Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sean Lavan from Kiltimagh

Sean Lavan was a man of many talents, both athletic and academic. An Olympian, he represented Ireland in the 440 yards event, and he played Gaelic football for Mayo. He taught for a while before studying medicine. He later qualified as a surgeon and lecturer in anatomy.

Born in Kiltimagh at the end of the 19th century, he attended Ballyglass National School. He won the King's scholarship and trained as a national teacher in Waterford. He taught for a while in Cloongulane National School, near Swinford. He became interested in handball at that time, and became quite proficient in the game, beating the Irish Champion on one occasion, and earning the familiar name "Baller" Lavan. As a handballer, he could use both hands equally well.

While playing for Mayo during the All Ireland semi-final of 1921, he adopted the " toe to hand" method of running with the ball, and scored what he thought was the winning point, only to have it disallowed. The "toe to hand" or "solo run" would later become a fundamental skill in Gaelic football.

When a wrist injury forced Sean out of football, he turned his hand to running and won his first race, barefooted, in Castlebar. Other successes quickly followed. He established many records, and went on to represent his country in the 1924 Olympics.

In the field of medicine, he excelled. He was awarded the O' Farrell Medal for surgery. He became lecturer in anatomy in UCD., and subsequently surgeon in Temple St. Hospital and police surgeon. Sean Lavan was born on 21 December 1989 and died in Dublin 5 August 1973.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Belfast boxer John Caldwell has died at the age of 71 after a long battle against cancer. As an 18-year-old, Caldwell won a bronze medal in the flyweight division at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.

Five years later in 1961, he clinched the world bantamweight title after beating Frenchman Aphonse Halimi. Caldwell lost the title a year later against Eder Jofre in Sao Paolo Brazil and then was edged out in after an epic battle with Freddie Gilroy, another Belfast and Irish Olympics great .

Caldwell's victory over Halimi had made him the first Irish world boxing champion since Rinty Monaghan in 1948. Despite the two losses, Caldwell came back to win Commonwealth and British titles in 1964 before retiring from the sport a year later.

Caldwell was regarded as one of the most skilful boxers ever to have come out of Ireland, as well as one of the bravest. He was exceptionally unlucky to have lost his Olympic semi-final in 1956 at a Games where three other Irish boxers, including Freddie Gilroy, claimed medals.

Caldwell boxed with the Immaculata Club in Belfast.