Hibs supporters travel to Ireland to honour club's founder with permanent memorial

A group of Hibs fans are making a pilgrimage to the birthplace of one of the team’s founders to help erect a permanent memorial marking his weighty contribution to the formation of the club.

Members of the St Patrick’s Branch of the Hibernian Supporters organisation are travelling to Ballingarry in County Limerick, the small village that Canon Edward Joseph Hannan called home, to leave a lasting tribute to the cleric’s role in the formation of the Easter Road side.

It is a trip that has been several years in the making, with talks commencing in the wake of the historic Scottish Cup win in 2016.

Father Hannan first came to Edinburgh in 1861 and later helped run St Patrick’s church in the Cowgate, where he established a local branch of the Catholic Young Men’s Society (CYMS). He became parish priest in 1871, working tirelessly with poor Catholics in the city and in August 1875 founded Hibernian Football Club along with Michael Whelahan, serving as de facto manager in the beginning.

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He was made a Canon in 1885 and held the presidency of the club until his death in June 1891, while Whelahan was the first captain of the team.

The St Patrick’s Branch, named after the club’s birthplace, has been heavily involved in recognising Canon Hannan’s role in Hibs’ history and played a key role in the renovation and rededication of the grave of Dan McMichael, who led the team to league and cup glory in 1902 and 1903.

After the 2016 Scottish Cup final the St Patrick’s Branch arrived at the decision to organise a permanent memorial to Canon Hannan in Ballingarry.

The harp curse

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Members of the St Patrick's branch of the Hibernian Supporters organisation are to honour Canon Hannan, inset, in his hometown of Ballingarry, Co. Limerick

In their early years Hibs chose the harp emblem to represent the team and a large mosaic crest adorned the outside of the stadium, later removed during renovation work in the 1950s.

Legend claimed that Hibs would never again win the Scottish Cup until the harp returned to the stadium, and in the year 2000 a new club crest was created that included the harp alongside a castle to represent Edinburgh and a ship to mark the port of Leith’s importance in the club’s annals.

With talks under way of how to mark the club’s 140th anniversary, it emerged that a member of the St Patrick’s branch had painstakingly recreated the mosaic harp and was willing to gift it to the club, and ahead of the 2015/16 campaign the harp emblem was back at Easter Road in the form of the mosaic and two large club crests on the outside of the West Stand.

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Hibs won the cup for the first time in 114 years and in the wake of the success, the St Patrick’s Branch pushed on with plans for a permanent memorial to Canon Hannan in Ballingarry and it was agreed to transport the harp mosaic to the Mid-West of Ireland.

Negotiations began in earnest with local football side Ballingarry AFC, who suggested the memorial be erected at their Paddocks ground and Dougie McLeod, St Patrick’s Branch chairperson, travelled to Limerick in January 2020 to meet with Ballingarry AFC officials.

While Covid-19 dashed plans for the original dedication in September last year, the harp is due to be officially unveiled on Saturday September 24, just three years before the club marks its sesquicentennial anniversary.

Mike Hennessy is currently researching the life and times of Canon Hannan with a view to publishing a book to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Hibs. Anyone with information, documentation, or otherwise pertaining to Canon Hannan is asked to contact mike on [email protected]