Category: Archive

Sunnyside lecture focuses on its world-famous club

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

It’s one of a series of talks being organized this month by the scholar that will look at a club that produced numerous Olympic champions, particularly in the period leading up to World War I.
McGowan’s interest in what was known as the “world’s premier sports club” was piqued when he moved in the nearby Celtic Park apartment complex, the site of the club’s facilities through the late 1920s.
“It’s been five years of research and an intensive year of legwork,” said McGowan, who switched his postgraduate work from the Irish diaspora in Latin America to the Irish American Athletic Club. “I’m very pleased with the progress.”
Recently he’s established an advisory board, which includes George W. Anderson, commanding officer of the NYPD Police Academy, several prominent members of the Irish community, and various experts. He’s won a small scholarship to continue his work and has tracked down a wealth of information, scores of photographs and memorabilia relating to that episode in American history.
McGowan has established contact with descendants of the important figures in the Irish American Athletic Club story. Among them are the great-grandchildren of Pat Ryan, who won the Olympic gold in the hammer throw for the U.S. at the Antwerp Games in 1920 and returned later to his native Limerick to take over the family farm.
“They were ecstatic to see pictures of their great-grandfather up online,” McGowan said.
The Irish American Athletic Club also attracted both black and Jewish sportsmen who weren’t welcome at the rival New York Athletic Club. At the London Games in 1908, club member John Baxter Taylor Jr. became the first African American to win an Olympic gold medal (he contacted typhoid a few months later and died at age 26).
At the Jewish Historical Society of Staten Island on Sunday, Oct. 18, at 2 p.m. author Alan Katchen, a member of McGowan’s board, will talk about his book “Abel Kiviat, National Champion: Twentieth Century Track & Field and the Melting Pot.” (To register call: 718-483-7105.) Kiviat was a Jewish member of the club and an Olympic champion.
McGowan himself will finish this month’s series of lectures with a talk at the Irish Studies Institute at Molloy College in Rockville Centre, L.I. on Sunday, Oct. 25, at 3 p.m. (To register email: emuscente@molloy.edu.)

For more information email wingedfist@gmail.com or go to www.wingedfist.org.

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