On August 15, 1907, a young man entered the United States of America through Ellis Island. The immigration records describe him as a 24-year-old carpenter from Limerick who had travelled to the USA on the liner Teutonic.
His name was Richard Matthews and he was one of the founders of Young Munster RFC. Recently his daughter Betty Redfearn visited Ireland and made a special trip to Tom Clifford Park.
Richard emigrated from 77 Mungret Street, Limerick where he lived with his mother, four sisters and his brother Augustine.
His mother, Hanora, is described in the 1901 census as a drapery shopkeeper. She was already a widow at 38 years of age. Richard is described as a carpenter. He was an apprentice at that time.
Each member of the family could read and write. Remarkably for that time, four of the children could read and write in Irish.
Before Richard emigrated to America he made a major contribution to Young Munster Rugby Club. Along with Michael Keyes, Con Carey, Thomas Hannon and Michael Quigley he was responsible for the revitalisation of the club in 1901.
The contribution of the five men is acknowledged on the clubhouse board that displays the names of the club’s presidents and captains.
It was a delightful surprise when his daughter Betty, accompanied by her granddaughter Cindy, visited the club’s home ground, Tom Clifford Park, during a brief visit to Limerick.
She was greeted by the club President Nay Cantillon and members of the committee. Nay’s father, Jimmy, was president on two occasions during the 1940s.
A connection spanning 110 years was celebrated when Nay made a presentation to Betty beneath the board commemorating her father’s contribution to the club.
Betty related how her father had to leave Ireland when he completed his apprenticeship due to lack of work. He must have been a talented craftsman because while still an apprentice, he completed the geometric design and the template for the rose window in the Presbyterian Church in Henry Street.
After some years in New York he moved to Texas where Betty now resides. She said that he managed to visit Limerick every four or five years until his last visit in 1945.
This is borne out by the census of 1911 which recorded him present in his mother’s house on census night.
Michael O’Flaherty, in his history of Young Munster, lists Richard as a player in the Young Munster team beaten by Lansdowne (Limerick) after three replays in the final of a Special Seconds Junior competition for a set of medals in 1903.
Little else is recorded of his playing activities but Betty stated that he continued to be involved in sports activities in the USA.
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