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Sport and Society in Victorian Ireland: the Case of Westmeath
Sport and Society in Victorian Ireland: the Case of Westmeath

Our Price:39.00
Authors: Tom Hunt
Publication Year: Hardback 2007
Pages: 357
Size: 234 x 156mm

ISBN: 9781859184158


This book examines the development of sport in Victorian Ireland using the example of Westmeath as a case study. It explores the development of hunting, racing, commercial sports (golf, cycling and tennis), cricket, hurling and football, soccer, rugby. It also examines the importance of spectator sport and its variety of ancillary attractions.

It examines the importance of the club as a vehicle for facilitating sporting involvement, the financing of sport and recreation, the commercialisation of sports and the importance of codification. It also constructs a social profile of individuals active in the various sports. The role of sport in providing recreational opportunities for women is examined as is the importance of the military to sports promotion and the importance of sport to the military.

The book illustrates the importance of sport in creating a social life for participants at all levels of society. The crucial importance of post-1900 developments in cultural nationalism and their impact on recreational activities and in particular the re-emergence of the GAA are also investigated. The information is placed in a comparative context and links Westmeath to the Irish sporting world and places the developments in Westmeath within the sporting revolution of the wider Victorian world.

The book demolishes various established ideas of the Victorian sporting world in rural Ireland and enhances our understanding of what games people were playing and why they played them. The range of sports examined contributes to the production of an inclusive and comprehensive study that enhances our understanding of the social history of several groups in society.

Tom Hunt is a native of Clonea-Power, County Waterford and is a teacher in Mullingar Community College. He is author of Portlaw, County Waterford, 1825-1876: Portrait of an Industrial Village and Its Cotton Industry and was a former County footballer with Waterford.

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5 of 5 Sports history is a much neglected subject which September 4, 2009
Reviewer: Edward Liddle Coverpoint Magazine from Republic of Ireland  
Sports  history is a much neglected subject which is now  deservedly  gaining academic credibility as it has  of course  much to tell us about the social  economic and political times  which research into its chosen subjects reveals.    This important book is no exception  as Tom Hunt  himself a teacher and former Wexford County footballer  covers much new ground and challenges many pre conceived notions about a wide range of sports. Cricket has twenty eight pages to itself  as well as making numerous other appearances. However Hunt  covers a wide range of pastimes.     I will concentrate on cricket but was fascinated by the whole study  even though I have few other sporting interests apart from Rugby.    Most previous studies of Irish cricket history have seen the game as having been well established in all parts of the country  during the nineteenth century  and have traced its subsequent decline to the activities of the Land League destroying  landlord tenant relationships and to the rise of the GAA with its ban on participation in  foreign and fantastic field sports .     Thus  for example Pat Hone  in his  Cricket in Ireland   refers to the cricketing background of Parnell and Michael Cusack and then  adapting the words of definite non cricketer Oscar Wilde   suggests that  Each man killed the thing he loved.      More recent writers  including the redoubtable Gerard Siggins   and on a far narrower canvas  this reviewer   have followed this seemingly logical deduction.    However Hunt successfully challenges this assumption. Follwing recent studies by Patrick Bracken and Michael O Dwyer for cricket in Tipperary and Kildare he shows that this  in County Westmeath at least  was  most emphatically  not what happened.    In Westmeath  landlord tenant relations remained good and land agitation was minimal. Cricket  if anything  grew in popularity in the later years of the century and was far from being the exclusive pastime of the military and the  West British.     By far the most popular game in the country  its player base included many farm labourers who made up the majortiy of those participating in more than one hundred clubs during the 1890s. Some of these sides were transitory or  one offs  but others were more permanent  a number fielding two elevens. Clonlost  in 1899  were able to put three teams into the field  one a Junior XI.    The decline  when it came in the early years of the 20th Century  had more to do with the military turning to football and the landed gentry finding tennis and polo more to their taste.     Interestingly  though Hunt does not refer to it  the former Dublin University and Ireland all rounder Ernest Ensor made  writing the chapter on Irish cricket in the monumental  Imperial Cricket   1913  saw polo as one of the main threats to the irish game.    Ensor was  one suspects writing mainly about Dublin  but his comments offers support to Hunt s thesis.  Hunt further argues that the growth of cultural nationalism  though the Gaelic Revival also had an impact  with its emphasis on Celtic traditions.     However  he shows that even then cricket was not lost. As late as the 1920s  a genrerally difficult time for Irish cricket  seven teams took part in a league in the county. Cricketers had also had a part to play in the formation and development of hurling in the county  the two games  though widely different  requiring not disimilar skills. Some cricket clubs formed the basis of the GAA ones which replaced them.  The foregoing is only a taster of what Hunt has to say about cricket. He also  as stated above  covers numerous other sports  often with with equally important results.    His book is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in Irish cricket  sport and/or history.     It may not always be an easy read  but as Neville Cardus  doyen of all cricket writers  claimed the Lancashire batsman JT Tyldsley said of his county s cricket   If the public doesn t like it.the public needs educating up to it.

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