December 1908 - 4th May 2008
Links To Tributes
"At the time of his death on May 4, Frank
Lennon, at 99 years of age, was the oldest surviving former Castlewellan player
and the last remaining team member of the club’s famous 1934 and 1936 Senior
County Championship teams.
Frank’s introduction to Gaelic football came in 1914 when he was a young
schoolboy attending the primary school in Aughlisnafin. Fr Erdley, who was the
parish priest at the time, started a schoolboy team and the young Frank was
picked as their captain. The next Gaelic team Frank played for was a Ballylough
team and although only a young teenager, he also became club secretary.
In 1924, at the age of 17, Frank began his Senior football career with
Drumnaquoile, a team organised by a man called Hugh McCann. In 1927 a team was
organised in the Finn and Frank played on that team and was also team secretary.
It was with this Finn team that Frank won his first GAA trophy in 1928, an East
Down runners-up medal.
By 1928 Frank’s football skills had come to the attention of the County Down
GAA Board and that same year he was selected to play for the county. His first
game was a challenge match against the famous Breffni Blues Cavan team, the
reigning All-lreland champions.
The occasion was a fundraising game for the new St Patrick’s memorial at Saul
and the game was played in Smyth’s field in the townland of Moneybot. Players
then had to find their own way to games, and Frank recalled cycling to Saul from
Tommy Steele from Castlewellan was another Down player on the team that day, as
was Johnny Doherty from Ballykinlar (father of Paddy Doherty of 60s Down fame).
As was expected Cavan won easily although Frank insisted that the young Down
a good account of themselves against famous Cavan players such as ’Gunner’
Brady, Tom O’Reilly, Jim Smith, and a sergeant in the Guards by the name of
Bovril and Crackers
After the game the champions were treated to dinner in Hayes’s Hotel in
Downpatrick while the Down men received Bovril and crackers, before making their
own way home. Frank also recalled playing for Down against Antrim in Corrigan
Park, where they
were beaten, and against Armagh in the Abbey grounds in Newry a game which they
won. Frank played with both the Down Junior and Senior team for a number of
By 1932, a new parish priest, Fr McAlea, had arrived in Castlewellan and he was
anxious to form a Parish team. He approached the Finn men to join with the Town
and a new St Malachy’s team was formed.
Along with Frank came John O’Hare Seamus Lenaghan, Mick O’Donnell Hugh
McMullan, and Hugh McClean and the new team soon established itself as one of
the foremost in the county, going on to win two SFCs in 1934 and 1936.
In 1934 the team beat Ballymartin in the final after a replay as both sides drew
1-3 each in the first match. In the replay the Town won convincingly beating
Ballymartin 2-5 to just 0-1. In 1936 the final was against Mayobridge and again
the game ended a draw, Castlewellan scoring 0-6 to 1-3. In the replay, the Town won 1-4 to 0-3. The
successful 1934/36 team was Hugh Kelly Hugh McNabb (captain), Seamus Leneghan,
John King, Paddy Steele, Hugh McLean, Hugh McMullan, John O’Hare, Tommy Hannity,
Pat O Boyle, Mousey Hanna, Tommy Steele, Frank Lennon, Peter Hawkins, Mick McDonald, James
Maginn, Fr P J O’Hare, Liam Ferguson, Tom McCann.
Frank was also a member of the Castlewellan Sevens team that won the GAA Jubilee
Year Feis competition in 1934, which was played in Thornton’s field opposite
St Patrick’s Park in Newcastle.
Frank took great pride on this memorable title as it was in the semi-finals of
the Feis Sevens against Kilcoo in The Meadow that he clinched the winning point
for the Town to put them through to the finals on Feis Sunday.
Frank won a second Feis medal with the Town a couple of years later in 1936 and
they also got to the final of the Sevens in 1937. He recalled that they should
have won the final that year, which was against Ballymartin. The Town was
winning when he was
brought down in a rough tackle resulting in him sustaining a broken
collarbone and the game continued with only six Town men, allowing Ballymartin
the opportunity to get back into the game and take the lead before Castlewellan
made a substitution.
By 1937 the team was still going well, having won the All County League in
1935/36. But by 1937, internal strife within the new St Malachy’s club
resulted in the team folding but not before they won the East Down League in
Asked to Help
In 1938, however, Frank had opened his first business - a grocery shop and
animal meal store at Ballybannon, and he was asked to help form a new
Auglisnafin team. The St Mary’s team quickly developed football, hurling and
camogie, as well as Irish dancing and a choir. A branch of the Gaelic League was
also established, and Mrs Brendan Nolan and Mrs Dan O’Rourke (Miss Noonan)
taught Irish classes in the old Finn School.
The St Mary’s team went on to win a Feis medal that same year and although
Frank was not a regular in the team, he stood in for Hugh McClean who was not
available to play that day - thus Frank is the proud holder of three Feis medals
(two with the Town and one with the Finn). The other members of the St Mary’s
Feis team were Owen McGeown (goals), Dinney and Willie McKibben, John O’Hare,
Barney Trainor and Pat McShane.
Frank played for the Finn for a number of years until the club folded again,
before finally ending his playing days for a Rossglass team (near Ardglass) who
had asked him to help them out.
Frank also helped to form Annsborough GFC in the late Forties. He
remained with Annsborough GFC for a number of years and did a spell as club
chairman before he finally retired from the club to concentrate his time and
energy with Feis an Duin, which he had
remained faithful to since he was first asked to help on the gate by his uncle
in 1928. He was later elected chairman of Feis an Duin, for two terms, from
1975 to 1978, and from 1982 to 1986.
After his playing days, Frank continued to follow the fortunes of the local
Gaelic team and the Down team whenever he could, and remained a strong advocate
of teams participating in the Feis Sevens. He was a familiar sight too at the
many sports events in the Fifties and Sixties where he always made available his
famous PA system.
Frank remained an active member of Feis an Duin, serving his second term as
chairman from 1982 to 1986 when he was in his late seventies. After he retired
from the Feis committee, he went on to form a local Mass rock committee whose
aim is to identify and authenticate all Mass rocks in County Down. In the 1980s,
Frank was honoured by Glor na nGael Caislean an Mhuilinn, when he was made
president, and was presented with a Shield in recognition of his lifetime
devotion and promotion of the Irish language, which he spoke with pride.
In 1993 St Malachy’s GAC honored Frank when he was inaugurated into their Hall
of Fame, joining the ranks of former St Malachy’s men and women who brought
great honour to the club in their lifetime.
In the St Malachy’s club, and indeed in the wider community, Frank is fondly
remembered as a true and respected Gael who dedicated his life to the promotion
of Gaelic culture and the Irish way of life.
In the tradition of St Malachy’s GAC, representatives of the club provided a
guard-of-honour for their Hall of Fame recipient as his remains were removed
from St Malachy’s Church following Requiem Mass there last Wednesday.
The club extends its deepest sympathy to his wife Bridie, sons Brian, Frank,
Seamus, Joseph and Laurence, daughters-in-law, grandchildren, and great
grandchildren and entire family circle. His third son Pat, who also played
Senior football for the St Malachy’s club in the late 1960s, predeceased Frank
in the mid 1970s."
May he rest in peace
Courtesy of the Mourne Observer
14 May 2008