CASTLEBLAYNEY’S SWEDISH ROYAL CONNECTION

© Michael Fisher, The Northern Standard, June 6th 2019 p. 29

Whilst the official visit of President Trump to Ireland today has taken up all the headlines, a state visit last month by the King and Queen of Sweden went by almost without notice. Returning from a Local Ireland awards ceremony in Athlone a fortnight ago, I noticed a long convoy of official cars and Garda outriders on the bypass outside the town. Was it a dress rehearsal for the visit of the US President, I wondered. Or perhaps it was the Swedish royal couple, who had been in Dublin the day before.

Further investigation revealed that the Swedish royals visited the Ericsson research and development site in Athlone to discuss digitalisation and 5G in Europe as part of their three-day state visit. The King and Queen were joined by members of the Swedish Government, including Anders Ygeman, Minister for Energy and Digital Development and Sean Canney TD, Minister of State for Rural Affairs and Natural Resources.

King and Queen of Sweden Visited the Ericsson R&D Facility in Athlone

My thoughts turned to a connection between the Swedish Royal Family and County Monaghan that I had spoken publicly about in Castleblayney 25 years ago. The following information is based largely on the talk which was held in the Glencarn Hotel. It centred around Crown Princess Margaret of Sweden, a daughter of the Duke of Connaught, who lived with his family at Hope Castle in Castleblayney from 1900-1904 (David Hicks in “Irish Country Houses” 2012).

HOPE CASTLE

The Duke of Connaught, son of Queen Victoria, came to Castleblayney on his appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in Ireland. He was then 50, having been born at Buckingham Palace in London on 1st May 1850. It was said at the time that the Duke and Duchess experienced a great deal of difficulty in finding an Irish home as they did not wish to spend all their time in the official residence at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, Dublin. The Irishresidence associated with the office of Commander in Chief was not thought to be suitable for habitation by such high-ranking royals as the grounds of the residence were far from private and its location was thought to be in an inferiorpart of the city (Hicks). Several other houses such as Castletown House in Kildare were considered before the Duke settled on Hope Castle, which he leased from Lord Henry Francis Hope. It is believed that the Castleblayney residence was chosen as it was located near the home of Leonie Leslie, a prominent socialite at the time, who lived at Castle Leslie, Glaslough. She was a close friend of the Duke and Duchess, with the emphasis on the former.

The royal couple arrived in Castle Blayney in June 1900 and received a warm welcome from the local people; both the gates to the castle and the whole town were decorated with bunting and flags. The Duke had taken the castle for the summer season in 1900 with an option of leasing it for a further five years. It was thought at the time that Hope Castle would become an official royal residence and that Queen Victoria would visit her son here, but she died in 1901. The Duke of Duchess of Connaught ended their association with the Castle in 1904 (Hicks).

DUKE OF CONNAUGHT

Of her five children, Prince Arthur (William Patrick Albert) was Queen Victoria’s favourite son. By the time he arrived in ’Blayney, he already had a distinguished military career. He entered the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich in 1866, was created a Knight of the Order of St Patrick in 1869 and by the age of 21, was a Privy Counsellor. He received his title Duke of Connaught and Strathearn in 1874, then served as Assistant Adjutant General in Gibraltar for two years. He was promoted again in 1876, serving as personal ADC to Queen Victoria, a role he fulfilled for four of her successors. In 1879 he was married at St George’s chapel in Windsor Castle, near London.

His wife was Princess Louise of Prussia, who at the age of 18 was 10 years his junior. She had been born in Potsdam in 1860, third daughter of Prinz Friedrich Karl of Prussia. The couple had two children.

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Bagshot Park in Surrey, England from Morris’s Country Seats from the time the Duke of Connaught lived there (1880)

Their first child was Margaret Victoria Augusta Charlotte Norah, born at Bagshot Park in Surrey on January 15th 1882 (this is now the private residence of Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex). Just under a year later, the second child, Arthur, was born at Windsor Castle. He later saw active service in the South African war and was Governor General there from 1920-23.

The Duke of Connaught became a General in 1893 after serving in Egypt and India and was appointed a Field Marshal in 1902, during the time he was in Castleblayney. He was a significant figure in British society, as can be seen by the rest of his career.

On completing his four years in Ireland, he was appointed Inspector General of the British Forces and President of the Selection Board 1904-07. For the next two years, he was Field Marshal and Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean. He opened the Union Parliament of South Africa, where his son later became Governor General, in 1910.

The following year, the Duke became Governor General of Canada, a post he held for five years and which aroused controversy as he attempted to meddle in Canadian military affairs. He served as Grand Master of the United Lodge of Freemasons from 1901 (a year after his appointment in Ireland) to 1939. He was decorated by several countries, including Spain, Turkey, France, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Greece, Japan (Order of the Chrysanthemum), Ethiopia, the Netherlands, Tunisia, Montenegro, Romania and finally, Monaco. The Duke died at Bagshot Park in Surrey on January 16th 1942, at the age of 91.

CROWN PRINCESS MARGARET

When Princess Margaret of Connaught was 23 and her younger sister Princess Patricia of Connaught was 18, both girls were among the most beautiful and eligible princesses in Europe. Their uncle, King Edward VII, wanted his nieces to marry a European king or crown prince. In January 1905, the Duke and Duchess of Connaught visited Portugal, where they were received by King Carlos and his wife, Amélie of Orléans whose sons Luís Filipe, Duke of Braganza, and Prince Manuel entertained the young British princesses. The Portuguese expected one of the Connaught princesses would become the future Queen of Portugal.

The Connaughts continued their trip to Egypt and Sudan. In Cairo, they met Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden, the future Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden, grandson of the Swedish King Oscar II. Originally, Margaret’s sister Patricia had been considered a suitable match for Gustaf Adolf; without his knowledge, a meeting was arranged with the two sisters. Gustaf Adolf and Margaret fell in love at first sight, and he proposed at a dinner held by Lord Cromer at the British Consulate in Egypt, and was accepted. Margaret’s parents were very happy with the match. Gustaf Adolf and Margaret, then 23, married on 15th June 1905 in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, where her father had also been married. The couple spent their honeymoon at Adare Manor in Co. Limerick and arrived in Sweden on 8th July 1905. One of Margaret’s wedding presents was the Connaught tiara, which remains in the Swedish royal jewellery collection today.

The Crown Prince of Sweden, Gustaf Adolf, was ten months younger than his bride. He came from a military background, like his father-in-law, having entered the Swedish army in 1902. Thirty years later, he became a General. His wife, however, did not survive that long.

During the First World War, she did a lot of work for the Red Cross and as can be seen in her connections with Castleblayney, she seemed to be a caring person. Known in Sweden as Margareta, she died thirty years before her husband’s accession to the throne of Sweden.

At 2 o’clock in the morning on 1st May 1920, her father’s 70th birthday, Crown Princess Margaret, aged 38, died suddenly in Stockholm of “blood poisoning” (sepsis).

Her husband re-married (the second wife was Lady Louise Mountbatten, sister of Earl Mountbatten). At the age of 68, Gustaf Adolf succeeded to the throne, reigning from 1950 to September 1973 as King Gustaf VI Adolf, the last Swedish monarch to hold real political power. He was a noted archaeologist and died aged 90. Since then, his grandson Carl XVI Gustaf has held the title of King and reigns along with Queen Silvia. They are the dignitaries who have just completed a state visit to Ireland.

Following her marriage in 1905, Crown Princess Margaret had five children. The first born in Stockholm on 22nd April 1906 was Gustaf Adolf, Duke of Vaesterbotten, later Prince. He was killed in a flying accident near Copenhagen in 1947, so when the time for succession came, in 1973, it was his son who took the throne and is now the King of Sweden.

He was followed by Sigvard, born at Drottningholm Palace in July 1907, an important year for the Swedish royal family, as Gustaf V came to the throne, shortly after the dissolution of the union between Sweden and Norway. The last three children were all born in Stockholm. Princess Ingrid in March 1910, Bertil in February 1912 and then carl, Duke of Dalecorlia, November 1916.

Some of the children are pictured in postcards which she sent from Stockholm over a period of five years, passing greetings to what she described as he friends in Castleblayney. All are addressed to Mrs JJ Kelly, a correspondence linking Castleblayney and Sweden.

THE KELLY CONNECTION

JJ Kelly was a Local Government Board Inspector and his wife Mary was the postmistress. They lived at Castle Square as it was then called, near the entrance to Hope Castle. Both are buried in the graveyard behind St Mary’s Church. Their daughter Rosa Kelly was a first cousin of my mother and details of the correspondence were kept by her following Rosa’s death in Surrey, where she is buried beside my aunt Dorothy Smyth. My mother then passed on details of the original correspondence including letters to the Swedish royal archives in Stockholm.

THE POSTCARDS

The first is not dated and it’s impossible to decipher the postmark. But the picture shows Crown Princess Margaret and her husband, who is holding a baby, Gustaf Adolf, the Duke of Vaesterbotten, who was born in April 1906. It reads:

“Princess Margaret send many thanks for the shamrock and hopes all the friends at Castle Blayney are well.” So it seems it might have been written in March 1907, some time after St Patrick’s Day (possibly 20th March). Some similar messages follow in the next few years. The Kellys must have sent Princess Margaret shamrock to wear, to remind her of Castleblayney.

“19th December 1909

A happy Xmas & 1910 to all from

Margaret”. The picture shows her with her two children, Gustaf Adolf aged 3, and Sigvard, aged 2.

“March 18 1910. Thank you so much for the shamrock. I hope you and all old friends in Castle Blayney and neighbourhood are well, Margaret.” The picture is probably of Gustaf Adolf again, aged three and wearing a similar outfit to the previous photo.

Postmark 1912

Picture of Prinsessan Margareta on front with a greeting to Mrs Kelly:

“A happy Christmas to you from Princess Margaret, Stockholm”

March 25 1914

Five months before the outbreak of World War I.

“Stockholm. The Crown Princess sends her best thanks for the shamrock and the kind thought which prompted the gift.”

No stamp or postmark. Might have been enclosed with a letter.

The picture is of the Crown Princess in what appears to be national costume with a white head-dress and reading a book.

March 21 1915

“The Crown Princess of Sweden sends most grateful thanks for the shamrock, which arrived here quite safely on St Patrick’s Day.”

Mrs Kelly’s address was given as ‘The Trees’, so by then she seemed to have finished her role as postmistress (according to the street directories). It’s also interesting that this correspondence was seven months after the start of WWI. The picture showed four of Margaret’s five children, Prince Gustaf Adolf, Sigvard, Bertil and Princess Ingrid.

December 15 1915

“The Crown Princess of Sweden sends an Xmas greeting to Castle Blayney”. The picture is of Margaret and captioned Vår Kronprinsessa / Our Crown Princess.

One card simply says: “Wishing you a Happy Christmas and New Year from Margaret.” Her portrait on the front seems to indicate it was from one of the earlier years.

The final postcard which appears to conclude the correspondence was posted in Stockholm and addressed to Mrs Kelly at The Trees, Castle Blayney.

April 17 1916

“The Crown Princess of Sweden sends grateful thanks for the shamrock. She was sorry to hear of your sad loss and sends sincere sympathy.” The reference was probably to the death of Joe Kelly in August 1915.

The picture shows four of Margaret’s children (the fifth wasn’t born until the following year), Gustaf Adolf, Sigvard, Bertil and Princess Ingrid.
The postcards provide a fascinating insight into Castleblayney’s connection with the Swedish Royal Family.

This was first published by me at a talk in Castleblayney in 1994, the third annual lecture in memory of the late Fr Peadar Livingstone..

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EUNICE AND THE ‘OTHER SISTER’

This story about Rosemary Kennedy contains extracts from a letter she wrote in 1940, the year before she underwent a lobotomy at the insistence of her father Joe. The writing is childlike but Rosemary’s bubbly personality shines through, just as it did in letters written in 1938 when my aunt Dorothy Smyth knew her in London.

EXIT ONLY

eunice youngI could look at pictures of Eunice all day, hero that she was for trying to do for others what she couldn’t do at home. She was just 19 when sister Rosemary was lobotomized according to their father’s wishes. He didn’t even tell Rose he had ordered it done ’til the surgery was over and they realized to their horror that she would never again stand erect, never again write the kind of letter that appears below here. My mother and aunt owned and ran a girls’ camp called Fernwood and in the spring of 1940, Rose Kennedy asked to meet them in New York to talk about her 22-year-old ‘working’ there as a Junior Counselor. Mom used to say she should have known the minute Mrs. Kennedy arrived without her daughter that the girl was not as ‘able’ as Rose was leading them to believe and sure enough, her…

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JUDICIAL REVIEW

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Notice on gate at entrance to farmland in Co. Meath along the route of proposed interconnector. Pic. © Michael Fisher

JUDICIAL REVIEW OF BORD PLEANÁLA DECISION ON ELECTRICITY INTERCONNECTOR

Anti-pylon campaigners representing landowners from Meath and part of Co. Monaghan are taking part in a court case in Dublin this week aimed at overturning the planning approval for the North-South electricity interconnector. An Bord Pleanála granted approval last December for the major infrastructure project involving almost 300 pylons and overhead high voltage wires running across countryside from the border at Lemgare, near Clontibret in Co.Monaghan, to a sub station at Woodland, near Batterstown in Co. Meath. EirGrid has said the overall cost of construction will be €286 million, €180m for the proposed development in the Republic and the balance for the shorter SONI section in Co. Armagh leading to a sub station at Turleenan near the Moy, Co. Tyrone.

In February the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign, which has led the opposition amongst landowners and residents to the 400kV overhead line since it was first proposed eight years ago, was granted leave to apply for a judicial review of the Bord Pleanála decision. The case is also in the name of Maura Sheehy, a farmer, of Teltown Road, Donaghpatrick, Co Meath, one of the hundreds of objectors who attended the lengthy public enquiry held in Carrickmacross last year.

As well as challenging An Bord Pleanála, the case is also against the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; and the State. The developer, EirGrid, is a notice party. Nigel Hillis of the County Monaghan Anti Pylon Committee was among the interested observers at the Commercial Court on Tuesday when the hearing opened in front of Mr Justice Max Barrett.

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High voltage electricity line and pylon. Pic. Michael Fisher

The court was told that in approving the development, An Bord Pleanála had failed to take into account the potential impact of the UK planning to leave the European Union. A lawyer for the applicants, Conleth Bradley SC, said the grounds of challenge included a failure by the Board to address properly the rights of the affected landowners as well as environmental issues and the implications of Brexit.

The judge will later hear two separate but similar challenges over the permission granted for the interconnector. They are being brought by David Malone, of Eurolaw Environmental Consultants, St Joseph’s Terrace, Portarlington, Co Laois, and Val Martin, a farmer and environmental campaigner of Gortnakesh, Co. Cavan. The case continues.

INTERCONNECTOR TIMELINE

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High voltage line electricity pylon  Pic. Michael Fisher

Plan for second interconnector goes back 14 years
Line has been designated by EU as one of 195 key energy infrastructure projects

Michael Fisher  THE IRISH TIMES

Nearly 18 months ago EirGrid applied to build a high-capacity electricity interconnector between Dublin and Tyrone, the second between the Republic and Northern Ireland.
The proposed line stretches over approximately 135km, linking the existing transmission networks in both jurisdictions between an existing substation in Woodland, Co Meath, and one planned for Turleenan in Co Tyrone.

In the Republic the development, now approved by An Bord Pleanála, will pass through Monaghan, Cavan and Meath, requiring 299 steel lattice-style pylons, ranging from 26m to 51m in height, linked to an existing pylon line.
The line has been designated by the European Commission as one of 195 key energy infrastructure projects across the EU that have been dubbed as projects of common interest. Such projects, the Commission says, “are essential for completing the European internal energy market, and for reaching the EU’s energy policy objectives of affordable, secure and sustainable energy”.

The decision by An Bord Pleanála–- one that has come with conditions – followed a second oral hearing in a Carrickmacross hotel in Co Monaghan. It lasted 12 weeks, and was one of the longest such public inquiries in the State’s history. The plan for a second interconnector between the Republic and Northern Ireland goes back 14 years when an initial feasibility study was carried out on the possibility of building a 220KV line between Tyrone and Dublin.

However, as the peace process bedded down, plans became more ambitious, and a further North/South study was carried out in 2005, which this time investigated the potential and the need for a 275KV line. A year later the cross-Border interconnector that had been shut down during the Troubles following a bomb attack on pylons near Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, was finally restored.
Information days
Meanwhile, approval was given for planning for a second line – one that had now grown to a 400KV plan – which saw EirGrid hold information open days in Meath, Cavan and Monaghan. It launched an information telephone and email service in October 2007, though two years passed before it submitted a planning application to An Bord Pleanála under the Strategic Infrastructure Act.

Following a statutory consultation period, an oral hearing by An Bord Pleanála began in Carrickmacross in May 2010. However, it was brought to a sudden end within weeks, and Eirgrid withdrew the application.
The late Fine Gael councillor Owen Bannigan had revealed an error in EirGrid’s plans in the stated height of the proposed electricity pylons that would run across Monaghan on the 21st day of the oral hearing.
Two years later, Eirgrid’s then newly-appointed chief executive Fintan Slye told agendaNI magazine that a second North/South interconnector was “absolutely critical” for Northern Ireland’s future security of supply. In November 2014, EirGrid submitted its draft application file to Bord Pleanála for review. Four months later EirGrid republished its proposed line route, one that would form the basis of its planning application.
Alignment
The route plan followed a review of the December 2013 line design. The review resulted in some of the proposed tower locations being repositioned along the alignment, but the alignment itself was not changed. By June 2015, EirGrid was ready to place a public planning notice in newspapers, followed by the submission of an application shortly afterwards to the Strategic Infrastructure Division of An Bord Pleanála.
Ten weeks of public consultation followed, one that prompted 900 replies. Last January, Eirgrid offered to meet people in their homes or at one of their information offices or elsewhere to discuss their concerns.Throughout campaign groups in Monaghan and Meath have criticised the consultation, but most particularly EirGrid’s “insufficient attention” to alternatives.

Localised impacts
“In England they’re pulling down pylons; in Ireland we’re putting them up,” said one Meath resident. The final ruling from Bord Pleanála runs to 615 pages. In its conclusions the planning authority declares that it recognised that the pylons’ plan would “result in a limited number of localised impacts”. However, “having regard to the identified strategic need for the development”, the plan is in accordance with planning rules “subject to compliance with the mitigation measures” that the planning appeals board has laid down.

ANTI PYLON REACTION

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Padraig O’Reilly NEPPC Pic.Michael Fisher

Anti-pylon action will dwarf Shell to Sea campaign, says NEPPC
Group says campaign against EirGrid will make Corrib protests ‘look like walk in park’

Michael Fisher THE IRISH TIMES

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Anti-pylon sign in Co.Meath  Pic. Michael Fisher

Campaigners have warned that the battle to stop the erection of hundreds of electricity pylons will make the Shell to Sea campaign “look like a walk in the park”.
Responding furiously to An Bord Pleanála’s decision to approve EirGrid’s plans to build a North South electricity interconnector, the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign (NEPPC) described it as “deplorable” and “an affront to democracy”.
Describing it as “biased”, Padraig O’Reilly, of the NEPPC, claimed it would only deepen public cynicism towards bureaucracy and intensify local opposition to the pylons.
However, he drew comfort from the fact that the project still has to navigate Northern Ireland’s planning system, while court battles will continue in both jurisdictions.
Woefully inadequate
A “viable, realistic and publicly acceptable option” to put much of the electricity line underground along public roads does exist, but it has never been properly examined, he went on. However, EirGrid had already decided on an overhead line and had put out, and awarded, a contract tender even before public consultation had taken place, he charged. EirGrid’s planning application was woefully inadequate and failed to contain enough information for an acceptable environmental study, he claimed.

Meanwhile, the utility had not accessed 75 per cent of the lands proposed for the 300 pylon towers and had communicated with only 5 per cent of the landowners, he added.
The planning decision ignores these deficiencies and heralds the end of An Bord Pleanála’s status in the public eye as an objective, independent decision-making body, he continued.

However, the anti-pylon group insists that there is still time for EirGrid to be ordered by Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten to place the lines underground. “If political action is not taken, this project will make the Shell to Sea debacle look like a walk in the park. The will of the people will prevail,” said the NEPPC.

Meanwhile, opponents in Monaghan are equally determined in their opposition, saying An Bord Pleanála had “waved the application through”. “It’s a bad day for the Irish planning system,” said Nigel Hillis, who was particularly critical of the decision to issue such a finding so close to Christmas.

Monaghan County Council chairman PJ O’Hanlon described it as “very unfortunate” and supported calls for an emergency council meeting early in January.
There, councillors – who are all united against the pylon plan – will, he said, examine the ruling in detail and look at ways to oppose it.

Opponents in Northern Ireland remain hopeful that the planning authorities there will make a different decision when they rule on the pylon plan.
“We are disappointed at this ruling by An Bord Pleanála,” said a spokesperson for the campaign group, Safe Electricity Armagh and Tyrone (SEAT).

DANNY MURPHY RIP

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Danny Murphy  Pic. Ulster GAA

DEATH OF GAA ULSTER COUNCIL SECRETARY

Northern Standard  Thursday 8th December

The GAA in Ulster is mourning the loss of the Ulster Council Secretary and Chief Executive Danny Murphy, who died yesterday (Wednesday) at the age of 67. He stood down from his role earlier this year because of ill health but was to remain in the post until February 2017. Mr Murphy’s funeral Mass will take place today Saturday 10th December at 12 noon in St Mary’s Church, Burren, near Newry. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Past President of the Ulster Council Martin McAviney from Ballybay said Danny had acted as a mentor to him in his thirty years’ involvement with the Council. He paid tribute to Mr Murphy who he said was a personal friend and had travelled with him to many places throughout the province on GAA business.

“He was a man of absolute honesty and integrity. He had the foresight to bring the Ulster Council to a whole new level in the sporting world, in areas such as coaching, protection issues and above all his role in the peace process since the signing of the Good Friday agreement in 1998. He was able to bring everyone with him when it came to taking initiatives. His legacy is that there is now a structure in place in Ulster GAA that is fit for purpose in the modern era”, he said.

Mr McAviney said the late Mr Murphy had a good knowledge of legal issues such as ownership of property. He also knew the fine details of the GAA rule book. He continued: “My last duty as President of the Ulster Council was to accompany Danny at the grounds awards last year. He was a guiding light for many people at club level. He was a very fair man, who always did things by getting agreement on them. His belief was that the only way of going forward was to ask people to take ownership of projects”.

The esteem in which he was held by other sports can be judged by the responses from organisations such as Ulster Rugby and the Irish Football Association. Irish FA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson said: “I got to know Danny very well and I enjoyed working with him. I was often able to count on his wise counsel.

“He was keen for the various sporting organisations in Northern Ireland to work together to improve facilities for all sports.”

The North’s First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said in a statement: “Danny Murphy made a colossal contribution to sport over many years and his death will leave a massive void. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this difficult time.”

SDLP South Down MP Margaret Ritchie said: “Danny was a powerful force for reconciliation on the island of Ireland, and between Britain and Ireland. He made an enormous contribution to the professionalism of the GAA in Ulster.

Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Comhairle Uladh, Michael Hasson said: “It was with profound sadness that we heard of Danny’s passing. We know that this sorrow is felt by all Gaels in Ulster, Ireland and throughout the wider GAA world. Danny was an outstanding leader who provided unstinting dedication to the GAA in Ulster for over 35 years. His contribution to every aspect of the GAA, from his initial involvement with St Mary’s GAC, Burren, his beloved County Down and his immense commitment to Comhairle Uladh brought unprecedented success to every unit of the Association he was involved in.”

 

ONLY ONE WIMBLEDON FC

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Six years ago I published this article with my views on Franchise. The clubs did not face each other that year as MK lost in the FA Cup first round. They did come up against each other in the Cup in 2012 with MK wining at home 2-1. How things have changed in the intervening period. On Saturday the Milton Keynes lot will take on AFC Wimbledon at their home place some sixty miles from Wimbledon. This time the sides are meeting in League One and the Real Dons are higher up the table than the other lot. So I will go there on Saturday to follow my team on the basis that they deserve our support especially after their recent successes. But I will contribute as little as I can in terms of spending at the MK base.

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AFC Wimbledon Supporters Pic: Michael Fisher

November 10th 2010: There’s Only One Wimbledon FC

Anyone who knows me will realise I am a Wimbledon supporter. That includes Hot Press readers thanks to Eamonn McCann’s article in the latest edition. The conversation sometimes starts along the lines of “you mean MK Dons?”. It’s a phrase I and many others cannot bear mentioning because of the way a once proud football club which won the FA Cup thanks to Lawrie Sanchez in 1988 v Liverpool was allowed by the football authorities to fold and move some sixty miles away to Buckinghamshire. There were plans at the time for the club to transfer to my home town of Dublin (or possibly even Belfast where I live). But I would not have gone to watch them in either place as I could not regard them as Wimbledon FC. I have followed the Dons since their days as amateurs in the Isthmian League. For me, their first major success was in winning the FA Amateur Cup final at Wembley in 1963 when they beat local rivals Suttton United 4-2.

UPDATE: ***Sutton United have been drawn at home to AFC Wimbledon in the 3rd round of the 2017 FA Cup next month***

Fast forward to the FA Cup 2nd round draw live on ITV on Sunday (November 7th 2010), presented by Jim Rosental, with whom I used to work in BBC Radio Birmingham. In fact I persuaded him to add to the station’s coverage of six league clubs by reporting a “minor match of the day”. I was motivated by the fact that Wimbledon were in the Southern League premier division at the time (1975) and the very first match of the new season was Nuneaton (at the edge of the station’s area) versus Wimbledon. The Dons won and Jim back-announced my report by saying “Mike Fisher, bit of a Wimbledon supporter himself”! Sunday’s draw has produced the possibility of a tie between AFC Wimbledon and the franchise outfit. But first both sides have to win replays. Headlines in some media have portrayed this as a glamour tie and one which the TV companies would no doubt seek to cover. But judging by the mood on the ground as expressed in blogs and on twitter, many AFCW fans would prefer such a clash not to happen. As a founder member of the Dons Trust I agree. AFC Wimbledon are not yet ready to meet the club that stole the Wimbledon heritage and wrapped themselves up in the comforts of league status. AFCW have started from scratch, even going back to the roots at Wimbledon Common where they began trials for players. Now the club is at an exciting stage, contenders for promotion to the Football League. But I would be glad enough to meet MK when we get there, in another year or two and who knows, maybe they will even be relegated to division two. So my first thoughts are that I will be delighted to see either Stevenage or Ebbsfleet or even both of them progress in the Cup. I will return to this issue after the replays.

If it does turn out to be AFCW v MK Dons then the club I am sure will be very professional in its response, as indicated in the statement at [new window] http://www.afcwimbledon.co.uk . However the real fans will have to decide. Do they boycott the game (which would mean the club would lose badly needed revenue) or if they do attend, how do they behave towards the visitors? Various options have been discussed so far, but I think that if this fixture is held, then my best approach as a season ticket holder would be to purchase a ticket and then not go to the game or else attend but not take a place on the terrace or in the stand. Anyway the 1st round replays have to be held before the Dons fans face what could be some difficult choices. Neutrals have a lot of sympathy for them and nothing must be done by supporters at Kingsmeadow that would alienate the wider soccer fraternity.