Volume 6, Number 1

March 2008

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Catholic, Male and Working-class: The Evolution of the Hurling Club into a Wide-Ranging Irish-Argentine Institution (1920-1980)

By Ronnie Quinn


The Fahy Boys at the Fahy Institute, c.1928
(Hurling Club collection)

The date of 14 February 1955 was to be an inauspicious one in the club’s history, when an electrical short circuit caused a fire that burnt the wooden clubhouse to the ground. Only part of the locker room was to escape the flames. As a measure of the standing the club had achieved among the English-speaking community and indeed the wider community, there were many acts of solidarity which helped the club get back on its feet again. Hurlingham Club [12] provided a marquee to serve as a hall and a bar and the Círculo de Villa Devoto sports and social club opened its doors to members of the Hurling Club so that they could use its facilities. The Pacific Railway Club organised several fundraising events to enable the re-building of the clubhouse. A group of club members who had knowledge of the construction sector, known as Los Horneros, [13] led the rebuilding work in what was a significant voluntary effort.      

The Introduction of Rugby

In early 1941 a group of junior members of the club led by Jimmy Ussher showed an interest in forming a rugby team in the Hurling Club. They invited José Daniel Moché to a meeting to explore the feasibility of taking up rugby. Moché himself was a former player with the first division at Olivos Rugby Club, and had a connection to Hurling through his wife’s family. A nucleus of a team began to practice the game from mid-1941 onwards under the management of Moché. To meet the requirements for affiliation to the Rugby Union of the River Plate, the predecessor of the current Union of Argentine Rugby (UAR), they needed to play a number of friendly games against affiliated clubs before they could formally seek union membership.  

Their first competitive match was held on 17 May 1942 in Villa Devoto, against Lomas Athletic Club. Hurling’s first try in competitive rugby was scored by Guillermo ‘Mozo’ MacAllister with Sean Sill making the first conversion. The visiting team, steeped in a long tradition of rugby, won 19-5. A second friendly took place two weeks later on 31 May 1942 against St. Andrew’s College in Llavallol, Lomas de Zamora. As a novice rugby club, Hurling received much help and assistance from other clubs such as Porteño Athletic Club (a club which itself was founded mainly by Irish-Argentines), who allowed them to use their pitch in Palermo, as the Hurlingham site was still under development. They later also used the grounds of the Buenos Aires Cricket and Rugby Club. It would be 1948 before Hurling acquired its own grounds, as mentioned above. Media support was also forthcoming, in particular from Hugo Mackern, a freelance journalist who worked for one of the leading English-language newspapers The Buenos Aires Herald and the sports magazine El Gráfico

Rugby Blue vs. White - Father Fahy Centennary Celebration, 13 September 1943. (Top row, left to right): D. Thompson, D. Jack, F. Morrow, D. Kelly, J. Carmody, D. Fitzpatrick, S. Sills, J. Kelly, F. Colson, T. McCormack, A. Suarez, S. Shamoun, D. Farrell, J. Ferro, T. Fitzsimon, J. Laffan, T. Elliot. (Bottom row): Cromayne, B. Fox, G. MacLoughlin, D. MacLoughlin, E. Shanly, E. Aguirre, L. Shanly, F. Farrell, A. Geraghty, D. Lewis, R. Harten, L. McCormack
(Hurling Club collection)

Hurling became an official member of the River Plate Rugby Union in 1943 and began to compete in the tournament of the Third Division in the same year. It played its first official match on the grounds of Porteño Athletic Club on 9 May 1943 against Kangurú Rugby Club, losing by 17-3. In their first year they came fifth, just behind Obras Sanitarias. The team included South African Rybeck Elliott, who had first come to Argentina as part of the Junior Springboks in 1932.

At that time in the history of rugby union no substitution of players was allowed. Not being able to alternate meant that it would be difficult to develop the talents of the younger generation of players. Hurling overcame the problem by joining the Catholic Rugby League (LCR) in 1943, an organisation which ran in parallel to the River Plate Union. In 1945 Hurling came second in the tournament organised by the LCR.

The early 1950s was a time of great progress for the club in rugby, despite the setback of the clubhouse fire. The first junior team was created in 1953 and later that decade Hurling made its first tour at the invitation of the Tucumán institution, Lince Rugby Club, to open their new playing pitch. It also played another game with a fledgling team from the city of Concepción, Concepción Rugby Club, now Huirapuca Rugby Club. By the early 1960s the Club had started to reap rewards. In 1963 the junior team were runners-up in the UAR Reserve Division Championship. This formed the nucleus of the team that would go on to win the Third Classification in 1966 against Banco Nación, gaining promotion to the third division of the Ascenso championship. The specialist rugby magazine Tercer Tiempo devoted significant coverage of the ascent of Hurling in the world of rugby.

In 1980 the club embarked upon its first major tour abroad, playing five matches in Ireland and one in England. They won two matches against Galwegians Rugby Club in Galway and Malone Rugby Club Belfast, tied a game against Lansdowne Rugby Club in Dublin and lost three games against University College Cork, Limerick and Bohemians Rugby Club in Staines, London.

Excelling in Field Hockey

In June 1930 a notice was published in The Southern Cross, seeking players interested in playing field hockey for the Argentine Federation of Hurling, in a move orchestrated by Mary P. Richards and Tabby Gramática Brown. There was an enthusiastic response to the call and with the collaboration of Patrick (Paddy) Gramática Brown - one of the most famous referees at that time in the sport - a team christened the Golden Wings began training with a view to competing in the Women's Hockey League. The club joined the Argentine Association of Amateur Field Hockey (AAAH) and the following May made its debut in associations league against Saint Andrew’s Past Pupils. The team was quick to make an impact in the sport and some time later the sports magazine El Gráfico published a photo of six sisters from the Fox family who played for the Golden Wings. The ladies team won their First Division championship in 1958.

Hockey seven-a-side, second division 1948. (Top row, left to right): D. Fox, I. Lang, O. Patridge, L. Mackinson. (Bottom row): T. Fleming, L. McCormick, R.Mackinson
(Hurling Club collection)

Whilst the motivation of the male club members in adopting hockey is unclear, one can identify some of the influences involved. In particular, members were already familiar with the game through the women’s division ‘Golden Wings’. There was also likely to have been a feeling among members that they could excel at the game given their expertise with a hurley. They began to practice and play friendlies in the latter part of 1941, and in 1942 they joined the AAAH and began to compete in its main tournament. Another group took up rugby.

The first official male field hockey game played by Hurling Club was in May 1943 against Quilmes Athletic Club ‘B’ team. They won the first match by 2-0 and the first goal in competitive hockey was scored by Cecilio McCormack, who some years later would become president of the AAAH. The Standard newspaper reported that Hurling had committed a number of unusual offences during the match, including kicking the ball with their feet. By the end of the first season the men’s hockey team were crowned champions of the second division. In their first year in the premier division, they were unlucky in losing the top spot to Quilmes by a single goal. Following that, however, Hurling came to dominate Argentine hockey for the next seven years, winning the first division championship in 1949, 1950, 1951, 1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956.  

Such was the club’s rise to prominence in the sport that three forwards and two midfielders were chosen to be part of the hockey team that competed in the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. These were Tomás Quinn, Luis Scally, Tomás Scally, Tomás Wade and Guillermo Dolan. The goalkeeper Mario Vieytes from the Club was pre-selected, but was not included in the final list. The team travelled to London by ship, together with distinguished sportsmen such as the basketball player Oscar Furlong, and Delfor Cabrera, winner of the marathon. Their training and practice sessions were held on the ship’s deck. In their first group game they lost to India 1-9 (eventual gold medal winners), won 3-2 against Spain and drew 1-1 with Austria. Overall they came second in the group, but this was insufficient to allow them to progress to the semi-finals. 


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Copyright © Society for Irish Latin American Studies, 2008

Online published: 12 March 2008
Edited: 07 May 2009

Quinn, Ronnie, 'Catholic, Male and Working-class: The Evolution of the Hurling Club into a Wide-Ranging Irish-Argentine Institution (1920-1980)' in "Irish Migration Studies in Latin America" 6:1 (March 2008), pp. 21-28. Available online (www.irlandeses.org/imsla0803.htm), accessed .


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