Tullow Lawn Tennis Club

This writer is grateful to Mrs Mary Johnson and Mrs Madge Griffith for copies of old Tullow Tennis Club photographs which are reproduced in this article. These photographs were taken by the late Frank McGee and presented to the club by his sister Clare.

The memories evoked by these photographs led him to research the origins and growth of this local sporting and social facility.

Situated between Tullow’s Station Road and The Shroughaun can be found what is now a state-of-the art tennis facility.

Beginning with its humble origins, this article traces the development, adaptation, decline and rebirth of Tullow Lawn Tennis Club. 

Tullow Lawn Tennis Club – its beginnings

The Nationalist and Leinster Times, Tullow Topics column of 18 May 1946, carried the following report:


There has been a lot of groundwork and activity since the public meeting held over a month ago to decide upon the question of a Tennis Club. First of all two men with apparently boundless energy popped the question, “will you join our Town Tennis Club” to practically every male being in the town whom they thought would be interested. They were not disappointed, for the result of their efforts was heartening; in very few cases was there a refusal. Then at a meeting of men it was decided to form the Club in conjunction with the ladies and following this decision about 160 circulars were issued to both ladies and gentlemen to attend at the Memorial Hall on Monday last for the purpose of inaugurating the club and electing a committee for the coming year. This meeting was duly held and about 70 enthusiasts attended with the ladies in the majority. Very Rev,  J. Foynes, Adm.  presided. At the meeting a hearty vote of thanks was passed to Mr. Michael O’Toole, Ballymurphy, for his generosity in providing such an ideal site for the Club’s use, and the members of his family were unanimously elected honorary members of the Tullow Lawn Tennis Club, this being the title decided upon.   The views of those present were then taken as to the amount of the annual subscription. After some discussion it was fixed at 8/6 for ladies and 10/- for men, payable one sum or by two half- yearly instalments. At 3:30 p.m. next Sunday the new Club will be formally opened and we venture to predict that the attendance will surprise even the ghost of Daniel Ower  (with all due apologies to that legendary gentleman for the uncertain spelling of his name) in the castle near the site.


The new Clubs officers and committee were elected as follows:- President, Very Rev.  J. Foynes; Treasurer, Miss Maureen Eustace and Mr. P.J.  Lynott; Secretary, Mr.  Patrick J. Whelan.   Committee: Mrs. E. Maher, Misses M. McLoughlin, M. Shore, N. Donnelly, Messrs J.M. Durnin, K. O’ Grady and Matthew Daly. At the subsequent committee meeting Mr. Thomas Fitzgibbon, who did so much to implement the formation of the Club, was co-opted as a committee member. Subscriptions will be gratefully received by the Hon. Treasurers or by any members of the committee. Tonight (Friday) is fixed for the next committee meeting which will be held at 8:30 p.m. in the Memorial Hall.

Mr. Jim Durnin N.T. (National Teacher) was for many years the Tullow correspondent for the Nationalist and may have written the above and other reports on the new tennis club.

B'Murphy Tennis Crt. J. Byrne
Local man, Jimmy Byrne, standing on the site of the original 1946 tennis court  on the O’Toole farm in Ballymurphy, Tullow.

The present author was given a tour of the original tennis court site by local man, Jimmy Byrne. Although approached by a steep incline, the site was extremely level and the original surrounding bank could be clearly identified.

Other amenities available to the club members included the river Slaney for a post game swim and a pleasant water spring for a refreshing drink! It must have been a wonderful recreation area on a warm summer’s day or evening. Romance was also known to bloom!

Dan cave
Danny Lowry’s Cave, Ballymurphy, Tullow

The Nationalist correspondent mentions a castle in the vicinity. Jimmy Byrne pointed out ‘Danny Lowry’s Cave’ which is probably what the correspondent meant.

Slaney near tennis court
The river Slaney adjoined the tennis court
Nationalist and Leinster Times notice of 1947 AGM

Tullow Tennis Club moves to Shillelagh Road

The new site for Tullow Lawn Tennis Club was on the Railway Road, now called the Shillelagh Road.

Mr. Tony O’Neill of Shillelagh Road acquainted this writer (2018) with the early history of the present club site; it was previously a flax yard.  Flax was stacked in ricks.  These ricks were thatched with straw to keep them dry over the winter.

The flax yard gave good employment, with up to 20 men working there.  These included Jim Wade, Pat Mahon (Tony’s uncle), Maurice Gahan and Paddy Maxwell.   There were also workers from County Kildare, especially from the Castledermot and Athy areas.

The flax was  transported to Newbridge, County Kildare, for processing in the Irish Ropes factory and to the north of Ireland for linen manufacture.

Dr Honoria Aughney in Tullow

The flax field then came into the possession of Dr Honoria Aughney formerly of Roscatt, Tullow.

Dr Aughney had been a medical school class-mate in University College Dublin of the executed patriot, Kevin Barry in UCD.   A member of Cumann na mBan, Dr Aughney remained a life-long republican.

In Irish Women in Medicine c. 1880s – 1920s, Origins, Education and Careers  is found the following entry:

Aughney, Honoria (13 September 1900 – post 1950) from Tullow, Carlow; father Patrick Aughney, farmer.   Roman Catholic.   Matriculated UCD 1919/20; qualified MB BCh BAO in 1924;  DPH 1933.   Listed in Carlow 1924-34. Working in public health offices, 1939, Kildare. Chief MOH Wexford, 1949-59. Published: ‘Production and distribution of milk in Wexford’, Irish Journal of Medical Science, 1956; ‘Some aspects of flouridation’, Irish Journal of Medical Science, 1957.

Marion Ryan's house
Dr Honoria Aughney’s house in Abbey Street, Tullow.  The position of her brass plaque can be seen to the left of the door.   The house is now (2018) owned by Mrs. Marion Ryan.

At some stage Dr Aughney purchased the flax field.  Her nephew, Fr Eddie Aughney, is aware of her living in Abbey Street, Tullow, having previously worked in Kildare.   He thinks that she may have purchased the flax field with the thought of settling down in Tullow, or was planning for her retirement. [1]

In any event, Dr Aughney was appointed Chief Medical Officer of Health for County Wexford in 1949.

Following her appointment, Dr Honoria Aughney gifted the flax field to the young people of Tullow, for sporting purposes. [2]

Dr Aughney in County Wexford

In an article in the Wexford People, Nicky Furlong, referring to the following photograph, states:

The photographer marvellously contrived to include five of the most formidable women in Ireland and Wexford…

Dr Aughney at Feis
Pictured at the opening of Feis Gharmain in Wexford Park 1952, left to right: two Misses Harpur, Margaret Pearse (sister of executed 1916 leaders, Padraig and Willie), Miss Nell Ryan, Dr Honoria Aughney)

Furlong says this of Dr Aughney:

In her battles for public hygiene she had to deal with farmer lobbies, butchers lobbies, Dairymen’s lobbies, food chain lobbies and sanitary engineering lobbies to mention but a few. She faced them all down and cut the tripe out of the red necked bullies.

Dr Aughney memory card
Dr Aughney’s memory card (Courtesy: Fr Eddie Aughney)

Transfer of the club to the Railway (Shillelagh) Road

The following item appeared in the Tullow Topics column of the Nationalist and Leinster Times of the 2 June 1951:

RED LETTER – Sunday next will be a big day in the short history of the local Lawn Tennis Club, for members will be playing on their newly acquired site off the Railway Road. When the letting of the pleasant Ballymurphy site expired at the end of last season, a problem faced the committee. With limited funds, but no lack of enthusiasm, it was decided to purchase the new site. The men did their part in transporting fencing and accessories and re-erecting them on the new property – all in their spare time, over several months. As they play their games next Sunday the members may feel proud of their achievements: gratified in the knowledge that though the outlook was bleak a year ago, lawn tennis will continue in Tullow; that they have triumphed against heavy odds.

The same edition of the newspaper also carried the following notice:


The honorary secretary, Miss May Hayden was the daughter of Mr Tom Hayden, long-time Labour Party County Councillor for the Tullow area and Oireachtas Senator – See the post, Schooling in the Tullow Area

Tullow Lawn Tennis and Golf Club needs funds

The Nationalist and Leinster Times of 24 April 1954 carried the following report:

Tullow club had heavy expenses

Heavy expenses incurred during the past year for building materials and equipment for a pavilion and a hard court totalling about £300, were detailed in the treasurers report at the annual meeting last week of Tullow Lawn Tennis and Golf Club.

Substantial sums received during the year from a carnival, and from funds to the credit of the town’s former Golf Club  (wound up) had, however, helped the Club considerably.

Very Rev. James Doyle Adm., Club President, introduced Rev. Brendan O’Byrne, C.C. (who was elected Chairman) to the members, and said he knew they were sorry to lose Rev. J. Murphy C.C. who had been transferred to Graignamangh a few days previously. He was sure that their new Chairman would also be very efficient.

Mr. S. Sinnott, outgoing Secretary, on behalf of the Club, welcomed Fr. O’Byrne.

Membership stood at 113, it was stated, and there were ten family tickets. Subscriptions were left as last year:-  gents £1; ladies 15/-: family £2; visitors 2/- per day or 5/- per week.


A discussion took place on the use of the courts by young members. One member proposed that nobody under 15 be permitted to play after 7 p.m., and alleged that most of the juveniles were “family ticket” members.

There was no seconder and no decision was reached.

It was mentioned that work was still in progress on the courts, but, if possible, the season will open on Sunday, May 2.

The following were elected: President, Very Rev. James Doyle Adm.: Chairman,  Rev. Brendan O’Byrne C.C.; Captain, Mr. Brian Hanley; Secretary, Mr. John McMahon; Treasurer, Mr. Joseph Losty (trustee). Committee: Messrs S. Sinnott, D. Foley, Donal McMahon, James Fitzgibbon, Liam Byrne (trustee) and Miss Marie Savage (trustee). Selection Committee: Messrs J.M. Durnin N.T., D. Foley, F. McGee and Miss G. O’Neill.


In the early days the club boasted two grass tennis courts and a hard tarmacadam court; adjoining the latter was a croquet lawn.

A club house was built by voluntary labour. This housed a table-tennis set-up, and also provided a venue for socials and teenage ‘record-hops’.

In subsequent years shower units were installed in the clubhouse, and the croquet lawn was replaced by a second hard tennis court.

The remainder of the site was made up of a nine-hole pitch-and-putt course.

Care of the green areas was to a large extent looked after by Joe Losty.

For many years the club was a hive of activity, occupying the summer holidays of children and teenagers; adults thronging there in the evenings, after work, on Sundays and on Wednesday afternoons – the town’s commercial ‘half-day’.

These Wednesdays also provided an opportunity for inter-club competitions.  The competitions were usually followed by a tasty supper and the social.

In an era when cars were fewer than today, local entertainment was much sought after.  Newly-arrived people found in the club an invaluable social outlet.  It was understood that bank officials had their tennis club subscriptions paid by their employers.

Tullow Carnival

Tullow Carnival, provided the tennis club and the local G.A.A. club with an annual fund-raising source.

The carnival took place in ‘Murphy’s field’, owned by the well known local family of craft butchers.  This site is at present (2018) divided between Aldi, Flynn’s Food hall and Top Service Station.

Dodgems (bumpers), swinging boats, chair-o-planes, roundabouts, rifle-range, bazaar, wall-of-death,  magic shows, pongo etc. provided the local population with entertainment.

The highlight of the carnival was the fancy-dress parade which was held on the last Sunday in connection with a major raffle.  Much effort was put into the design of floats.  Tom Doyle, a baker from Abbey Street, had the ingenuity to seem to win first prize every year.

The voluntary personnel who worked in all sections of the carnival were drawn from the membership of the tennis and G.A.A. clubs.

Early Photographs

Evernote Snapshot 20180117 145653
Back row:  P.J. Neavyn,  Second Row: Eamon Martin, Carmel Neavyn, Phyllis McGee, Front row: Frank McGee, Clare McGee, Tess Martin, Brendan Martin, Alan Martin.


Evernote Snapshot 20180117 124549
Back row:  P.J. Neavyn, Carmel Neavyn, Phyllis McGee, Front Row: Frank McGee, Brian Hanley, Tess Martin, Brendan Martin, Alan Martin.  (Courtesy: Mary Johnson)
Early members
Back row:  Jim Durnin(?), __ , Nancy Donnelly, Jim Fitzgibbon,  __ , Frank McGee.                     Front Row:  __ , __ , __ , Marie Savage (?) (Courtesy: Mary Johnson)
Evernote Snapshot 20180117 124638
Back row: __ ?, Jim McDermot, Kathleen Nolan, __ ?, Joe Losty, __ ?, Front row:  Jim Savage, Clare Magee,  __ ? (Courtesy: Mary Johnson)

1957 Tennis Club dance

J. Losty, Fr Murphy,
At Tennis Club Dance in Murphy Memorial Hall: Joe Losty, Fr J. Murphy C.C.,  Tommy Smith  (Courtesy: Mary Johnson and Madge Griffith).
Tennis club presentation of prizes
Presentation of awards at Tennis Club Dance.   Back row:  Pat Dalton, Michael Durnin, Michael Johnson, Todd Jackman;  Second row:  Noel Dwyer,  Ita Hadigan, Jimmy Barron, Mrs Anastasia Murphy, Brian Hanley; Front row: Mara Hogan, Gemma McNabb, John Lawlor, Fr Brendan O’Byrne C.C.  (Courtesy:  Mary Johnson and Madge Griffith).
Tennis club dance
Tennis Club Dance in Murphy Memorial Hall:  Front row: Jimmy Barron, Michael Durnin; Second row: John Lawlor, Gemma McNabb, Dolores McNabb, Pat Ward, Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Losty, -?; Third row: Michael Johnson, Tommy McNabb, Kathleen Lawlor,  Nuala Johnson, _Maureen Aughney, Mary McNabb, Madge Lawlor, _?, Tom Johnson, John Farrell, Rev. Shannon, Fr B. O’Byrne; Forth row:   Mrs. McQuinn, Guard McQuinn, _?, _?, Mrs. Darcy, Kathleen Nolan,  ?,  Noel Dwyer, _?, Paddy Byrne, Canice Kelly, Bernie Griffin_?, Pat Dalton, _?; Fifth row: Fr M. Kaye, _?, _?, _?, Kieran Kelly(?), Canon G. Studdert, Fr J. Murphy; Back row:  Ita Hadigan, _?, Mrs. K. Dawson, _?, _?, Mara Hogan, Gertie Hanley, Clare McGee, _?, Jim Fitzgibbon, Tim Donoghue, Liam Byrne, Brian Hanley.   (Courtesy: Mary Johnson and Madge Griffith).

The  1970s

As the 1960s progressed the country was beginning to become more affluent. Bank officials, those working in local shops, and office staff were all beginning to acquire cars. Their increased mobility meant that they were no longer confined to the local area for entertainment and sport.   The tennis club began to see decreased activity and pitch and putt began to lose out to its big brother, golf.

In the late 1960s, and into the 1970s, Trojan work was carried out by a number of people, especially by Brian Hanley, to keep the club going.

His work extended from grass cutting to fundraising, and especially to coaching. He was passionate in passing on his great skill in tennis to the younger generation.

His early death in 1978 robbed the club of a true champion, one whose dedication extended to many other community activities in the town and the locality.


In the 1980s Mary Johnson exercised a major leadership role in the life of the club. She was ably assisted by her husband, Michael.  She sought out increased membership, coped with the challenge of the cost of club insurance, and ran Saturday tournaments.

Neale Hanley, son of the late Brian, took his role as club trustee very seriously, and resisted attempts to purchase the club site. Being one of the club’s best tennis players, he provided a role model for the members.

The late Mary Sheeran was very effective in running tennis tournaments for children. [3]


From 1992 to 2002 Margaret Mulhall, together with Mary Cody and Miriam Murray, decided to take on the running of the club.

They found that the biggest expense was insurance costs. They raised money by running such events as coffee mornings.

They tidied up the pavilion and painted it. They held competitions weekends. Their aim was to keep the club ‘ticking over’.

The facility provided a great sporting outlet for young people and children. [4]

2007 – 18

In 2007 Donnacha Harkin, together with an architect friend, Robert Cummins,  called a meeting in Tullow’s Parish Centre to discuss developing the tennis club which had by then fallen into disrepair.

About 50 people turned up and it was decided to go ahead with the project. Those present included Dr John Murray and Neale Hanley (son of the late Brian) who were trustees of the club.  Morgan O’Reilly soon came on board and was also very involved in progressing the enterprise.

A grant of €1000 was received from Leader, Carlow to carry out a feasibility study for the proposed facility. Fundraising was also embarked upon. An example of this was bag- packing in the local Supervalu store.

In 2010 Leader provided a grant of €195,000, Carlow County Council grant aided €60,000, and bank loans and loans from friends raised another €20,000. This was to build three tennis courts and the playground.

In 2012 leader provided €298,000, loans from friends provided in the region of €100,000; and loans from banks and others provided €50,000. This money was for building a clubhouse, toilets and temporary changing rooms.

In 2015 as sports capital grant was received, totalling €100,000. This was to provide toilets and changing rooms.

Tennis courts, clubhouse and playground 2018.  Author’s photo.

In 2017 a sports capital grant of €86,000 was received to provide the first phase of a multi-function (tennis/basketball/volleyball) indoor court. [5]


On a number of occasions in its seventy year-plus history, Tullow Lawn Tennis Club saw periods of activity replaced by idle courts and low membership numbers.

However each time this happened, visionary, dedicated and hard-working leaders emerged to continue and to improve on the legacy of the original club founders.

This article is a tribute to all who contributed to the club over the years.

It is the writer’s hope that the club’s new era, which is now well advanced, will benefit present and future generations of Tullow people for many decades to come.


[1] Undated letter from Fr Eddie Aughney to the author, 2017

[2] Author’s conversations with with Mary Johnson, Tony O’Neill and Rita Redican (2018)

[3] Author’s conversations with Donnacha Harkin, June 2018

[4] Author’s conversations with Margaret Mulhall, June 2018

[5]  Author’s conversations with Donnacha Harkin, June 2018


Kelly, Laura (2013), Irish Women in Medicine c.1880s – 1920s. Origins, Education and Careers, Manchester University Press

The Nationalist and Leinster Times 18 May 1946

The Nationalist and Leinster Times 21 May 1949

The Nationalist and Leinster Times 2 June 1951

The Nationalist and Leinster Times 22 April 1952

The Nationalist and Leinster Times 24 April 1954

The Wexford People – no date given


Fr Eddie Aughney

John Dawson

Mary Kavanagh

Canice Kelly

Mary Johnson

Jim McDermott

Clare McGee

Mary McQuinn

Margaret Mulhall

Monica Murphy

Eugene O’Connor

Tony O’Neill

Fiona O’Toole

Rita Redican

Marion Ryan

This article appears in the 2019 edition of ‘Carloviana’ and is reproduced here with the permission of the editor.


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