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Master Frank McKenna
Tydavnet Historical Society has been very active in recent times in researching various aspects of life in the Tydavnet and wider
community and recording it for posterity. They also organise regular History Nights, where someone delivers a talk on a topic,
incident or theme and this is discussed and recorded either in the written or an oral medium. They have discovered numerous
stories and happenings that would never have been remembered or passed on to the next generation and so would have been lost
Some time ago, local man, Patsy Brady came across, more by accident than design, the grave of a Bernard McKenna and a Master
Frank McKenna. There was a headstone and two other plaques, one of which was badly weathered. However there was enough
information visible to spark a light of curiosity in the historical greedy mind of the viewer and so began Patsy’s research and
disclosure of the life and death of a Master Frank McKenna.
Patsy began talking to senior citizens and people he knew, who might have information about the said Master Frank McKenna. Bit by
bit the story unfolded and became more and more interesting. His connection with Tydavnet; his link with Monaghan town; his
friendship with Lory Meagher, the great Kilkenny Hurler; his work and contribution to the life of Ballycran and Kircubbin Primary
School. Pieces of the jigsaw were supplied by Seamus Sherry, who had been told the story by the late Lena Rooney, Michael
McKenna, Eugene McCague and others but then Laurence McKenna, who has a daughter, Joanne, married in Ballycran and her three
children are involved in the GAA there, gave Patsy the link to Ballycran and the story came together.
Tydavnet Historical Society heard about the research and was keen to have the story told in public and when Cormac Sherry,
Chairman of the Scotstown Club, heard of the GAA connection he encouraged Patsy to put a talk together and have it told in the
GAA Complex in Scotstown. The event took place in the Complex on Wednesday, October 16th and a big crowd turned out for what
was a very interesting and enjoyable night, hosted by the Historical Society and the GAA Club. Members of the Ballycran GFC,
together with Joanne Clarke, nee McKenna, and her daughter, Anna, attended and were made very welcome.
The event was opened by Heather Stirrat, Chairperson of the Historical Society, who recalled the recent deaths of two great
community people, Mary McMahon and Packie Caulfield, both of whom had great stories and past memories and were regular
contributors to the Historical Society. She then introduced Patsy who opened his talk by explaining how he first became interested in
Frank McKenna and how he gathered the various parts of the story. He gave us the background to Frank McKenna whose parents
Bernard and Mary Jane, nee Conlon, came from the Mullaghmore and Shee area but they purchased The Round House bar in Church
Square, Monaghan, where Frank was born and educated at the Brothers.
However his father, Bernard, who became Chairman of the Monaghan Urban Council, died at the young age of 53 and was buried at
Urbleshanny. His wife remarried and moved to Belfast with the family. Frank went on to become a teacher and became Principal of
Kircubbin Primary School. He was a great teacher, a fluent Irish speaker, excellent musician on piano and violin and taught singing.
He also set up the Ballycran Hurling Club in 1939, and they were soon winning trophies and since then have become a powerful
force in Ulster hurling, becoming once again the Down champions in 2019. Unfortunately Master Frank McKenna, as he was called,
died in 1953, just like his father at the young age of 53, and he was brought back for burial in the family plot in Urbleshanny.
Patsy quoted from various sources, highlighting the tremendous respect with which Frank was held in Ballycran and Tydavnet and
Monaghan areas. A huge crowd met his cortege at the Border and accompanied it to the burial. His obituary, as printed in the
Northern Standard, was a list of ‘Who’s Who’ in the business and social life of North Monaghan and beyond at the time. Patsy also
read extracts from a book produced by the Ballycran Club to celebrate their 50th anniversary in 1989 extolling Frank’s great
qualities and eulogising Master Frank McKenna.
On Wednesday night Shane Gilmore from Ballycran told the gathering of the respect that the people of Ballycran have for Frank. He
was a man, big in stature and big in mind, who was loved by young and old. He is still very much remembered in the area with the
McKenna name everywhere. The McKenna pitch, the McKenna Centre, the McKenna Road, are all named after him and he is still held
in the highest regard for what he contributed to the Ballycran area.
This is only a brief synopsis of the details given by Patsy Brady and he was thanked by all for his extremely interesting presentation.
There followed a Question and Answer session at which more relatives in the area were identified by Patsy and he assured all that
his research will be handed over to the Historical Society for the archive. Refreshments were then served during which the chat
continued but in all of it two questions remained unanswered – How did a Monaghan man set up and train a Hurling Team to
become Down Champions and how did he become a close friend of the great Lory Meagher?