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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Tony Fenelon


Remembers Little Barrack Street....

Tony Fenelon c.1937 in a boxing pose when he was about 19 or 20 years of age.
Click on image to enlarge

In 1932 or 1933, I played football for the "Blues" or "The O'Hanrahans", although only 16 or 17, and, about that time, I played for the County Minors. After reaching the Leinster Finals, we played Dublin in Croke Park, but unfortunately, we lost by just one point. I cannot remember a photograph being taken, but, if one was taken, I should be grateful for a copy if one is available.

St Joseph's School c.1922. Sr. Pansy in white at back. Tony Fenelon 8th from the right in the 2nd row from the front. Miss Wall (lady on right).
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My first year at St Joseph's Infants School was in 1922. There were nuns and two lay teachers. The novice nun, Sister Pansy, was a great favourite of mine, and, when I returned to Carlow for my first visit home, I called to see her, but to my great disappointment, she had been transferred to another part of Ireland. One of the lay teachers, I believe, was a Miss Wall of Walls Forge, Ballinacarrig. In the photograph I am 8th from the right in the 2nd row from the front.


In the C.B.S. there were Boxing Championships organised by Brother Byrne. Most lunchtimes, he had us move all the desks back along the walls, then took out a pair of boxing gloves and paired us off. It was then that boxing became my favourite sport. A year or so later, I boxed in the same Championships. I remember boxing George Hyland.

My football team was "The O'Tooles". We took part in a Street League, which was a competition between groups of streets. "Big and Little" Barrack Streets were paired off with Staplestown Road, which included George Lawler, and we won.

Winners of Carlow Street League Football Championships Little & Big Barrack Street & Staplestown Road - "The O'Tooles. c.1929
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A young Garda set up a boxing club in the town, and I recall boxing in a tournament somewhere near or even on the same site as the hospital near the Court House. I boxed a young man from the Phoenix Club, Dublin. I never found out how he came to be boxing in our tournament. We boxed against Callan, Kilkenny and Athy, Kildare. Jimmy Reddy, who was one of our team, was a real tearaway fighter, and I cannot remember any of his bouts going beyond the first round.

C.B.S. Boxing Championships c.1930's - Tony Fenelon, second from the right in the back row, his opponent is on his left and George Hyland whom he boxed later is on his right.
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One summer's holiday. Brother Byrne got me a job in St. Patrick's College as a plumber's mate. The college was having a new heating system installed. The job carried on until November, so I left school, and in the evenings took a Commercial Course at the Technical School. At Christmas, I got a few weeks' work at Kehoe's, plucking turkeys. I was the only male among a group of young women. When I went to collect my wages I was horrified to find that the young lady who paid me was a fellow student at the Technical College. However, she was very nice, and just smiled. In the New Year, I got a job at Thompsons, where they were making concrete tiles for roofs, it was the first time I had seen concrete tiles instead of slates. We made enough tiles to roof the whole of Carlow! However, the job finished after about six months, and, apart from working with farmers, I was ready for England.

Had we won the Provincial Football Championship, I doubt if I should ever have come to England. Every summer and winter holiday I had worked with farmers, with my brothers and neighbours. I had also worked at Suttons Stores as an errand boy and van boy. I still remember taking the young son on the carrier of my bicycle to the little Church of England school in "Big" Barrack Street. Almost every day, the van driver and I travelled through Leix, up the Killeshin Hills. We always stopped to look down on the little villages, lighted by oil lamps, before we delivered our goods.


In 1934, I left Carlow to join my mother and most of my family in London, where I still live, with my wife Renee, and my own family. I found work in London very quickly, as most Irish men and women did. After about a year or two, I changed jobs and went to work in a famous aero-engine works, D. Napier & Son, West London. I eventually became a grinder in the works. When the War started in 1939, we became a reserved occupation firm because we made aeroplane engines and engines for torpedo boats. I remained at Napier until 1948 when I became a temporary school teacher until I went to college a year later.

I had been playing Gaelic Football for an Irish team based on Wormwood Scrubs, in West London. We played every Sunday at Catford in South London, about an hour's journey by tube and tram. We won a competition that year, and played the final in Woolwich Arsenal Stadium. I was told that I might be picked for the team representing England against the All Ireland Champions. I heard no more, and I didn't even receive a medal for winning at Woolwich. I was very shy and naive! That autumn, I played soccer for my firm, Napiers!

I had taken courses in P.E. and was a member of the Regent Street Polytechnic Boxing Club, and won their Club Championship in 1936. I boxed many times for the club, until the war started, when it closed for a short period. I then joined the boxing section of Acton Sports Club, which I represented at Charity tournaments, such as the R.A.F. Benevolent Fund, Fire Brigade Fund, Aid for Russia Fund and local charities. I also boxed against representatives of the Canadian Army, the British Army and Inter Battalion Home Guard - I was a corporal in the works Home Guard. I also boxed on two shows where Freddie Mills boxed an exhibition with the South African Champion, Don McCorkindale.


About this time, I also became a member of a local amateur dramatic society - The Brook Green (Hammersmith) Players, and all through the war, we performed in shelters, Tube stations, and surface shelters, and on anti-aircraft sites -during air raids. Life was full and exciting! My brother, Joe, two years older than I, served in the army in Norway.

Just after the War, I became a qualified A.B.A. boxing instructor and when I became a school teacher I took a course and qualified as a Schools Football Referee. All teachers, who are interested in sport, and football especially, were asked to take a football team out every Saturday, when they played inter-school matches. The teacher in charge of the home team always refereed.


I retired in 1980, two years after I received a long-service award for 32 years teaching in our local Borough -I retired as Senior Master (Deputy Head status) of a large mixed Comprehensive School of 1,350 pupils.

I was 80 on the 16th of last month. I visited Carlow in August/September last year, for the first time in forty years.

Source: CARLOW now and then – Vol 1 – No 2 Spring / Summer 1997

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2001 County Carlow Irish Genealogy Project.

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