Aerial view of The Mall.

From the archives: Councillors wanted to ban football on the Mall in 1960s

By Tom Gillespie

IN October 1963 members of Castlebar Urban Council were in a quandary regarding what action should be taken to prevent damage being caused to the Mall by children playing football.

To impose such a ban would mean the children would have no alternative but to play on the streets and endanger their lives.

Council members were also worried about damage to public parks and other parts of the town by lighting fires on bonfire night.

At a meeting, town clerk Mr. J.J. Smyth read a report from the town engineer, Mr. A. Malone, about the damage being caused to the Mall and park at St. Bridget’s Crescent by boys playing football and hurling.

The matter was put to the county manager, Mr. Liam McLoughlin, and it was pointed out that children who normally play on the Mall would have to play on the streets if they were prevented from playing there.

Mr. Jack Cahill: I think we will give credit to everyone for the way the Mall is kept, but you will agree that a large number of youths playing there are a bit on the old side. I think we should pass a bye-law and introduce an age limit of seven to 10 years.

Mr. James Killeen: They are playing senior football at 14 years.

Mr. Michael Neary, chairman: If they were playing with a small, soft ball, and not a football, it would be alright.

Mr. Cahill: We should pass a bye-law and allow children up to 10 years to play with a soft ball.

Chairman: We must bring it home to the people that it is in their interests that the Mall be kept in a proper condition.

Mr. Michael Heverin: Celtic Park is quite close to the Mall and I say it is possible that children might be granted permission to play there. If the club were asked, I feel sure they would grant permission and it would prevent children from playing on the streets.

Mr. Killeen: We must remember that it is the duty of the council to provide a playing pitch for the children, but we must also remember that there is a big difference between children of eight and 10 years playing there and lads of 14 and 16 years. We should pass a bye-law that all ball playing on the Mall be prohibited except for children up to eight years with a soft ball.

Mr. Killeen: You should remember that it is impossible for parents to control children once they are out of sight, and they have not the slightest idea what they are doing or where they are playing.

Mr. Cahill: Our problem is to stop adults from playing there. People playing hurling and football there can do serious damage. I am sure the members of the council are not against children playing there.

Mr. Sean Horkan: The Mall is one of the best amenities we have in the town but it should be remembered that as long as we are keeping it a thing of beauty it should be used for the benefit of the people, particularly mothers and children, who are the biggest number of people using it during the summer months.

"But," said Mr. Horkan, "I would like to say that the people who are causing most damage are the youngish who are working in the immediate vicinity of the Mall and go there playing football.

"They should be stopped. I think if we do that, it will solve our problem. The Mall is where we want to have children playing and not on the streets."

Continuing, Mr. Horkan said: "There is one bye-law which we should introduce and that is concerning the control of places where bonfires are held on St. John’s Night."

With damage being caused by fires, it was necessary to control the places where bonfires are lit, he said.

"Last year (1962)," Mr. Horkan said, "one of those fires was lighted in the centre of the green at St. Patrick’s Avenue and it left a scar throughout the summer. The place should be defined where those fires can be lighted and the only thing that can be done is to approach people lighting fires elsewhere and stop them."

Mr. Willie Cresham: I am not in favour of passing a bye-law prohibiting children playing football on the Mall. McHale Park was open all the season and they would not play there, while some time ago, when a site at McHale Park was offered for the erection of a ball alley, it was not availed of.

He added: "I played football on the Mall. It was the place where the youth of the town learned how to play football."

Mr. Joe Chambers: How are we to protect the children if we don't allow them play on the Mall? Do you agree with having adults playing on the Mall, Mr. Cresham?

Mr. Gresham: I do not.

Mr. Heverin: I think if we can confine it to national school children, seeing we cannot define the age, it would be better.

Mr. Pat Lavelle: If we do pass a bye-law who is going to be responsible for putting people off the Mall who are playing football there? Is it the guards or council staff? The council staff are after them for the past 12 months and could not do anything. When the ball was taken the parent of the young fellow went to the man and got it back.

Town engineer: My reason for reporting it is because there were big black patches on the Mall and at St. Bridget’s Crescent where children had been playing.