Tag Archives: Eoin O’Duffy

From top: ad in The Evening Herald, October 16, 1932; Eoin O’Duffy; coverage in The Sunday Independent, October 11 1932

All-in wrestling comes to Ireland.

Thanks Blueshirts.

‘The Masked Contributor’ writes:

It was 87 years ago yesterday, November 19 1932, that the first ever professional wrestling event took place in Ireland.

While grappling sports like wrestling have long existed here, by the 1930s they had fallen out of fashion. There were attempts at reviving the sport at the beginning of the 20th century but these failed.

Interestingly, the Irish wrestling technique ‘collar and elbow’ was one of the styles incorporated into what became professional wrestling.

Professional wrestling, or ‘all-in’ wrestling as it was then called in Ireland, emerged in the post-Civil War period in America and was typically a touring attraction like a circus.

Wrestling was then introduced into Britain by American migrants at the end of the 1920s and it then reached Irish shores thanks to the controversial Irish figure General Eoin O’Duffy, and the Australian restaurateur and promoter, William Willis.

In the 1930s, General O’Duffy was involved in a campaign to revive athletics and other sports in Ireland, including various forms of wrestling.

Part of his strategy involved holding public events to help clear the debt of the National Athletic and Cycling Association (NACA) and to prepare athletes for upcoming Olympic games.

In early November 1932, it was reported in the [Evening Herald] that the NACA had approached William Willis about promoting wrestling events.

William Willis was born in Australia, although his parents were from Cork and Limerick. During his life, Willis, once a wrestler himself, served in the Australian Army and had played rugby for e London Irish before moving to Dublin.

When approached to promote wrestling it was reported that Willis would provide one night of the proceeds to the NACA and that in March 1933 there would be a tour across Ireland in which 50 percent of the profits from events would go to the NACA.

Shortly after being approached, Wills promoted Ireland’s first-ever wrestling event at the Portobello Barracks (now Cathal Brugha Barracks) in Rathmines, Dublin 6 on November 19 1932.

The card featured talent from England, Germany, Poland, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. These wrestlers were based, and wrestling regularly, in England, before traveling to Ireland. Likewise, numerous Irish wrestlers went to England to wrestle in its burgeoning industry, while others ventured to America.

The event was covered in depth by numerous newspapers with headlines such as ‘Wrestling Thrills: Dublin has first taste of the sport‘ appearing in The Irish Press.

These articles detailed the rules and types of bouts featured in ‘all-in’ wrestling and the wrestlers involved. No attendance figure was provided but it was reported a large crowd was at the event.

At the time, and for a few more years at least, wrestling was still regarded as legitimate. Results were carried in the sports section of newspapers, and footage of bouts was shown on newsreels in cinemas.

However, a series of exposés in America and Ireland in the 1930s revealed the pre-determined nature of wrestling and damaged its popularity.

Two days after its debut another night of wrestling took place, this time at the ‘Rotunda Gardens’ in Dublin.

Again, Willis was the promoter and the card featured the same wrestlers from the first one, but also a man from Skerries named Jack Carroll.

Two more events occurred over the following days at the Rotunda while a final planned event was cancelled, seemingly due to dwindling interest.

Despite the cancellation Willis told reporters this wasn’t the end of wrestling in Ireland, and it wasn’t. Willis continued to promote wrestling throughout the 1930s until a libel case damaged his business. More on that in the future.

Another promoter, Gerard Egan, also ran wrestling events during this period. While wrestling didn’t take off here, within three years an Irishman, Danno O’Mahony, was one of the biggest names in America. More on him in the future.

These days promotions like Over The Top Wrestling and Phoenix Wrestling are among those promoting events for Irish fans.

Meanwhile, Becky Lynch, Sheamus and Finn Balor, have followed the likes of Danno and earned money and fame in America.

All three found heir feet in the Irish wrestling scene before having success with the WWE.

The future is bright for Irish wrestling and its history fascinating.

To be continued.

The Masked Contributor is currently researching the history of wrestling in Ireland and you can see more content on the Irish Wrestling History Facebook page.

Violence-citizenship-and-virility-The-making-of-an-irish-fascist-1[Eoin O’Duffy, Garda Commissioner, 1922-33]

The guards, eh?

Where did they get all that hatt-itude?

“The chaos of the administration of law, rectified by 1924, was marked in its settling down phase by barristers who had acted as republican justices during the War of Independence and had been loyal to the Treaty side. the police force, particularly its detective branch, remained, in the words of David Fitzpatrick, ‘all too obviously the tools of political parties.”

The first recruit to the Gardai was officially attested in February 1922, and most of the initial recruits came from the ranks of the pro-Treaty IRA, with ex-Royal Irish Constabulary and ex-Irish Republican Police represented as well, causing certain tensions on account of former RIC men being promoted to higher ranks.

An initial mutiny on these grounds failed, and a subsequent commission of inquiry mapped out a role for the new force which was at variance with that of its predecessor, the RIC. The Civic Guard was to be the servant of the people – not militaristic or coercive. The Commission envisaged a greatly enhanced civilian role for the new police force, this meant disarming was essential.

This was one of the reasons for the Garda Commissioner Eoin O’Duffy’s emphasis of sobriety and clean living (which his own private life was later to make a mockery of); he emphasised that the force was on trial and moral probity essential. As well as bringing a party of 250 guards to visit the Pope in 1928, O’Duffy thundered against alcohol abuse:-

‘A police officer who has developed a taste for spirituous liquors is always a corrupt official… the stolen visits to the public houses are noted with an even greater care than the open violation… the disease is infectious. Evil communications corrupt good manners, and the drunkard, a scourge in every walk of life, is particularly obnoxious in the uniform of a public servant… no man of any rank who is addicted to drink will be permitted to remain a member of the Civic Guard. This is a penalty which will be rigidly enforced.

In July 1923 the name of the force was changed to An Garda Siochana (‘Guardians of the Peace) and between 1922 and 1952 10,135 men joined, with the sons of farmers strongly favoured over their urban counterparts, and recruits from the western counties preferred to those from the east. It had been important to O’Duffy that ‘the son of the peasant is the backbone of the force’.

During this era, 50 per cent of the police force were former farmers or landworkers, and over 98 per cent Catholic…”

Good times.

From The Transformation Of ireland 1900-2000 by Diarmuid Ferriter

Thanks Sibling of Daedalus