Squires Gannon statue to be officially unveiled in Kildare
By Cian O'Connell
A statue of William ‘Squires’ Gannon will be officially unveiled by GAA President Larry McCarthy in Kildare town on Sunday afternoon.
Stories about the decorated and highly regarded former Kildare star continue to be passed through the generations ensuring this weekend’s event matters deeply to many.
Gannon, the first All-Ireland winning captain to hoist the Sam Maguire Cup back in 1928, will always be remembered in Kildare.
One of the organising committee, Lorcán O’Rourke, acknowledges the significant contributions made by those involved.
“This idea came up first of all about roughly 20 years ago,” O’Rourke says. “Five men in a shop in Kildare town threw the idea around that they wanted to commemorate Squires Gannon. It never really got legs until about four years ago,” with O’Rourke highlighting the central role occupied by Ollie Doyle.
“He was one of the five,” O’Rourke adds. “He is now deceased since, about a year ago he died. He and Barry Waters, the son of one of the five, they put their heads together, they got a local committee. They were all Kildare town people.
“We put a plan together and the county council, in fairness, had a very strict tender process that all county council stuff has to go through before any decisions are made and commissions appointed.
“This was open European wide, initially there was about a dozen candidates, some of them from Spain and other countries.
“That was whittled down to four, the person selected was Mark Richards from England. He already had sculpted the statue of Nicky Rackard in Wexford town, also the Shackleton one in Athy.”
The Sam Maguire Cup will be at the event with the Artane Band also set to perform with a number of former All-Ireland winning captains set to attend also.
O’Rourke is delighted that Squires Gannon will be honoured. “Squires Gannon was the captain of the first team to win the Sam Maguire Cup,” O’Rourke explains. “He was born in 1901 and died in 1966.
“When he was captain Kildare had already won the 1927 Championship, he was captain of his local team which won the county final so he became captain of Kildare in 1928. He also captained Leinster to win the Railway Cup in 1929.
“He won four county senior medals and several Leinster Leader medals - that is the senior league in the county. He also won a junior championship medal.
“He was brought on to the Kildare panel in 1919 after they won the 1919 All-Ireland, he was a regular then on the panel and team right up until 1930. That was the last time he played with the county.
“There is an interesting sideline to it in that he was one of two anti-treaty men on the Kildare team, both of them were imprisoned in the Curragh Camp in June of 1922.
“He was one of 112, who escaped out through a sewerage tunnel out into the River Liffey in October of that year, the night of October 14 and 15th. He was on the run, but at the same time when he got involved locally in Kildare in many of the community enterprises and developments in the town, he was very well regarded, very well received and respected.”
Gannon’s willingness to help others is still discussed. “He was a great community man, he was involved in the development and building of the CYMS hall in Kildare town,” O’Rourke says.
“He worked with Kildare County Council in their water and sewerage department after 1928. When times were tough in the war years he was one of the people who organised to buy a bank of turf in the bog, just south of Kildare town.
“They organised that they would cut turf to supply it to townspeople, who didn't have any means of heating their own homes. He was involved in the development of St Brigid's GAA park in Kildare town and the stand there is named after him. So he had a long, interesting, and varied career in many ways as a republican and as an athlete.”
Gannon competed in the Tailteann Games in 1924. “He won a tug of war medal in the games,” O’Rourke says. “He also was very involved with the pipe band in Kildare town. He was about six foot two or three and he stood out by a long shout - head and shoulders above everyone else in photographs of the band.
“Also in some of the Kildare GAA photos, especially in his own club, Round Towers in 1918. He had a family of 10 children, he married Girlie Byrne. She was one of nine, all of the other eight were boys so she was called Girlie as a nickname.
“They got married in about 1928 or thereabouts, although he had a house in mind about a mile out from the town in Tully West, they moved into a house with her mother.
“The mother died in 1942, it was then - after eight children were born that they moved out to the new house in Tully. The final two children, Geraldine and Paul - both of whom are still alive - were born in Tully West.”
Decades later, back in the middle of the town, a statue of Kildare and Round Towers’ Squires Gannon assumes centre stage.