When a small group of aspiring footballers from Bells Academy, a civil service college in North Great Georges Street, joined with students from the Hibernian Military School at the Gate Lodge in the Phoenix Park on 6 September 1890, they formed a club to partake in the fledgling Dublin scene of Association football.[i] The origins of this meeting at the North Circular Road entrance to the Phoenix Park lie in the establishment of Richfield Sports Club on 19 October 1889. This club had emerged from the playing of ‘association football’ at Bells Academy and the need to accommodate participants from outside the college in the organisation of the game. Andrew Philip Magill and Hamilton Paul Bell were appointed Honorary Secretary and Treasurer of the Richfield club respectively.[ii] Census records show Magill and Bell to have been aged eighteen and seventeen at the time of the inaugural meeting of Bohemian F.C.[iii] Both were born in Dublin, Magill was the Protestant son of a Swiss mother and Bell was a Roman Catholic who claimed proficiency in the Irish language.
It is difficult to ascertain the precise inspiration behind the adaptation of ‘Bohemians’ as the most suitable name for the new club. Tony Reid, in his Official Club History of Bohemian A.F.C. published in 1976, stated that ‘Frank Whittaker’ proposed the name Bohemians because the player’s wanderings in search of a suitable playing venue reminded one of a bunch of ‘gypsies’, and as such, ‘they were truly Bohemian in spirit’.[iv]The club was to wander from the Phoenix Park to Jones Road in 1893 before moving to Whitehall, Glasnevin in 1895 where they played until their permanent move to ‘Pisser Dignam’s Field’ at Dalymount, Phibsboro in 1901. Certainly, the term ‘Bohemian’ was often used in the contemporary parlance of Dublin culture and society.
The first appointed officers of the club were Alex Blayney as Chairman, Dudley Hussey as Honorary Secretary and Frank Whittaker, who became Honorary Treasurer. Joseph F. Whelan was appointed as club captain. Among those also present at the meeting were Hamilton Bell, Michael O’ Sullivan, John Blayney, Willie, James and George Sheehan, Michael Whelan, S. Bell, A.P. Magill, Dan Blayney, J. Sealey, James Gough, Albert Wilson and Edmund Greary.[v]
Bohemian F.C. (circa 1890)
One of the earliest Bohemian teams, from a picture taken in the Phoenix Park about 1890. Left to right, front row – J. Murray, Jos. Whelan, A. Geary; centre row – S. McCann, A. Blayney; back row – W. Sheehan, Geo. Sheehan, F. Whitaker, Jas. Sheehan, A. Wilson, Jas. Whelan
Little is known of the Bohemian Club’s playing program for 1890 and 1891. Certainly, no administrative body was in place at a county level to administrate local competitions or arrange a fixture list. A general meeting of the club was held at Costigan’s Hotel on Upper Sackville (O’ Connell) Street on 12 September 1891 to elect new officers for the forthcoming year, less than a month before the death of Charles Stewart Parnell. At this meeting, ‘it was resolved unanimously that Albert Wilson be asked to accept the presidency of the club’. Messrs Wheeler and Ledwich were elected as members and a notice was published requesting club secretaries to contact Dudley. Hussey to organise fixtures.
An ‘association football’ match between Dublin University and Bohemians did take place later in the year on 5 December in the College Park. It highly likely that similar fixtures took place around this time, of which no evidence survives. As became common practice, the team was published in The Irish Times beside details of kick-off times and rendezvous points for players. The starting line up indicated a complete cross over in terms of administrative and playing members at this time. This also illustrates the young age profile of Bohemians as the club president, treasurer and chairman all took to the field to play Dublin University.[vi]
[i] Phil Howlin, Bohemian Times, Available at: http://www.bohemians.ie/club/history/87-bohemian-times.html
[ii] Tony Reid, Bohemian A.F.C., Official Club History 1890-1976 (Dublin 1976), p.10.
[iii]1911 Census, A.P. Magill available at http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/reels/nai000027789/ 1911 Census, H.P. Bell available at http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/reels/nai000029615/
[iv] Reid, Bohemian A.F.C., p.11.
[v] Reid, Bohemian A.F.C., p.10.
[vi] The Irish Times, 16 Sep. 1891.