Donal Hickey Journalist recalls Dr Eamonn O'Sullivan

by Weeshie Fogarty

Dr. Eamonn was a member of the old Killarney Golf Club in Deerpark. And in 1936 the club up there, which was a 9 hole course, small course, had very few members in those days playing golf. It was a bit of a jolt, to say the least when the land agent for Lord Kenmare, rose the rent on the land from a shilling a year to £75 a year, a substantial sum as we can understand at that time. So they began to look around for land for a new golf course. The club appointed a sub-committee at the time which included Dr. Eamon. Of course he had just come through the completion of Fitzgerald Stadium at that stage so he was quite experienced when it came to these developments.

The committee met with Lord Castlerosse who was the owner of the Western Demesne where Mahony's point in Killeen is now situated. Lord Castlerosse was an avid golfer and had tremendous enthusiasm, loved the game. He decided to go ahead and build what was regarded as a world class golf course back in the Western Demesne, Killarney. Dr. Eamon was very much involved in the establishment of the company, which was Killarney Golf Club Ltd. That was a company which owned the course in effect, even though Lord Castlerosse himself was the main shareholder. People in Killarney could buy shares and Dr. Eamon became director of the first club around 1938 when the club was incorporated as a company. Dr. Eamon was one of the local directors. Of course the work started in early 1938 and Dr. Eamon was on the committee that actually appointed the Scotsman, called Hamilton White, who was the foreman for the building of the course. He was a very experienced golf course builder. He'd built courses in Scotland and England and he knew his trade very well. He was the man appointed by the committee which included Dr. Eamon, and they recruited a big local workforce at the time.

It was a major task, when you consider that that land in those days was very much a wilderness, much of it was a wilderness, very wooded land, some bit boggy indeed. And they had no machinery, of course, a pick and shovel job. The late Jim O'Meara, from Knockeenduve, was appointed assistant that time to Hamilton White, and Jim as we all know, became greenkeeper for Killarney at that time, and was in that position for many years, maybe 30 or 40 years, the late Jim O'Meara, who was a wonderful character. Dr. Eamon was the first captain when they moved back from Deerpark to Mahony's Point in 1939. Obviously a very distinguished landmark at that time; he went back as captain and he also acted as honorary sectretary for the club for a number of years in the early 40 's, and he again became captain in 1944. Golf in those days was not the golf we know today, in the sense that very few people played golf. It was mainly a game for professional people, business people, in other words the more well-to-do in Ireland. For that reason they needed a lot of revenue, and unfortunately the club opened in 1939, almost coincided with the start of World War II.

From the very early stages, Castlerosse envisaged the golf course in Killarney as a major tourist attraction which meant that people would have to travel here to play golf, but of course in the war years, travel was greatly restricted, no petrol, cars off the road and all that, and the club found itself in fairly severe financial straits because they had no visitors worth talking about coming, and where was the money going to come from? Dr. Eamon came up with a number of plans. They look very simple today but I'm sure they were very difficult at that time: whist drives, sweepstakes, raffles; and in the course of my research on the golf book in Killarney, I came across a very interesting letter, which was written by Dr. Eamon as club captain in 1944. In the letter, he was appealing to members to support the raffle because things were so bad in the club that they needed money from somewhere. But I thought the interesting thing about the raffle was, Dunlop 65 golfballs, cigarettes and whiskey. Now golf balls, drink and fags were all supposed to be scarce during the war, but Dr. Eamon, for some reason, he could come up with these fabulous prizes which were attractive in themselves. So he really was in there at the start of the golf club. He made a major contribution. He was there in the bad times, the worst possible times during the war, trying to get the club going. And he brought them through those years.

He was.......I didn't know the man, he was before my time.... .as we know he trained the 8 winning all-Ireland football teams spanning 6 decades, his work for Fitzgerald Stadium. He was regarded as a pioneer as well in psychiatry in terms of rehabilitation and helping the patients to recover through work in the Fitzgerald Stadium. He seems to be a fascinating character. I don't know about his abilities as a golfer, I understand he got down to 9 handicap. His wife, Marjorie was one of the top lady golfers in Killarney. They would have been playing in the 20's and 30's. He seems to be a fascinating character. If he was around today, I've no doubt there would be at least one book written about him because of his magnificent achievements; in bad times, remember we had no Celtic tiger or anything to get money from. He seems to be a man of ideas as well. He was ahead of his time. I'd love to have got to talk to him and interview him, but unfortunately he died in 1966.

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