A rarely-seen photograph that captures the first steps of a historic journey will hang proudly at Oriel Park for years to come, thanks to the efforts of lifelong Dundalk FC supporter David Humphries.
The image shows Dundalk FC players and officials lining up for a picture outside Russell’s Bus Saloon on Park Street – complete with its famous clock – ahead of their departure to Switzerland for a European Cup tie with FC Zurich on Monday, September 23rd, 1963.
Two nights later, goals from Dermot Cross and Jimmy Hasty not only secured Dundalk a 2-1 win at the Stadion Letzigrund, but also a place in the record books as the first Irish club in history to win an away match in a European competition.
Taken just over 59 years ago, the photograph inadvertently came to light a few years back and kickstarted a process that David, a self-proclaimed ‘project person’ was only delighted to get into.
“When I came back to Dundalk in 2006, after being away since 1965, I noticed that the clock on the Bus Saloon, which was my grandfather, William ‘Bill’ Russell’s pub, and the place where my mother was born, was in a pretty poor state.
“I knew that my cousin had sold the premises so I walked in and introduced myself to who I now know are Greg and Noel Gormley, the new owners.
“I explained who I was and asked if the clock was under threat. They said: ‘no way’ and that they wanted to preserve the Russell name. In the pub now, they have a wall dedicated to the family so I got involved by trying to accumulate as much memorabilia as I could.”
During this process, David made contact with his cousin Paula Murtagh, nee Russell, who invited him to search her attic in Dromiskin and see what he could find.
“I found lots of stuff and, in the middle of it all, was the photograph in question. That’s how it came about. If I hadn’t gone in and asked about the clock, it wouldn’t have happened!”
Paula’s father Tom, who is pictured smoking a pipe in the picture, is believed to have asked the photographer, PG Byrne, to take the snap from the team’s regular departure point.
“The photographer was based on what was called Paddy Byrne’s corner on Church Street and York Street,” said David, “and I’m assuming that my uncle Tom continued the tradition of Dundalk teams leaving the Bus Saloon and got Paddy Byrne to take the photo. Back then, Russell’s was the place where people used to go on a Sunday evening to check the League of Ireland scores.”
A different version of the image appeared in the Dundalk Democrat on Saturday, September 28th, 1969 but the image which David has been working on has been rarely seen, until now.
“I took it into the club back in 2018 and showed it to Ailish Kelly and she said: ‘we have to do something with that’ and that’s how it started.
“Anyone that I spoke to when I was trying to identify people in the picture, from Des Casey to Paddy Malone to John Murphy and the late Jim Murphy, had never seen it before,” he said.
The process of trying to identify everyone in the picture proved to be a difficult task, especially when the pandemic hit in March 2020.
“That meant I couldn’t knock on people’s doors,” smiled David. “What surprised me was that people like Des and John didn’t know everyone who was in it. There is a guy in it, Pat Fitzgibbon, who used to be the manager of Burton’s in Clanbrassil Street. I used to know him from tennis and badminton but I didn’t recognise him from football.
“We finally got it down to one man but we just couldn’t identify the young face,” he added, “so I got in touch with Bernard McMahon on the Dundalk North End Facebook page and he cropped the face out and put the picture up on the page and that’s where the name of Charlie McGrath came from.
“Like myself, Charlie was only a teenager at the time but his father Joe McGrath, who is also in the picture, was the treasurer that season and brought Charlie with him to Switzerland which was a nice thing for a parent to do back then!”
The picture will hang proudly at Oriel Park and David, who started following Dundalk in the 1950s, believes it’s a worthy tribute to a historic achievement.
“From my point of view, it’s bringing a bit of history back into focus again,” he said. “It shows that Dundalk FC was enjoying glory years in Europe, even long before the Stephen Kenny era. We’ve always had great managers and great teams and this was a historic event.”
David’s links with the club go much further than the picture. In 2003, while leafing through Jim Murphy’s seminal book, ‘The History of Dundalk FC, the First 100 Years’, he recognised a familiar face.
“I was going through the book and up pops a picture of my grandfather, the same one who owned Russell’s. I thought to myself, what’s he doing here?’ so I went through it more and it turns out he was the club’s chairman for seven years between 1940 and 1946!
“I never knew,” he added. “He died in 1955 when I was nine but I never knew he had a connection to Dundalk FC. He left money in his will to the club and bought shirts for the team and I had no idea.
“What was in it for him? Well, there was pride in his town and also, if you look at the programmes from around that time, there was always an advertisement in it for the Bus Saloon!”
# David Humphries – who has kindly offered to sponsor the match ball – will present the photograph to Dundalk FC ambassador Padraig McGowan during the half-time interval of this Friday’s SSE Airtricity League fixture with Sligo Rovers at Casey’s Field while the surviving members of the team, and relations of those in the photo, have been invited to the game.