for wedding breakfasts finished the custom.


From time immemorial the custom of dressing up as “biddies” on the last day of January, the eve of St. Brigid’s Day, 1st of February, has continued down to the present day. In the past there was a group of biddies in every townland or two – depending on the number of young men in the area. The young men dressed up in all sorts of “uniforms” sometimes in a pair of pyjamas turned inside out or even in a special shirt made for the occasion. They wore masks or “aghaidh fidil” as they called them and were usually home made and had very fine headgear made of thin straw roped twisted into fantastic shapes. The custom originated as a way of honouring St. Brigid and so each group or one of the group carried an image or icon of St. Brigid with the usually a piece of timber usually carved into the shape of a head and coloured and the body covered with children’s’ clothes. A group consisted of from ten to twenty and they dressed usually in the house of one of the group. When all was ready they all set about sunset led by the leader and a musician, usually a melodeon player. They visited every house in the district omitting none as they approached a house one of the group blew a horn, the horn of some cow or sheep got from the butcher, to warn the household of their approach. Young people were agog on hearing the horn in the distance. When they arrived the leader knocked and asked “Any objection to the Biddy” and when told there was none, all entered and made a “set” or “half set”. If there were young women in the house they were invited to dance.   They never asked for fees, but it is understood that the householder gives the loader a small sum. In the distance past all that was expected from the householder was to stick a pin in the Biddy. They travel as far as they can travel up to midnight. In modern times however groups travel on bicycles and in those affluent days travel in motor – cars and can cover a much larger area. Young girls take part in groups now. In the past great rivalry existed between the different groups which seems to have vanished but a more insidious idea has entered the scene, namely groups of biddies are invited to some dance halls, sometime later on to compete against each other for the best equipped team fears that the idea will turn the very ancient custom into a purely commercial affair.

Weight – Throwing or “Casting”.

Weight – throwing or “Casting” as it was locally known by young men of all ages. It usually took place at Crossroads or wherever a group of young men met. Instead of real half hundred weight made of iron they had to be satisfied with a round stone near that weight. The stone was thrown with one hand from the shoulder and the contest was usually carried out on the roadside. The winner was the man who threw the stone the farthest without overstepping the “tep” line.

Wren Boys

Wren boys never got any steady footing in the Parish but now and then groups of very young “wren boys” at very irregular intervals can be seen going through the country–side on St. Stephen’s Day. Nearly always those groups come from outside the Parish.