Oldest Irish society celebrates centenary
NAME the oldest golf society in Ireland. The answer is most likely the Board of Works GS, which this year, as the Office of Public Works Society, celebrates 100 years of existence.
Here we are in 2011 with space-age technologies, instant worldwide news and contacts at the touch of a button and televised golf from all over the globe.
Back in 1911, it was a different era, but it wasn't dull. Included in the front page stories that year were: the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre; Roald Amundsen of Norway becoming the first man to reach the South Pole; Harry Vardon winning his fifth British Open; and a waiter named Irving Berlin having great success with 'Alexander's Ragtime Band.' Also that year, Ronald Reagan and Ginger Rogers were born.
The present committee have the original notebooks in which details of the founding meeting were recorded, and they make interesting reading. These reveal that on Tuesday October 17, 1911, a meeting was held by "officers of the Board of Works interested in golf."
Present were GE Shanahan (in the chair), TF Foley, CS Herbert, TM Batcher, W Charlton, G Price, F Taylor, JJ Rafter and TS Cassidy. At the meeting, a proposal that "the golfing society of the Board of Works be instituted" was carried unanimously.
It was also agreed that the "society be open to officers of the Board of Works who are members of a recognised golf club and that the yearly subscription be two shillings and sixpence."
In its early years, the society was quite small, confined in general to "gentlemen" who were leading members of Dublin's established golf clubs.
Incidentally, you might wonder what functions are carried out by the OPW, formerly the Board of Works? It's responsible for the provision and maintenance of State accommodation and for flood relief, national monuments, historic properties, and central purchasing for a variety of requirements.
The 1960s was the peak time for numbers in the OPW Golf Society, but in the decades since then, membership has declined. One drawback is that, as a public body, no sponsorship can be accepted. Despite that, the society is still battling on, and has its centenary programme set out.
The committee for the year is: president John Berkery; captain John Mahony; hon sec Donal Wickham; hon treasurer Terry Beagon; ex officio Michael Fahy.