History of Rathdrum Rifle & Pistol Club
by Nick West
In April 1961 the Rathdrum Development Association sponsored a Sporting Rifle Competition. The interest which this encouraged resulted in the forming of Rathdrum Rifle and Pistol Club shortly after. The first officers were Father Peter Canning (President), Gregory Doyle (Secretary), Davy Conroy (Treasurer) and the committee consisted of David Cullen, Martin Doyle, Larry Parsons and John McGrath. The first A.G.M. of which we have record was held in Barry's Hotel in Rathdrum on 12th November 1962 and reported 22 full members and 5 associate members.
At first sporting rifle was the sole discipline shot and the first target rifles were bought in 1962 at a cost of £28, £30 and £60 respectively. Targets cost 2d each at the time and ammunition of undefined origin was 5 shillings for 50 rounds. The first Club Dinner was held on 10th January 1963 and was attended by representatives of the City of Dublin Rifle Club, namely Capt. Hammond (Chairman) and Mr C Bailey (Secretary). The Dinner was held at the Vale View Hotel (Phone Number Avoca 6!) at a cost of £1/- each to members.
The Club first affiliated to the N.S.R.A. in December 1962 at a cost of £2-2-0, the clubs registration number (2075) is still held and the original certificate of membership is still in the club's possession. In January 1964, David Cullen was elected Chairman of the Club, a position which he has held to this day. The loft at Whaley Abbey was used almost from the start of the club and was at that stage an indoor range. The range was owned by club member Larry Parsons and the minutes of the first A.G.M noted that he was to be paid 10 shillings per night for lighting. It was decided to hold a fund raising Dance in the Ormonde Ballroom in Arklow to help raise funds for a Nissen Hut for the Range. This was held on 13th February 1963 and the "Jets" Dance Band was procured for the occasion. The Nissen Hut was never bought and the money for this and a number of further dinner dances that year went towards the new indoor range which was being planned at the time.
The proposed site was in Brewery Lane and was the property of David Cullen. The plans were prepared by Mr Cahill of Castle Corballis and he and Mr Hobbs of Dublin who designed the Club Crest were made Honorary Members in 1963. The permission of the County Council and the Gardaí having been obtained, A Special General Meeting was held in June 1963 to set up work details for the construction. Progress was slow but by January 1964 the walls had been erected with the roof being added by the end of October. In November 1964, the property at Brewery Lane was conveyanced into the names of the trustees of the Club from David Cullen and what is now the indoor range came into Club ownership. Finishing work on the floor however took some time and it was not until 10th February 1966 that shooting officially commenced on the range.
Roy McMahon joined the Club approximately 1966 and became Treasurer in 1969. Due to the construction of the Indoor Range there had been several problems with finance with the Club having a large overdraft in the Hibernian Bank. Roy inherited this problem and by the end of 1969 the following was noted in the Committee Meeting Minutes: "The Treasurer outlined the financial position of the Club - approbation was expressed at the change in colour of the Bank Statement after several years". Actually Roy and the Chairman, David Cullen, had managed to get the account into the black for the first time since 1963! This was the start, and was typical of, the fastidiousness of Roy McMahon over the next 28 years during which Roy was Treasurer and, from 1979, Secretary of the Club, at which stage Michael Byrne became Treasurer.
The vacancy as treasurer arose as Greg Doyle retired having been Secretary for 18 years. Greg Doyle was then made Honorary President until his passing away in 1984. Kealan Symes took over as Treasurer in 1994 and Nick West became Secretary in 1998 after the death of Roy. Roy is still sorely missed but the McMahon name is still connected with the Club as Roy's wife Mary has been one of the Trustees since 1973 and continues to be so to this day. In 1982, Rathdrum celebrated 21 years in existence and celebrated in style with a dinner attended by many of the shooting fraternity. That year there was also a televised item on the Club Activities, one of the rare times when shooting has had an airing on R.T.E. Whaley Abbey became an outdoor range and lasted until 1985. The Club's outdoor range then moved to Kinsella's Sand Pit, Ballinaclash until 1997.
The first shoot against another club was held in October 1962 and was shot at 25 and 50 yards. The opposition was the City of Dublin Rifle and Pistol Club who fairly well trounced Rathdrum by 1676 to 1526 points. City of Dublin were invited for a return match on Stephen's Day that year at 15 and 20 yards at Whaley Abbey and on that occasion Rathdrum regained their honour with a 2130 to 1800 victory. A turkey was presented to the best shooter on each team and this must surely have been the first Turkey Shoot in Rathdrum. The Marksman of 1962 was run in 2 classes with John McGrath in the Open Sight and Father Canning in the Double Aperture Classes coming out the winners. The following year would see the Target Rifle Class being competed for the first time. The Leinster Rifle Association was founded circa 1965 and it was in that year that Rathdrum was asked to host the Leinster Indoor Target Rifle Championships, a tradition which remains to this day. Strangely enough, Rathdrum also hosted the Munster Indoor Championships between 1968 and 1970 and possibly beyond as no club in Munster had an indoor range.
Rathdrum appears to have first hosted the National All-Ireland Indoor Championships in 1969. This later became the N.R.P.A.I. and then N.T.S.A. National Indoor Championships and Rathdrum have hosted virtually all of them except for the early eighties when Dublin University somehow managed with two firing points to host it over a period of a week! Shooting records were unfortunately not kept for the whole of the Seventies but we have a virtually complete record from 1980 to date of target rifle competitions held in the Club. The N.S.R.A. 1966 cards lasted until 1989. Between 1980 and 1989 the best scores at Rathdrum in an Open Shoot on the old cards were 596 by Eddie Keane of Waterford in February 1982 indoors and 591 by Sandy Wilson then of Ravens in October 1982 outdoors. Seamus Cullen had the best scores of any club member of that era in Open Shoots having achieved 594 indoors twice, in 1980 and 1985, and 589 outdoors in 1982. The new cards were first used in 1990 and understandably the scores dropped for a short time. Soon though they began to rise again and before long higher scores than the old cards were being recorded. The record indoors at Rathdrum is held by Ray Reilly who, in September 1997 shot a 595. David Cullen and Leslie Fagan share honours within the Club with scores of 592.
Today, Rathdrum Rifle and Pistol Club is a thriving Club which has some 30 members shooting mainly target and sporting rifle. In the last five years sporting rifle has made a comeback with several co-members of Ballinteer Rifle Club taking honours nationally. Unfortunately we don't have good records of sporting rifle results, but I am sure that over the next few years, as the interest grows, Rathdrum will be returning more and more to its roots in sporting rifle. The Club will also be able to justify it's name as both a rifle and pistol club when it hosts the National Pistol Championships in May of 2007. In 2001 Rathdrum Rifle and Pistol Club celebrated its 40th Anniversary. We had hoped to celebrate this with a large indoor and outdoor Shoot in August but, due to the uncertainty over Foot and Mouth Restrictions earlier in the year, we had to decide to tone down the celebrations. The Anniversary shoot was eventually held in August 2002 with an indoor and outdoor event shot over two days.