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St Johnston & Carrigans
Donegal

The Dunmore Football Team

In 1941, folk singer, Woody Gutherie was holidaying with his family in the North West USA, when he happened to stumble on a film crew who were doing a documentary on the Grand Coulee Dam, a massive hydro-electric dam, constructed on the Columbia River in the State of Washington. As a result of seeing this, Gutherie wrote and sang a hit song called 'The Grand Coulee Dam.' The British skiffle singer, Lonnie Donegan, picked up on it and he himself recorded a version of the song in 1958. It made it to Number 6 in the pop charts of 1958.

The first verse went,

"Well, the world has seven wonders that the trav'lers always tell,
Some gardens and some towers, I guess you know them well,
But now the greatest wonder is in Uncle Sam's fair land,
It's the big Columbia River and the big Grand Coulee Dam."

Some time later, a young seventeen year old aspiring songwriter, called John McGurk, from Carrigans, in Donegal, was watching his local football team, Dunmore United, play in the nearby football pitch. On this particular day, the match was a 'derby' match, as the opposition on the day was local rivals, Kildrum Tigers. It was a local league match.

John could see the potential of Gutherie's 'Grand Coulee Dam' song as a basis for a take off, based on the two local football teams. So, in 1959, John penned the following song, called "The Dunmore Football Team." to Guthrie's tune.

The song is about two local teams, Dunmore United and Kildrum Tigers. They played in local leagues and in Summer Cups in the 1950s and 60s. Summer Cups were football competitions, played all over the county, where, at times, famous players from the Scottish and English leagues and who may have been home in Ireland for a few weeks holiday, during the summer break, would partake, albeit it with a change of name and sometimes a disguise, as it was strictly against the club rules to play elsewhere, while under contract. The big Summer Cups were in towns like Moville, Convoy and Ramelton. But there would have been smaller ones around the district, which generated a lot of interest and good crowds could be expected, depending on the weather. The income from these 'gates' went a long way to fund the running of the club in the barren winter months. Sadly, Summer Cups, like local sports days, have now, almost all disappeared, mostly because of the cost of public liability and other attractions, like Sky.

In days gone by, those who would have paid at the gate to see the local talent, now prefer a comfortable armchair, a 60 inch TV and the choice of watching the best players in the world.

In this particular song about a derby league match in the summer of 1959, John McGurk mentions several names.

Francie Duffy was a local man, who collected the money at the gate from the spectators, while McGlinchey, who's first name was Mickey, mentioned further on, was a Derry man who lived locally and while he was not an official referee, he often deputised, when the official referee failed to turn up, for any reason.

Dan Callaghan and Jim Griffin were two men, who lived just across the border. Dan was well known for his wit and turn of phrase.

The four Brownes mentioned were brothers, Oliver, Jackie, Jen and Joe. Jackie was the driving force behind the existence of the team, Dunmore United, as he, single handedly, was often seen repairing goals, nets and 'marking' the pitch, before a match. And he looked after the washing and drying of the team rigs.

Hughie Crawford came from Carrigans and spent most of his life working in England. Tommy Harkin was well known in football circles and indeed, at this time of writing, 2020, still involves himself in youth football training.

Matt Nixon was from Derry and was married to a local girl, Mary Devenney.

The player named, 'Date' was the nickname of Phonsie Browne, a local boy, who was related to the other Brownes.

And lastly, John mentions 'Young' Creagh, who's first name is Dessie. He grew up in Kildrum and continued playing league football well into his forties.

Dessie Creagh, Jen Browne and Tommy Harkin are still alive and in good health. Sadly the others have gone to their rest. Dunmore United no longer have a football club, but Kildrum Tigers have gone on to become a major force in local leagues.
John McGurk went on to be a commercial airline pilot, reaching the rank of Captain. He flew many variants of aircraft. For several years he flew the new British Caledonian fleet of DC10s, a McDonnell Douglas built, wide bodied jet aircraft, holding almost four hundred passengers, flying them to all corners of the globe. Some years before retirement, he captained a British Aerospace BAe 146, a four engined short haul jet, for a Berlin company. He is now retired and lives in Suffolk. His daughter is also a pilot, flying private jets for a company specialising in flying the super rich around the world and she has flown such celebrities as Meryl Streep, David and Victoria Beckham, Nicole Kidman, Rihanna, Charlize Theron and Kylie Minogue, to name a few.

Article courtesy of Frank McGurk, with thanks.

This is,

The Dunmore Football Team

 - by John McGurk (1959)

Now the world holds seven wonders that the travellers always tell.
Some gardens and some towers, I guess you know them well,
But now the greatest wonder is in Ireland so green,
It’s the playing field at Dunmore and the Dunmore Football Team.


The first thing that you see there is Francie Duffy’s grin,
You have to pay him sixpence, before he lets you in.
McGlinchey will be coming soon to keep the playing clean,
Today the Kildrum Tigers play the Dunmore Football Team.

Now Callaghan and Griffin are two good forward men.
They take the ball way up the field, up to the Tiger’s end.
Jim kicks the ball, a straight one too, as good as ever seen
And now the score stands at One - Nil to the Dunmore Football Team.

There’s Oliver and Jackie and Jen Brown make the three,
The backbone of United, Jen’s attacking now I see,
But the Tiger’s centre half spoils the goal that might have been,
He takes the ball away from Jen and the Dunmore Football Team.

Now Hughie Crawford does his best to stop the whizzing ball,
He jumps high up but misses it and ends up in a fall.
But he gets the ball and kicks it - up to Tommy Harkin keen.
“Here’s hoping Tommy you will score for the Dunmore Football Team.”

If ever any player had a true professional style,
Well Tommy Harkin’s got it and it drives the Tigers wild,
When Tommy gets the ball, he’s a match for seventeen,
And that is why he’s needed on the Dunmore Football Team.

If I forgot this next great man, there’d be a fearful row.
Joe Brown’s his name and he’s scored more goals than Mickey could allow.
But even so, far harder days United would have seen,
If Joe Brown wasn’t playing for the Dunmore Football Team.

It’s half-time now and the Tigers are still losing two to one,
Here’s hoping Dunmore watch themselves – the 2nd half’s begun.
Matt Nixon gets the ball and sends it straight across the green,
To 'Date' who’s playing on the left for the Dunmore Football Team.

Until now this player, who is called Alphonsus Brown,
Has sort of been relaxing and lying on the ground.
But now he tears way up the field to score a goal he means,
But Creagh, he takes it off him and the Dunmore Football Team.

Just as you may well have guessed, young Creagh he scores the goal
And so the teams are level, two goals each they are, all told.
The full time whistle’s blowing and the people leave the green,
A hard fought game, but a good one by the Dunmore Football Team.

Now the world holds seven wonders that the travellers always tell
Some gardens and some towers, I guess you know them well.
But now the greatest wonder is in Donegal so green,
It’s the playing field at Dunmore and the Dunmore Football Team.

To the tune of “The Grand Coulee Dam” by Woody Gutherie (1941)