Thursday, August 29, 2013

Jack Doyle - Gala Dinner & Birthday Bash


The highlight of this weekend's Jack Doyle Centenary will be the Gala Dinner/Birthday Bash. Michael Taub, author of 'Jack Doyle - The Gorgeous Gael' will be flying in from the UK to speak on the night. Music will be provided by 'The Contenders.' Tickets are available at the hotel reception - at only €34.95 they're great value!!!

Jack Doyle - Dearest Mr. Blarney

    With Jack's glory days well behind him the Dodge family women still had somewhat of a 'hankering' for him.....

     'Jack had again tasted fame, but the trappings of success he once took for granted had slipped tantalisingly beyond reach. They were the unattainable baubles of a bygone age. His slender consolation was the certain knowledge that the heady days of the past would be remembered with affection by those he had known. Delphine Dodge's daughter, Christine Cromwell, was one who would never forget and she wrote him a string of letters professing her love.
    Christine admitted that Jack was the first and greatest love of her life and her correspondence bore witness. In 1963 she sent him a colour photo of her and her father inscribed: 'Love to Jack, who has ever been in my thoughts. Christine.' Although twenty-eight years had elapsed since she vied with her mother for Jack's body and soul, the passions aroused in her were such that she had never been able to find true and lasting happiness with anyone else.
    In the mid-1960s Christine was a property-owning resident in the British Virgin Islands. She also had a yacht, from which she operated a fishing enterprise with two partners. The first letter to her 'Mr. Blarney' was dated May 1, 1965, and there were shades of Judith Allen's poetic touch enshrined in its breathless message:
    'Darling -
      My goodness I need you so badly. What twist of fate is it that keeps us apart? Not long now, tho [sic] - My love, dearest Mr. Blarney.'
      She signed herself simply 'C.'

    It appeared that Christine, then forty-two, was as deeply in love with Jack as ever, although it is doubtful he was of the same persuasion. At this time he would not have been interested in her body and still less her intellect. He would have been after one thing only: her money. This was evident from her second communication, a long-winded missive in which she claimed to have been badly beaten by one of her partners in the fishing enterprise she was running between Barbados and San Juan. It transpired that she had been in touch with Jack by telephone and, reading between the lines, the inescapable conclusion is that he pleaded poverty to her. Her letter read in part:

    'My very dearest Mr. Blarney,
      Dear God above it was wonderful to talk to you, but my distress as to why I called you this time has made a mercyless [sic] ache in my heart for you. Perhaps some day I can make this up to you just a little bit.
      Let me express my very deep hurt for you, and say again I will help you all I can. Please keep good care of yourself for you and for me. Altho [sic] there is a good friend here, my needs have been for you.
      My love and affection and my heartfelt sympathy - there's still life for us yet.'

    Again she signed off with a simple C.
    Whether Christine did indeed render Jack financial assistance is doubtful. Nancy Kehoe could not recall him receiving a sum of money from the Virgin Islands or anywhere else for that matter. She was working as a waitress at the Cumberland Hotel at the time and though she may have been unaware of much of what went on in his life she could not have failed to notice had he become suddenly and significantly better off.
    It appears, too, that the ache in Christine's heart was not so 'mercyless' as to send her rushing to Jack's side. Her words had echoed sentiment rather than intent; they were written in recognition of a love for him that was still alive in spirit but dead in practicality. All contact between them then ceased. Whatever feelings they had for each other faded once more into distant memory.'

Many thanks to Michael Taub, author of Jack Doyle: the Gorgeous Gael, for allowing us to reproduce excerpts of his book here. Many thanks also to his publishers Lilliput Press, Dublin.

Michael will be speaking at the Gala Dinner/Birthday Bash on the night of Jack's 100th anniversary of his birthday, as part of the Jack Doyle Centenary Weekend. The weekend events take place from Friday 30th August to Sunday 1st September.

Highlights of the weekend include:

·  A Boxing Tournament on Friday 30th August - organised under the auspices of the IABA Cork County Board. (Tickets available at the Commodore Hotel @ €10)
·  A gala dinner with guest speaker Michael Taub, author of 'Jack Doyle; the Gorgeous Gael.' Music by the 'Contenders' Saturday 31st August. (Tickets available at the Commodore Hotel €34.95)
·  Official opening of the Jack Doyle Mural on Saturday 31st August (pics below) - all welcome to attend.
·  The Jack Doyle Play with actor Luke Barry on Sunday 1st September. (Tickets available at the Commodore Hotel @ €5)
·  Guided Walking Tours and tours on the Cobh Road Train, Historical Workshops, street theatre, classic car displays, commemorative mass & subsequent ceremonies in Cobh's historical Promenade, guided tours of the Old Cemetery where Jack is buried and much more.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Jack Doyle - Birthday Bash

Jack Doyle Centenary Weekend:- Well its almost here....highlight of the weekend will be the Gala Dinner/Birthday Bash. Michael Taub, author of 'Jack Doyle - The Gorgeous Gael' will be flying in from the UK to speak on the night. Music will be provided by 'The Contenders.' Tickets are available at the hotel reception - at only €34.95 they're great value!!!

Jack Doyle - Jack and Movita

Jack's life seemed to settle down somewhat after his marraige to beautiful Mexican actress, Movita,.....

 
  'The fact that Jack's stage act included his beautiful new wife gave him greater appeal, but now it was a very different kind of mass hysteria that greeted his every public performance. Though still one of the greatest sex symbols of his time, his union with Movita had become the standard-bearer for an idyllic and successful marraige. To the public at large this glamorous couple personified all that love and happiness should be. Theirs was a high-profile partnership accentuated by constant media attention and hero worship. To label them the Oliver and Leigh and Taylor and Burton of the late thirties and early forties would not be overstating their popularity:

    'We could not go into a restaurant without being mobbed. People would do silly things like grab one of my shoes as I was getting into a taxi. It was just incredible. We were so obvious - big Jack and little Movita. We had all our stage clothes specially made for us, right down to the shoes. I had a dress-maker, Len Pearson from Huddersfield, who used to make some very beautiful clothes. And I had a shoe-maker - such beautiful shoes and lovely turbans I used to wear.'

    People from all walks of life were fascinated by Movita. She became a trend-setter in much the same way Princess Diana did several decades later. Fashion-conscious women, even prostitutes, began wearing the turbans that were her stylish signature:

    'We were very, very popular and highly-paid. We were working extremely hard and Jack was behaving beautifully. There was no trouble until after war was declared. But even then we were still working as hard as ever and earning big money. Jack volunteered to rejoin his old regiment, the Irish Guards, as either an officer or physical training instructor, but was told, "No. You and Movita are doing more for the war effort by appearing and entertaining the troops." I remember everything so well. We were entertaining the troops for free, entertaining at hospitals and entertaining people in the subways, where Londoners sheltered during the bombing raids. We used to bring them food - fish-and-chips and things - and candy. We also sang for them and signed autographs. We did a lot of that. We did everything that people did during the war - anything to try and help. We were so much in demand that we sometimes did seven shows a day, by God! Two shows a day in the theatre - three when there was a matinee - and the rest was all entertaining troops and sick people. It was really exhausting. We also did a lot of appearances at factories to help boost the morale of the workers. They adored us wherever we went. Everyone used to gather round and mob us. It was almost unreal.'

    Shortly after volunteering to enlist, Jack took over The Cartwheel, a roadhouse in rural Buckinghamshire. In addition to it being a place of refuge from his legion of admirers in London, he regarded it as an ideal, easily-run business venture that would occupy Movita and other members of his family while he was away soldiering. He had written to the Irish Guards asking them to take him back because, as a neutral Irishman, he felt he should do his bit for the country in which he had made his name. When told he would not be required, he kept the Cartwheel for a while, doing impromptu cabaret spots there with Movita. They booked in other well-known artists, including the celebrated black singer-pianist Hutch. The Cartwheel, which lays back off the main London-Amersham road, was a charming venue complete with gallery and ballroom. Teas were served in the afternoons and dinners in the evenings, with top cabaret thrown in:

    'Jack had fancied a nice, quiet place in Buckinghamshire. It was lovely out there - very picturesque and countrified, with beautiful apple trees all around. But he soon got fed up with it because he liked London, the bright lights and plenty of people around him. He was too fond of the night-life, the glamour, the activity. But he tried, I guess.'

    Jack and Movita also rented a riverside cottage in Maidenhead, 'Wynnstay', from the Baroness de Sarigny. They looked on it as their country home and spent as many weekends as possible there during breaks from touring:

    'We had a woman servant who once worked for the Royal family. She was wonderful and looked after the place for us. We would go down to Maidenhead and she would have the tea ready for us and everything. But I remember one night, after we went to bed, I awoke and wanted to go to the bathroom. I couldn't get up - I was feeling too heavy and could not lift my body out of bed. I woke Jack and said, "Something's wrong with me. I want to go to the bathroom but I can't get up. I'm too heavy." He said, "Oh my God, so am I." Then I just passed out. What had happened was that we had left the gas fire on and it was leaking. It was the middle of the night and we had almost gassed ourselves. Jack managed to get up, drag me to a window and break it. Had I not wanted to go to the bathroom, we would have been dead. It was a beautiful old cottage, but I'll always remember it because of what happened. We decided not to stay there after that.'

   
Jack and Movita were happy together during the early part of the war, with hardly a cross word passing between them. According to her they were also earning a considerable sum - around €500 a week - from their popular double act. It was perfect harmony all the way, both on and off stage.
    Suddenly, things started to go wrong. First they met with serious financial trouble, allegedly as a result of the activities of their personal secretary Kathleen Look, described by the late Sir Atholl Oakeley in his book Blue Blood on the Mat as a 'Venus' and 'quite the most glamorous woman, outside the Ziegfeld Follies, that I have ever seen'.
    Movita uses no such superlatives to describe Miss Look:
    'Kathleen came with us wherever we were appearing. We appointed her because she had been a top promoter and her references were impeccable. She handled the finances, paid the bills and looked after everything. Somehow we always managed to get her a room from where she could work. We trusted her completely, but I soon noticed that whenever I happened to buy a fur coat, she would buy one, too. I used to say to Jack: "Kathleen must be well off." We were so naive and trusting that we didn't suspect a thing. Sometimes Jack would say to me: "Kathleen dresses very well, doesn't she? That fur coat must have cost a pretty penny. How does she do it?"
 
It's funny now, but we just did not realise. She was well-spoken and well educated and her mother was terribly, terribly Oxford. Jack was a trusting person and assumed Kathleen must have been rich. She was always very smartly dressed when she toured with us. If I bought a dress, she would buy one: it would all go on Jack's bill. Goodness knows how much she spent overall, but it must have been a fortune. He would give her so much to pay bills, but she never settled them. She was with us for a good while and was fiddling all the time. Jack never suspected a thing, so how would I?
    She was a thief, let's face it. She wrote all the letters and signed the cheques, so she knew what to do to keep the creditors quiet. The whole mess wasn't uncovered for ages because she had been fending off the creditors by paying them so much each week. But eventually they all got together and the pressure became so great that she had to confess. She couldn't do a thing - the game was up. She offered to pay them back at £5 a week, but it was no good. The creditors were pressing their claims and Jack was forced to go bankrupt because he still owed all the people he had already paid, or thought he had paid. He said: "What are we going to do? We can't call in the police because Kathleen will go to jail - and for what?" He did not have the heart to turn her in.'

    At Jack's public examination in February 1941 his liabilities were listed at £1,689, with no assets, and he agreed to pay over to his trustees whatever money he could for creditors. It takes only a simple mathematical equation to deduce that he could have cleared the entire debt in a matter of weeks with his and Movita's earning power. Granted he was still supporting his parents - for whom he had bought a new £500 terraced house in Greenford, Middlesex - and his living expenses were undoubtedly high, yet a short period of relative austerity would have salvaged his situation and his reputation.
    Bankruptcy signalled the start of a slippery decline which he would find hard to arrest. Movita remembers him suddenly receiving bad publicity and sinister threats:

    'The threats came after articles appeared in the newspapers saying Jack had refused to fight for England in the war. It was all so untrue, because he had volunteered to rejoin the Irish Guards and been turned down. And we had exhausted ourselves doing charity concerts to help the war effort. The stories in the papers were followed by anonymous letters saying, "If you appear at such-and-such a venue, you will be shot." We carried on for a while, because at first these threats did not worry him: Jack Doyle wanted to prove he wasn't afraid. But after a while, when they continued, he became concerned. He was scared I might get shot at or something. There were lots of threats - some even by telephone - but he never talked about them because he didn't want to alarm me. He was frightened for me rather than for himself'

Many thanks to Michael Taub, author of Jack Doyle: the Gorgeous Gael, for allowing us to reproduce excerpts of his book here. Many thanks also to his publishers Lilliput Press, Dublin.

Michael will be speaking at the Gala Dinner/Birthday Bash on the night of Jack's 100th anniversary of his birthday, as part of the Jack Doyle Centenary Weekend. The weekend events take place from Friday 30th August to Sunday 1st September.

Highlights of the weekend include:

·  A Boxing Tournament on Friday 30th August - organised under the auspices of the IABA Cork County Board. (Tickets available at the Commodore Hotel @ €10)
·  A gala dinner with guest speaker Michael Taub, author of 'Jack Doyle; the Gorgeous Gael.' Music by the 'Contenders' Saturday 31st August. (Tickets available at the Commodore Hotel €34.95)
·  Official opening of the Jack Doyle Mural on Saturday 31st August (pics below) - all welcome to attend.
·  The Jack Doyle Play with actor Luke Barry on Sunday 1st September. (Tickets available at the Commodore Hotel @ €5)
·  Guided Walking Tours and tours on the Cobh Road Train, Historical Workshops, street theatre, classic car displays, commemorative mass & subsequent ceremonies in Cobh's historical Promenade, guided tours of the Old Cemetery where Jack is buried and much more.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Jack Doyle - and his wandering eye

 
Beryl Markham
Jack had many, many women in his life. His love of women made it impossible to commit himself to one. Even in marraige Jack would soon wander. One of his most public affairs was with Beryl Markham.....

 '....Jack's fitness was not at all it might have been. His attention had been diverted from the Staal fight by a liaison with the world's leading woman pilot, Beryl Markham, to whom he had been introduced at a party in his smart Carlton Court flat in Hereford Street, Mayfair.
    It was an improbable relationship on three fronts. First, Jack was still supposedly pining for Judith Allen; second, he should have been in strict training; and third, Beryl, at 34, was 11 years his senior.
    At the time she was enjoying world celebrity status after becoming the first woman to fly the Atlantic solo east to west - a feat previously achieved only by Amy Johnson's hell-raiser of a husband Jim Mollison. But Beryl's record-breaking flight (she crash-landed in Nova Scotia) was considered more meritorious because she took off from Abingdon in Berkshire, whereas Mollison had taken the shorter route from Ireland.
    Beryl was a remarkable woman who had been brought up in the British East Africa (now Kenya) by her father, Charles Clutterbuck, an ex-Repton and Sandhurst man who had been attracted there by the Government's drive to encourage white settlers. It was believed that millions could be made by developing and farming the sparsely-populated protectorate, as had happened in India, and Clutterbuck purchased 1,000 acres of land in Njoro, on the slopes of the magnificent Mau Escarpment. Beryl's mother Clara disliked the social isolation of life in the African bush and had no wish to be part of her husband's pioneering adventures there. Also, she was missing her sick son Richard, Beryl's elder brother. He had been sent back three months earlier because the humidity did not agree with him and she decided to go home to Leicestershire, leaving the four-year-old Beryl in Kenya with her father.
    Beryl was raised alongside the Nandi and Hipsigis tribes and would later distinguish herself as a successful racehorse trainer and aviator-pursuits not previously graced in large number by women. She would have a well-publicised affair with Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester, and immortalise herself further with a remarkable memoir, West With The Night.
    At the time Beryl was introduced to Jack by Jim Mollison she was separated from the second of her three husbands, the wealthy and aristocratic Mansfield Markham, by whom she had a seven-year-old son Gervase. Domesticity was not her stock-in-trade and Gervase was brought up by his grandmother, Lady Markham.
    Beryl had inherited her father's fierce spirit of independence and was obsessed with the desire to push back the frontiers of male-dominated society. She was far more relaxed in the company of men, mainly because they shared her own aspirations of success and achievement in an age when women in the main were programmed for lives of subservience. What an inspiration she must have been to women like herself seeking to prove themselves in a man's world. But a spirit of independence can foster an attitude that holds no respect for customs and traditions  and she had little regard for the sanctity of marraige - either her own or, for that matter, anyone else's. The fact that Jack was a married man certainly did not deter her - or him.
    Beryl would never have qualified as a glamour girl in the film-star sense, but her tall, slender frame and high cheekbones gave her a classical, noble beauty that was accentuated by clear blue eyes and lustrous fair hair. In addition she was an extremely elegant dresser. Her greatest asset, however, was the sheer force of her personality, and once this formidable woman had set her cap at Jack she was bound to win him - just as with Prince Henry. She was said to have possessed a 'warm sexual appetite' and to have been an undisguised pursuer of the rich and famous, which, presumably, was why she latched on to Jack. In his case the conquest would have presented no particular difficulty in the light of Judith Allen's observation - learnt at first hand and to her considerable cost - that he could not resist sharing himself.
Beryl and Jack
    Beryl had no elaborate plan to entice him, apart from letting him know that he alone was the man with whom she would like to fly halfway round the world. She was seeking sponsorship for further remarkable exploits in the field of aviation and hoped to team up with Jack for a record-breaking flight that would 'startle the world.' Beryl coupled her announcement with the news that she would be giving him flying lessons at Hatfield once the fight with Staal was out of the way. Although the Press never hinted at a physical relationship between the pair, those close to Jack knew the score. And it is doubtful if Judith was fooled, even from 6,000 miles away.
    When Jack finally found time to resume training at Windsor, the strict daily regimen of running, exercising and sparring brought him down from the clouds and convinced him that the intended venture - the 'secret' destination was believed to have been Australia or South Africa - was in reality a flight of fancy that he had no wish to pursue. The intense sexual partnership with Beryl was another matter entirely; he appeared to be in no hurry to bring that to an end and therein lay the great enigma of the man. Bill Doyle confirmed that Jack was still deeply in love with Judith and making efforts to win her back at the very time he was consorting with Beryl Markham. Perhaps he had been feeling in need of some female company when their flight paths crossed, or perhaps it was as basic as being unable to resist another - and famous - conquest. More likely it was both. But if he really did love Judith as much as he claimed, earning his wings with Beryl was an odd way of showing it.
    He had genuinely feared for Judith's life on hearing she had been marooned by floods while on location for her latest film. When news eventually filtered through that she was safe and well, he was determined to hammer Staal into submission for a victory he was confident would bring her rushing back to his side.
    Fight night proved as remarkable a spectacle as has ever been witnessed at any boxing event in Britain. Every seat at Earl's Court was occupied - despite it being only Jack's second comeback fight and the disgrace of the first. Indeed there were the familiar scenes of countless hundreds of spectators being turned away and police having to call up reinforcements to prevent the entrances being broken down. It was as if he had never been away.
    Jack's reception can only be described as fantastic. Even Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier in their heyday were never received so rapturously, said one newspaper report. But the welcome he received when he climbed into the ring was eclipsed by the tumultuous ovation that accompanied him as he returned to his dressing-room after the fight. Dozens of admirers rushed to his corner, men threw their programmes and hats high into the air and evening-gowned women stood up, or in some cases jumped on to their seats, to add to the din with their screams of delight. If Jack had won the world championship he could not have been more of an idol, and only the fact he would not permit himself to be lifted prevented him being carried off in triumph. 'I cannot recall another scene like it,' reported Trevor Wignall.
Doyle and Staal at the weigh-in
    Jack had started the fight in nonchalant, even careless fashion, as if his thoughts were far away in Hollywood. In the first round he took a swinging blow to the head and then a right to the chin that felled him for eight. There was a gasp as he went down, but Jack had sense enough to stay on one knee until his head cleared. Staal was strong and dangerous, but limited. What little boxing there was came, strangely enough, from Jack, who used his left to good effect. But even his heaviest punches did not succeed in shaking Staal until the fifth round, when the Dutchman began to feel the cumulative effect of the punishment he had absorbed. Even so, he was still menacing in bursts. Jack was hurt by a right hand to the jaw, but soon recovered and went on the attack. Staal, his face bruised, and bleeding from a cut ear, became a chopping-block for Jack's powerful punches in the sixth. He was reduced to a state of near-helplessness and was staggering round the ring, his hands hanging limply by his side, when the towel was thrown in to signal a Dutch surrender......'

Many thanks to Michael Taub, author of Jack Doyle: the Gorgeous Gael, for allowing us to reproduce excerpts of his book here. Many thanks also to his publishers Lilliput Press, Dublin.

Michael will be speaking at the Gala Dinner/Birthday Bash on the night of Jack's 100th anniversary of his birthday, as part of the Jack Doyle Centenary Weekend. The weekend events take place from Friday 30th August to Sunday 1st September.

Highlights of the weekend include:

·  A Boxing Tournament on Friday 30th August - organised under the auspices of the IABA Cork County Board. (Tickets available at the Commodore Hotel @ €10)
·  A gala dinner with guest speaker Michael Taub, author of 'Jack Doyle; the Gorgeous Gael.' Music by the 'Contenders' Saturday 31st August. (Tickets available at the Commodore Hotel €34.95)
·  Official opening of the Jack Doyle Mural on Saturday 31st August (pics below) - all welcome to attend.
·  The Jack Doyle Play with actor Luke Barry on Sunday 1st September. (Tickets available at the Commodore Hotel @ €5)
·  Guided Walking Tours and tours on the Cobh Road Train, Historical Workshops, street theatre, classic car displays, commemorative mass & subsequent ceremonies in Cobh's historical Promenade, guided tours of the Old Cemetery where Jack is buried and much more.



Saturday, August 24, 2013

Jack Doyle - the Big Fight!!!

    After Jack left the Irish Guards he began his career as a professional boxer. He had departed with an unbeaten record as a boxer in the army in any case - 28 fights, 28 wins, an incredible 27 of them by knockout. In little over 12 months he was fighting for the British Heavyweight Crown....

 
  'The capital was at a standstill on the evening of the fight. All roads leading to the magnificent White City Stadium, with its imposing concrete edifice and huge banks of terracing, were jammed by long lines of cars and taxis and awash with crowds of people who had spilled from the pavements. There was chaos as police attempted to control the traffic and the heaving masses.
    Jack and his entourage were forced to run the gauntlet after deciding to abandon their taxi half a mile from the stadium. Star-struck admirers could not believe their luck; they besieged him with such animated fervour that at one stage he was in danger of disappearing beneath a sea of well-wishers. Sullivan, trainers Alf Hewitt and Fred Duffett and the ever-vigilant Bill Doyle had the tough and at times hazardous job of fighting off the fans. One woman armed with a pair of scissors attempted to cut off a lock of Jack's hair.
    Once inside the sanctuary of the dressing-room, Jack's behaviour - high on nervousness and dread - entered the realms of outrageous. 'He started playing the role of court-jester,' recalled Bill Doyle. 'He began laughing, joking and singing. No one would have believed there was a big fight ahead.' He ignored Sullivan's exhortation to, 'Relax, Jack, lie down and rest.' Instead he engaged those around him in light-hearted banter as he pored over the dozens of telegrams that had arrived and took stock of several quite elaborate bouquets. Only when his hands had been bandaged in preparation for gloving-up did Jack finally manage to compose himself. He stretched out and closed his eyes for a few minutes, seemingly oblivious to those around him as, inwardly, he summoned help to aid him in the heat of championship battle.
    Jack knew he would need some kind of miracle, an infusion of supernatural strength, to enable him to wrench the title from Petersen's grasp. His biggest worry was that in the event of his failing to finish the job early, he would be punched senseless by the educated fists of ex-public schoolboy Petersen and become a laughing stock, a figure of fun, a boy who could sing but could not fight. Jack feared the spectre of humiliation like most people fear death. His phobia had its roots in his austere upbringing in the Holy Ground, when it was humiliation enough to have been brought up in poverty. That was something over which he had no control: he had been born into it. But it fostered in him a resolve that he would never be the victim of circumstance in the areas of his life he could control. This is what spurred him to become such a formidable fighter. The thought of defeat was anathema to him. From his earliest scraps in the quarry in Queenstown, through his waterfront battles with men twice his age, to the pulsating punch-ups with Pettifer and Bouquillon, in which he turned imminent first-round disaster into stunning second-round victory, the sense of shame he would have felt in defeat was the crucial motivating factor.
    Though yet to be beaten in any contest, he could be forgiven for thinking his run was about to end. He doubted with a deep sense of foreboding that his appeal to Providence would be answered. He had always been a good Catholic as a boy but, since his rise to fame, he had allowed himself to be diverted from regular attendance at Mass and from saying the night and morning prayers that had always been such a comfort to him, especially during his first days in England. Because he was now turning to prayer more or less as a last resort, he was uncertain as to its efficacy. A spurned God might not help him at all. Or, worse, punish him by making sure he lost!
    What a dilemma he faced. His championship challenge was the realisation of all the hopes and dreams he had nurtured since boyhood. Victory over Petersen, two years older and unbeaten in 23 fights, would put him within reach of the world crown that had been worn with such distinction by Jack Dempsey. In normal circumstances he would have been ecstatic that his big opportunity had arrived and brashly confident that his power of punch would prove too much for anything the more skillful Petersen could produce. Now he was having to ponder near-certain defeat before he had even thrown a punch in anger.
    As before the Pettifer fight, he was bitterly regretting his decision not to pull out. He had got away with it then by virtue of Dan Sullivan's swift intervention and a do-or-die effort in which he had discovered unknown reserves of strength. But a touch of 'flu was nothing compared with the illness he was suffering from now and, short of blasting Petersen to defeat in the opening rounds, he feared that nothing would save him.
    Jack had half considered acquainting the Board of Control doctor with the facts during his routine pre-fight medical, but thought better of it in the light of what might have been printed in the newspapers. Even so, he was amazed the doctor did not suspect anything during an almost cursory examination of his genitals. Now, as he lay waiting for the call to action, he was in a state of acute agitation. A dose of the clap would have been bad enough in any circumstances, but the thought of having to fight possibly 15 championship rounds against a man as fit and formidable as Petersen was alarming.
    A resounding roar went up when he appeared in the arena and began making his way to ringside, his outwardly jaunty demeanour contrasting dramatically with the unrest within. An even mightier cheer rang out as he climbed through the ropes resplendent in a dressing-gown of emerald green, which he removed to reveal a sun-tanned torso. His green satin shorts with white waistband had his initials and a shamrock embroidered in gold on either leg. The green, white and gold of Ireland symbolised what Jack Doyle stood for that night at White City. He was the first native of Eire to challenge for the heavyweight championship of Great Britain - permitted to do so because his country had been under British rule when he was born in 1913, just 19 years and 315 days earlier.
    The spectators packed into the arena craned their necks as he bowed like an actor to the audience and blew kisses to the women at ringside, many of whom he obviously knew. He then engaged those around him, including the MC, in cheerful conversation while awaiting the entry of the champion, who had captured the title a year earlier to the day by knocking out Reggie Meen at Wimbeldon.
    The seconds ticked by, but there was no sign of Petersen. The seconds turned to minutes and still Petersen had not put in an appearance. The agonising delay succeeded in heightening the tension and excitement and the atmosphere was electric as it began to dawn on Jack that he had suffered his first setback before a punch had been thrown. He had been duped by the oldest trick in the boxing book: that of champion cleverly keeping challenger waiting in a bid to unnerve him. The tactic had worked, but surely not in the way Petersen and his father-manager had hoped. Instead of Jack being reduced to a feeble bundle of nerves, the champion's waiting game had served to bring a slight flush to his cheeks. His calm exterior began to give way to a look of anger. Any trepidation he had felt beneath the surface during his theatrical, gladiatorial entrance had been superseded in the interim by a feeling of contempt for Petersen.
    Jack's brown eyes flashed ominously at the Welshman as the referee, Cecil 'Pickles' Douglas, brought them together in the centre of the ring.......'

Many thanks to Michael Taub, author of Jack Doyle: the Gorgeous Gael, for allowing us to reproduce excerpts of his book here. Many thanks also to his publishers Lilliput Press, Dublin.

Michael will be speaking at the Gala Dinner/Birthday Bash on the night of Jack's 100th anniversary of his birthday, as part of the Jack Doyle Centenary Weekend. The weekend events take place from Friday 30th August to Sunday 1st September.

Highlights of the weekend include:

·  A Boxing Tournament on Friday 30th August - organised under the auspices of the IABA Cork County Board. (Tickets available at the Commodore Hotel @ €10)
·  A gala dinner with guest speaker Michael Taub, author of 'Jack Doyle; the Gorgeous Gael.' Music by the 'Contenders' Saturday 31st August. (Tickets available at the Commodore Hotel €34.95)
·  Official opening of the Jack Doyle Mural on Saturday 31st August (pics below) - all welcome to attend.
·  The Jack Doyle Play with actor Luke Barry on Sunday 1st September. (Tickets available at the Commodore Hotel @ €5)
·  Guided Walking Tours and tours on the Cobh Road Train, Historical Workshops, street theatre, classic car displays, commemorative mass & subsequent ceremonies in Cobh's historical Promenade, guided tours of the Old Cemetery where Jack is buried and much more.



Friday, August 23, 2013

Jack Doyle - work in the early days

 
  With Jack 'on the lang' more often than not his schooling did suffer. 'The authorities made several attempts at luring Jack back to school, but having made the break he was determined to resist their efforts. All he was interested in doing now was finding work and proving himself a man. As the eldest son he considered it his duty to provide for his parents a measure of comfort and security after the long, wearying years of struggle that made them old before their time.....After a time he became restless and decided to try his luck on the coal boats that sailed into Cobh. The lure of the waterfront was strong: big money could be earned there by a tough lad with a broad back and a zest for hard work. He became a quay labourer, unloading the coal vessels, and he was delighted to discover he could shift as much coal as men twice his age.
    The boats had to be unloaded in 48 hours or incur a punitive Harbour Board tariff. Eight men at a time worked ceaselessly from six in the morning till seven at night to clear the 350-ton cargos. There was no slacking: if you couldn't do it, you were out. Joe's job was to go down the collier's hold and fill two huge containers, which were then heaved up on a winch and their contents loaded on carts for delivery to the coal yards. It was back-breaking work down in that dark and dusty hold, but the rewards were high: as much as £3 could be earned for two days' work.
    Sister Bridie recalled:

   'Joe would come home worn out, his face, neck, arms and vest covered with soot. He would clean himself up in an old zinc bath in front of the fire and Mum used to scrub his back for him. Most of the money he earned he gave to her - and he also liked to buy her little gifts. I remember his first present was a purse. He was always promising that one day, when he was rich, he would buy her a fur coat.'

    Unfortunately for Joe, work on the coal boats was irregular. With just two shipments a week, there were plenty of men willing and able to bare their backs for the chance of earning a decent wage. Between times, he helped carry the luggage of visiting Americans from the docks to the town's numerous hotels and guest-houses. It was an exercise that earned him healthy sums in tips and afforded the opportunity of making a favourable impression on any attractive young lady who might take his fancy. He would target a family group that included a likely candidate, offer to act as porter and then attempt to engage the object of his desire in conversation as he humped the baggage into town.


    His success rate was high. The friendly and impressionable Yankee girls, invariably a good deal older than himself, were captivated by his freckle-faced good looks, his mop of black curly hair and an original line in blarney that would prove irresistible to women in the years to come. Joe was to consider such relationships a more important, a certainly more enjoyable, aspect of his education than anything he could have learned at school; to him, it was an invaluable part of growing up. Yet though he seemed able to sweet-talk his way into the affections of total strangers, Joe rarely enjoyed similar success with the local girls. They were mostly good Catholics and on their guard against red-blooded youths seeking to prove their manliness.'

Many thanks to Michael Taub, author of Jack Doyle: the Gorgeous Gael, for allowing us to reproduce excerpts of his book here. Many thanks also to his publishers Lilliput Press, Dublin.

Michael will be speaking at the Gala Dinner/Birthday Bash on the night of Jack's 100th anniversary of his birthday, as part of the Jack Doyle Centenary Weekend. The weekend events take place from Friday 30th August to Sunday 1st September.

Highlights of the weekend include:

·  A Boxing Tournament on Friday 30th August - organised under the auspices of the IABA Cork County Board. (Tickets available at the Commodore Hotel @ €10)
·  A gala dinner with guest speaker Michael Taub, author of 'Jack Doyle; the Gorgeous Gael.' Music by the 'Contenders' Saturday 31st August. (Tickets available at the Commodore Hotel €34.95)
·  Official opening of the Jack Doyle Mural on Saturday 31st August (pics below) - all welcome to attend.
·  The Jack Doyle Play with actor Luke Barry on Sunday 1st September. (Tickets available at the Commodore Hotel @ €5)
·  Guided Walking Tours and tours on the Cobh Road Train, Historical Workshops, street theatre, classic car displays, commemorative mass & subsequent ceremonies in Cobh's historical Promenade, guided tours of the Old Cemetery where Jack is buried and much more.