The Gargan family, stone carving tradition, Kilkenny hurling and cricket with the Home Rule club

1939 CHAMPIONS Back : Peter Blanchfield, Paddy Phelan, Paddy Grace, Paddy Larkin, Terry Leahy, Jimmy Walsh, ( captain) Billy Burke, Jimmy Kelly. Middle: Mick Dalton (trainer) Jimmy O Connell, Jack Gargan, Seanie, O Brien , Jimmy Phelan, Bobby Hincks, Mick Oaks, ( trainer) Front: Mattie Power, Jim Langton, Jack Mulcahy. (Photo courtesy ‘The Stripy Men’, GAA book)

The Gargan family have been involved in stone carving in Kilkenny for many generations.

Compiled by Gerry Cody

It is possible that the founding member of the firm learned the art of stone carving at the famous Colles Mills at Maddoxtown about 1800. The family lived in Flood Street, later renamed Parnell street.
Examples of their skilful work can be seen in many graveyards in county Kilkenny.
One of the most famous members of the family was Matt Gargan.
When he died in March 1936 the heading on the obituary in The Kilkenny People was “Death of Matt Gargan, one of Kilkenny’s Greatest Hurlers”. The following is an extract from the obituary.
‘ Born in Walkin Street, Matt Gargan was one of the most outstanding hurlers Kilkenny produced and played with the famous Kilkenny team of the 1904 – 1913 period, when they won no less than seven All-Ireland titles.
He carried on business in Friary Street with his two sons, Matt and Joe, as a monumental sculptor and executed many fine specimens of attractive workmanship.

He showed early promise of becoming a hurling star while attending CBS Kilkenny. He played with Erin’s Own Club at the age of sixteen, and had as team mates Paddy Lanigan (neighbour) Dan Kennedy, Jack Lennon and Dan Stapleton.
He was a member of the Erin’s Own team that won the county championship in 1905 and in the same year he was selected to play for Kilkenny.
He was on the Kilkenny team until he retired from the game in 1913, at the early age of 27, after winning six All Ireland medals. He had previously played for Waterford while serving his apprenticeship to the stone cutting trade.

In the 1912 All Ireland final, Gargan played a major role in Kilkenny’s win.
The following extract taken from The Stripy Men book by Joe Cody.
“After a concerted attack Cork carved out a goal chance. A
Sensational save by John T Power kept his side in the game.
Kilkenny were now hurling well.
Thanks to their characteristic
Stamina, they began to exert a greater influence.
On 43 minutes, Matt Gargan got possession and shot for goal. The ball bounced and deceived goalkeeper Andy Fitzgerald, ending up in the net. A soft goal, perhaps,
but one that saw Noreside ahead for the first time”
Matt was also well known as a footballer . Five of his sons played hurling, the most notable being Jack who was on the Kilkenny team that won the 1939 All Ireland final.
Yet another quote from the 1939 final thanks to ‘The Stripy Men’,
“Jack Gargan, in a clash just before the interval, broke his thumb and had to leave the field. He was replaced by Bobby Brannigan. So it was that Kilkenny retired at the break leading by six points, 2-4 to 1-1.”
Matt Gargan served as president of the Home Rule Club and played cricket for many years. As a batsman he helped the Home Rule Club win many games and was noted as one of the best bowlers in the county.

Today, the Gargan’s continue the business of sculptors at Friary Street and would be widely recognized throughout the county and country as the best in the business.
Established over one hundred and sixty years ago, in the same premises, Gargan’s specialise in quality memorials in natural stone types, as well as the renovation of headstones and cutting inscriptions.
It looks like the tradition will carry on for quite some time to come.
NOTE: A side note to the above, and an interesting fact is that The Home Rule Club had its own cricket ground on the Hebron Road in Kilkenny. Ossory Park housing estate is now built on this field.

Sources: Michael O’Dwyer, St Rioch’s Graveyard book, (2007),
The Stripy Men, Gaa book (2008), Tom Reade, Frank Gargan.

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