Ald JAMES NOWLAN and NOWLAN PARK
James Nowlan’s family lived in Upper Patrick St., for a time his father
Patrick, a Cooper by trade worked in Sullivans Brewery James St. but
due to a down turn in the Brewing business the family moved to
Monastereven, Co.Kildare where James was born in 1862.
The family later returned to Kilkenny and took up residence at no 2
Troy’s Gate, where James lived for most of his life and trained
as a cooper in Sullivans Brewery.
A member of the Gaelic League, he was a life long supporter of the
Irish language movement and a member of Sinn Fein from its
foundation in 1905. He was elected an Alderman of the Corporation in
1898 and was returned as an Alderman at each election until 1920
when he moved to Dublin.
Elected President of the G A A in 1901 he held that position until 1921
when he retired, the longest serving President of the association.
It was said he attempted to steer the G A A on a more Republican path
and in 1913 was quoted as encouraging members to join the Irish
Volunteers and so learn to shoot straight.
After the 1916 rising he was one of the Kilkenny group arrested in the
military swoop and was interred in Frongoch, Wales until August of
that year, on his release he continued with his G A A and Civic duties.
Oct. 1919 he was arrested in Cork for been in possession of a revolver
and cartridges. Despite pleading he needed the arms to protect G A A
gate money, he was sentenced to 28 days imprisonment. He died in
June 1924 leaving his estate of £862 to Luke O Toole Gen. Sec of the G
A A and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.
Kilkenny G A A did not have a stadium of it’s own and games were
played at various venues in the City. The County Board approached
the Agricultural Society for the use of James’ Park in 1896, permission
was given for Sunday use but 12 months later the rent was raised by
50% This caused the G A A to abandon the venue and did not return
until 1906. When good relationships were restored, many club and
intercounty games took place at James Park including the 1906 All
Ireland hurling final. Eventually a field was purchased in 1927 for £700
from Peter Corcoran of John St, and was named Nowlan Park. Club
games were played on the new pitch almost immediately. The official
opening took place on Aug. 26th 1928. To mark the event the All
Ireland Hurling semi final was played between Cork and Dublin.
Cork winning easily on a 5-3 to 0-2 score line, before an attendance of
23,000. On the eve of the game the Cork team was met at the Railway
Station by a large crowd and escorted to the Metropole hotel by St
Patricks and St Riochs bands, the crowd and bands then returned to
the Station greeted the Dublin team did a circuit of the city streets
escorting them to the Central hotel. The official opening was performed
by the President of the G A A. Sean Ryan The Corporation attended
led by the Mayor Ald. Jack Magennis. Bishop Patrick Collier
after blessing the grounds said he hoped this field for many years would be the
scene of clean manly Irish games and that commercialism and
professionalism which ruin games would be absent from games played
in this Park.
The national papers were not impressed with the opening stating
the approach roads and ground were in a muddy condition. The
stewarding arrangements left a lot to be desired, gates been closed an
hour before the game and people who had purchased side line tickets
could not gain admission. It was noted some players were forced to
climb over fencing to gain entry to the pitch.
Major work was undertaken in 1947/48,with the erection of a stand.
With the demolition of Kilkenny Jail, large quantities of rubble were
available and Paddy Grace county board secretary bought the rubble
for 10 shillings a lorry load, using it to enlarge the banks.
To day Nowlan Park has a total capacity for 24,000 patrons of which
17,000 are seated, and stands as a tribute and memorial to Ald James