Monday, 04 November 2019 19:14

HURLEY MAKING: Early 20th Century

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Irish Heritage Craft of HurleyMaking of Times Past recalled by All Ireland SportsLife Hall of Fame.A real life story of a bygone era from the home of hurling....


In The Irish Home of Hurling and HurleyMaking at Thurles, Co. Tipperary, The Ryan CamánMakers

of Cabra Terrace, from 1920 to 1930, were a prominent family of Hurley Makers.


Exports and Home Markets

This is a story about the craftmaking of hurleys in Thurles, Co. Tipperary, in times past 1920's and the author, the son of a Thurles hurleymaker from Cabra Terrace, stated, that as a child, he developed a grá for the smell of timber and the aroma stayed with him for his entire life.

In a quote it was stated “ The ash when green is fit for the queen; aye indeed, and for making hurleys too.

The Thurles hurley makers were the authors grandfather, Tom Ryan and his father, John Joe Ryan, also a Thurles Sarsields former hurler, and their No.1 customers were Cork and Tipperary county boards, and the camáns for both counties were made with equal fervour. The father and son team also exported hurleys to Canada, America and Australia and they also sold hurleys to Elverys of Grafton Street, Dublin.



The ash came from Killough, a few miles up the Cabra Road, from Thurles town, and it is further stated, they supplied hurleys to Cork and Tipperary from 1930 to 1950.The business end was usually completed at a well known former Cork hotel, on Winthrop Street, and Cork Co. Board secretary, Paddy O’Keeffe, was the link person. Paddy O'Keeffe was later appointed as G.A.A. General Secretary at Croke Park and served in this role with great distinction.

The Thurles hurleymakers traded as “The Camánmakers” and it was a regular treat for the Ryan family to greet at their home, many famous hurlers of times past who sought hands on examination of the craft of their hurleys. It was further stated that a good ash tree should produce three dozen hurleys and a bas and it was further stated, had to be one and a half inches thick. The process for getting the ash tree out of the ground from its roots in times past, involved pulling the roots out with a rope; the tree was shaped like a hurley and split into four parts.



In a further throw back to hurleymaking of times past, when the tree was ready to be carried away out of the wood, the transport used was a pony and cart and the hardworking hurleymakers then undertook two separate journies to Loughmore, loaded with the ash timber. The awesome journey to Gormans Sawmills of Loughmore, was 12 tough miles away and there the wood was sawn into eight by three foot planks with a special saw.

Each plank delivered on average 2/4 hurleys and the shape was pencil marked in the Camámakers own special mould on the ash. The hurley was then made by cutting, planing and smooth shaving, whilst the bas would then be spokeshaven in a large vice. In further hands on making, the grain of the hurley received very special attention.



The Ryan family Camánmakers of Thurles were well known personalities at Semple Stadium on important match days and aside from the long established craft of hurleymaking, they were also prominent in assisting the G.A.A. in many other ways. In the 21st century craft of hurleymaking, the process no longer involves 12 mile journies by pony and cart, but it does still command a personalised interest in the art of hurleymaking.


UNIQUE COLLECTION of LEGENDS OF HURLING and CAMOGIE is the Irish Home of All Ireland SportsLife Hall of Fame and was established in 2008 to compose editorial Online tributes to former Club and County players, Referees, Coaches and Club Volunteers of Distinction and Club Officers. We will be visiting a unique collection of Ireland’s hurley makers in the coming months, talking to modern day hurleymakers, also taking some interesting pictures and as an Irish Heritage SportsLife website, our special reports on modern hurleymaking is eagerly awaited. 

We will also be visiting a network of Irish SportsLink public houses around Ireland who profess an interest in talking about Gaelic Games legends of Times Past and Current.


SportsLife Entertainment

Our Hall of Fame "Live" Bar or Lounge presentations will introduce a unique collection of former gaelic games players, the forebears who made gaelic games one of the greatest and most interesting field sports in the world.


Composed by Derry JF Doody as an Irish Heritage editorial 

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Last modified on Tuesday, 01 September 2020 21:58