‘No club in Wex­ford has a his­tory to match the Vols’

AS ST. JOHN’S VOL­UN­TEERS PRE­PARE FOR A 125TH YEAR AN­NIVER­SARY CEL­E­BRA­TION, CHAR­LIE GOLDEN RE­CALLS THE RICH HIS­TORY OF THE WEX­FORD TOWN CLUB

Wexford People - - NEWS - By SAOIRSE MC­GAR­RIGLE

A FOOT­BALL Club that is older than the state has un­earthed fas­ci­nat­ing pho­tos cap­tur­ing its rich 125-year his­tory.

Wex­ford town’s St John’s Vol­un­teers is warm­ing up for its mega an­niver­sary bash on Novem­ber 10. Ahead of the cel­e­bra­tion, club vet­eran Char­lie Golden has re­called how the game has evolved over the past cen­tury.

Speak­ing from his home in Cool­cotts Lane, Mr Golden said: ‘I’m al­ways preach­ing about the his­tory of our club. There’s no team in Wex­ford that has his­tory like the Vol­un­teers. It’s drowned in his­tory. The younger gen­er­a­tion don’t re­ally want to know about his­tory, but I’m al­ways preach­ing, you should be proud to wear that jer­sey.’

The St John’s Vol­un­teers club was estab­lished in 1893. A few large fam­i­lies were enough to field a team at that point.

Char­lie, 83, was a child dur­ing its golden era from 1939 to 1943 when ‘the Vols’ won five foot­ball ti­tles in a row. This winning streak be­gan when a strong mi­nor side nabbed the 1935 ti­tle, cap­tained by for­mer Tá­naiste, Bren­dan Cor­ish.

In 1945, Wex­ford won a Le­in­ster foot­ball ti­tle back­boned by Vols greats Wil­lie Good­i­son, John O’Con­nor, John Mor­ris and Timmy O’Leary. Char­lie can re­call the club’s hum­ble be­gin­nings.

‘Way back in the ’40s, dur­ing the war, we used to be up on the Green play­ing foot­ball. I would have been about eight or nine years old. At the back of the Mu­nic­i­pal Build­ing, that was the only field the Vols had at that time.’

Play­ers could make and re­pair the balls them­selves.

‘Times were dif­fer­ent that time, the ball was brown leather and it was laced, it wasn’t like the one at the present time.

‘You’d be play­ing on the green and the ball would burst and I’d bring them down to the work­shop with me and I used to re­pair them my­self.

‘Turn it in­side out, stitch it on the in­side, put the blad­der back into it, lace the ball, leave the neck stick­ing out, pump it up with a hand pump, put the neck back in, tighten the laces and off they’d go.’

The club’s crest fea­tures the im­age of a cock, but most don’t know its mean­ing.

‘Years ago the cock was in John’s Street, that was where peo­ple got their wa­ter from. There was ac­tu­ally a reservoir up there on John’s Road where the old fire sta­tion used to be and the wa­ter used to come down there to the cock on John’s Street and peo­ple used to col­lect it there, be­cause there wasn’t many taps in town at that time.

‘There was no wa­ter in the houses that time. And it was an old say­ing that if you lived above the cock you were a great foot­baller, not so good if you were be­low the cock.

‘Well it’s just a say­ing, the Good­is­ons come from be­low the cock and they were all bril­liant foot­ballers.’

The fo­cus is al­ways on fam­ily. Char­lie said: ‘I played with my two sons, Cathal and Len, you have to re­mem­ber the Vol­un­teers in John’s Street was all fam­i­lies.

‘There were six of the Good­is­ons played with the Vol­un­teers, six of the McGraths played with the Vol­un­teers, five or six of the O’Learys played.

‘They were all fam­i­lies. Two fam­i­lies would make a team in that time.’

His fond­est mem­ory is the day he first lined out for the se­nior team. ‘We were all play­ing foot­ball in the Nun’s field, just across from the mon­u­ment there in Wy­gram and poor John Mor­ris was chair­man of the club and he got up on the wall and said ‘come on lads are you com­ing to the match or what’ and we got on the bus and we were play­ing Cam­ross down in Gusser­ane and I was handed a jer­sey to play se­nior foot­ball.

‘I think I might have been about 18 at the time and that was my great­est thrill be­cause there was some bril­liant men there that time and how I was handed a jer­sey, I don’t know. But I was never taken off the se­nior team.’

Char­lie has cher­ished pho­tos doc­u­ment­ing tales of times gone by. The old­est photo was cap­tured in 1904.

‘It was taken in the back of Nel­lie Walsh’s pub in Wy­gram, be­cause that was a great es­tab­lish­ment for the Vol­un­teers. I re­mem­ber Mike Flusk, Christy Wal­she, Dan Mor­ris, Jack Walsh and Bob But­ler, they’d have been very old in my time.’

An­other photo dates back to 1909.

‘That would be well be­fore my time, but Tom McGrath was there that time. He played in the goal for Wex­ford. I think he had four All Ire­lands.’

Fast for­ward to 1952, and there is a black and white shot of Char­lie cap­tain­ing the mi­nor team to a league fi­nal.

‘That was the mi­nor team, they run a league in Wex­ford that time. There was six teams in it. We bet all six teams in the be­gin­ning and they said we had to play a fi­nal.

‘We played the Har­ri­ers in the fi­nal and we thought noth­ing only we’d go out and beat them, but the Har­ri­ers had done their home­work and they beat us in the fi­nal.

‘Frank Mor­ris was cen­tre field for the Vol­un­teers that time, along with my­self, play­ing mi­nor foot­ball, but we still didn’t win. I was prob­a­bly one of the lucky ones to be cho­sen to be cap­tain when there was so many good play­ers.

‘I was honoured to be cap­tain for about ten years. I thought they were go­ing to give me a pen­sion. Man­nix Place was called the Plots back at that time. ‘Tommy San­ders was sec­re­tary of the club at that time. We used to go in through his house and train on the Plots.’

Times are chang­ing rapidly and now club chiefs are ea­ger to throw the doors open for new mem­bers.

The club’s din­ner dance on Novem­ber 10 in the Clay­ton Whites Ho­tel is a chance for new­com­ers to come and min­gle, sec­re­tary Brian McGrath in­sists.

‘We are all re­ally look­ing for­ward to the night and we want to re­it­er­ate that this is not an event just for mem­bers. Ev­ery­one is wel­come and we would love to see some new faces.’

Tick­ets cost €30 and are avail­able from Brian on 0864076422. ‘Wreck­ing Ball’ will play on the night and will be fol­lowed by a DJ.

The St. John’s Vol­un­teers team of 1983.

THOSE WERE THE DAYS: Char­lie Golden at home in Cool­cotts Lane.

The Vols team line out for a match in 1953.

The Vol­un­teers team of 1904.

How the Vol­un­teers looked in 1909.

Char­lie on Vols duty in the 1950s.

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