Thursday, May 6, 2010

Profile of Tommy Nugent

Margaret and Tommy

We visited Mr. Tommy Nugent Senior of Ballybought this month - a famous all-round sportsman in years gone by. He was born in Birmingham, England in March 1904 and he was one of a family of four who came to live on the Commons when he was only 4 years old. He went to school in Ballymore and he remembers Miss Hegarty, Miss Kelly, Miss Farrington, Miss Haydon, Miss Byrne and Mr. and Mrs. McBride teaching there at that time. He left school at the age of 13 and went to work for "rich Christy Dunne" in Johnstown Hollywood for 30/= a quarter.

One of the things that stand out in his memory of years ago was the day Tommy Leahy and Mick McDonald held him under the water in the Liffey for "five minutes”. "They left me for dead" he said. "This was the sort of devilment boys got up to in those days".

He loved handball and he remembers Tom and Joe Morrissey building the Ball Alley in 1910. They lived beside the alley where Dr. Purcell now has his stables. The very first Handball Club was formed by Bernard Purcell, Ned O'Rourke, Pat Conner, Blacksmith, Jimmy McGrath, Jim Byrne, Schoolmaster, Jack McGee, Myles McGee, Peter Nugent, and Myles Lawlor. He remembers paying his first 1/= membership fee. The first singles match played there was between Kit Jordan and Patsy Devoy and the first doubles match between Art Doran and Myles Lawlor versus Jimmy McGrath and himself, which the latter pair won. Tommy Leahy was the top player of his time and "I remember playing him for a bet and winning" Tommy recalls gleefully.

As a youngster he carried the newspapers from Harristown station to Ballymore for Graces and McGuires. Jimmy Smith the Blacksmith ran the mail car to Harristown at the same time. On one occasion, he recalls Bernard Purcell having a bet with Jimmy Smith that Tom would beat him in a race to Harristown. Smith drove the car himself as the usual driver, Jim McLoughlin was a pal of his. In spite of all he won the race quite easy.

Football played a big part in his life and he talked of great players like Mickey Dwyer, Tom Donnelly, Myles Lawlor and Winders brothers. He said he won a "Long Kick" competition with a kick of 65 yards from Anthony Nolan and Noel Cullen. Athletics was another sport he enjoyed and he recalls taking part in races with P. Halpin and Jim McLoughlin.

He joined the Fenians in 1917, Frank Driver being a local leader. He worked for some time with the County Council and also on the E.S.B. scheme. He married Margaret Toomey of Ballysize in 1937. He got a house in Bolabeg as he was then employed by Capt. Spencer Freeman and the couple had 6 children. The years passed, times were hard and ill health forced him to retire early. They moved to their present home and he recalls the many friends who saw him through over the years. Mrs. McLoughlin of Tinnycross; Mrs. McGrath, The Commons; Mick McDonald, Mick Maher and Mr and Mrs. Murray of Ardenode.

In later years, his pastime of training donkeys brought him a lot of pleasure and satisfaction. He won many a donkey derby, but when grass got expensive, he had to give this up.

Céilí dancing and old-time waltzing was another great favourite of his, and many was the all-night house dance he attended in the old days.

He is happy to see snobbery gone out of football. He admires to-day’s youth, but blames their parents for over indulging them. He has 5 grandchildren and their eldest son, Pat lives at home with them. He enjoys reading and looks forward to The Echo every month.

(Matt Purcell - Courtesy of Ballymore Echo, November 1977)

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