Northern Ireland

Centenary of death of Co Down-born GAA founder John McKay marked at London graveside

Pictured at a ceremony in London at the grave of John McKay, who died 100 years ago, are (left to right) Milo Crummy, Phil McKay, Seán Óg McAteer, Dónal McAnallen and Michael McArdle
Pictured at a ceremony in London at the grave of John McKay, who died 100 years ago, are (left to right) Milo Crummy, Phil McKay, Seán Óg McAteer, Dónal McAnallen and Michael McArdle Pictured at a ceremony in London at the grave of John McKay, who died 100 years ago, are (left to right) Milo Crummy, Phil McKay, Seán Óg McAteer, Dónal McAnallen and Michael McArdle

A ceremony in London has remembered the key contribution to the early GAA of Co Down-born John McKay.

The one-time Irish News reporter was among a small group who met at Hayes' Hotel in Thurles, Co Tipperary to establish the association in 1884 and served as one of three of its first secretaries.

Despite his central role in the development of the early GAA, his name was largely forgotten over the decades in contrast to celebrated contemporaries such as Michael Cusack.

It was only confirmed this century that he grew up in Cargagh, outside Downapatrick, and was buried in an unmarked grave at Kensal Green in London.

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In 2009 the GAA arranged the installation of a gravestone memorial, while a blue plaque was erected by the Ulster History Circle on the old offices of The Irish News on Donegall Street, Belfast.

The centenary of his death in December 1923 has now been marked with events in London and Downpatrick.

In a memorial ceremony hosted by GAA's Provincial Council of Britain and London County Board, the grave was blessed by Cork native Rev John Buckley and Amhrán na bhFiann played by uilleann piper Tom Lynch.

Wreaths were laid by Down GAA secretary Seán Óg McAteer and Ulster Council PRO Michael McArdle, by Michael Walker of the Provincial Council of Britain and Dónal McAnallen of the GAA History Committee, and by All-Ireland winning camogie captain Amy O'Connor on behalf of Cork GAA board, recognising his years spent living in the city.

John Arnold of Cork also sang The Mountains of Mourne and Mr McAnallen, whose painstaking research has built up a detailed picture of the McKay family history, delivered an oration.

A representative from the Irish Embassy in Britain was also present, as well as Phil McKay, a great-great-grandnephew of John McKay.

Later, Mr McAnallen, Library & Archives Manager at National Museums NI, delivered a talk at Downpatrick Russell Gaelic Union club to mark the centenary.