A Golden Era

The period between 1931-36 was one of the most successful in the clubs illustrations past. St. Patrick’s dominated club football in Down, winning both the East Down league and the All-County Senior Football Championship in 1935. This was Downpatrick’s first championship title, and in the final they defeated Kilcoo by 3.1 to 0.8. On their way to the final they defeated Annaclone, Newry and Ballymartin.

Outstanding for Downpatrick in the final were George Milligan, the Oakes brothers Alf and Bill, Brendan King, Hugh Kelly and Pat Fennon who scored the winning goal five minutes from time. Many of the ‘35 team were selected to play for both East Down and the county team.

St. Patrick’s continued to flourish and in the 1938-39 season, two significant events occurred. Firstly the club moved from their base at the back of the Downshire Hospital to Leatham’s field at Ballymote, a venue which remained their home until the Dunleath playing fields at Ballyduggan road were opened in the late 60s. Secondly the club was renamed ‘The Thomas Russell Club’ in memory of the great patriot who was executed at Downpatrick jail on October 21st 1903. Ten years later it adopted its present name ‘The Russell Gaelic Union’.

Back Row: Willie King, John Collins, Pat Lennon, Joey Tumelty, Tom Bohill, Bill Oakes, George Johnston, Alf Oakes, Bro. Patrick, Willie Fitzsimmons.
Front Row: Paddy Smith, Hugh Kelly, John McKeating, Brendan King, Paddy Crangle, Paddy McKeating, Desmond Bradley, Willie Byrne.
Seated Centre front: Willie Ross

The 1940s were relatively inactive apart from two major initiatives, which occurred at that time. These were the advent of the street or parish leagues and the Aeridheachts.

The street leagues became very popular and the Aeridheachts quickly developed into a great annual festival of Irish sport, music, dancing and oratory.

The appealing power of the Aeridheachts continued into the fifties, ad the club staged very successful Aeridheachts in 1951, 52 and 53.

Off the field of play the clubs first newspaper ‘Imeasc na n Gaedheal’ was published in February 1950. The price of the newspaper was 3d, and all of the one hundred copies of the first issue were sold. Publication continued at regular intervals through 1950-51 and the Gaels of East Down were kept abreast of what was happening in Gaelic circles at the time.

The Aeridheacht held on Sunday 16th July 1950 was possibly the most successful in the series. On that particular day Mr. Sean McBride, then minister for external affairs of the Irish Republic gave the oration. Mr. McBride, son of the illustrious Maud Gonne, was a leading Irish and world statesman and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with Amnesty International.

Back Row: Joe Keating, Tommy Lundy, Danny Rea, Willie Price, John Magorrian.
Middle: Leonard McLoughlin and Hughie Smith.
Front Row: Billy Fitzsimmons, Pat Kelly and Malachy Wallace