Thursday, 19 April 2018

An unusual sculpture
carries its weight at
a Limerick junction

The John O’Grady Monument at the Fair Green in Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Limerick has an interesting collection of public sculptures and monuments commemorating its sporting life, including rugby players and hurlers, Olympic athletes, and, of course, that star of Sporting Life, Richard Harris.

But the most unusual sporting monument, in appearance as well as theme, must be the John O’Grady Monument at the Fair Green on the junction of the Pike or Ballysimon Road and the Blackboy Road or Old Cork Road. It is impossible not to notice the monument at the sharp angle of the junction of two roads forming the pike.

This monument in limestone and steel is symbolic and yet has a neoclassical character. It was erected in 1940 to commemorate the champion weight thrower John O’Grady (1892-1934), once the strongest man in Limerick.

The monument shows a weight at the top resting on four limestone balls, and these stand on a limestone plinth base with a canted podium and there is commemorative panelling on the sides of plinth base. The top part of the monument, representing the handle of the weight, was damaged and dislodged. When it was found recently by a local resident, the monument was recently restored to its former glory by Limerick Civic Trust.

John O’Grady was born on 17 February 1891 in Ballybricken, Co Limerick, the son of William and Catherine O’Grady, farmers.

He stood at over 6 ft tall and weighed more than 18 stone. A world record-breaking weight thrower, he represented Ireland in the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris and was the country’s flag bearer. He took part in the shot put, which he threw a distance of 12.75 metres, which placing him 17th in the Olympics that year.

The monument records that in his career he created three world records for putting and also won seven national championships.

In his later years, he was the rates book inspector for the Limerick County Council. He died on 26 November 1934,at his home, in Saint Kevin’s, Alphonsus Terrace, Limerick. His funeral took place in Saint Michael’s Church, and he was buried in Kilmurry, Caherconlish. All who knew him recalled his jolly disposition.

The inscription on the monument reads:

Erected by his admirers in proud memory of John O’Grady World Champion Weight Thrower born at Ballybricken, Co. Limerick 17th Feb 1892. Died at Limerick 26th Nov 1934. He worthily upheld Ireland’s Athletic prestige and endeared himself to all by his loveable character and simple bearing.

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