The connection between Achill and Cleveland is expected to grow even stronger when the two communities come together in June to celebrate the centenary of Johnny Kilbane becoming World Featherweight Champion of the World.
In 1912, the Cleveland-born boxer became the World Champion and to celebrate the centenary of that fight, a number of events have been organised in Achill over the weekend of June 7 and 10.
Johnny Kilbane’s father, John was born in Achill Beg and emigrated to Cleveland in the 1880’s but he still has strong family connections with the island. A large number of dignitaries from Cleveland and members of the Kilbane family are planning to travel to Achill to take part in the celebrations.
Johnny’s great-grandson, Kevin O’Toole, is to unveil a statue in honour of his legendary great grandfather and to visit Achill Beg during the weekend’s celebrations.
When Kilbane won the world title in 1912 after beating Abe Atell in California, a crowd of 200,000 people welcomed the world champion back to Cleveland on St Patrick’s Day. One hundred years on, Kilbane is still regarded as a sporting legend in Cleveland and one of the most popular sporting icons in the city.
Earlier this year, a commemorative plaque was unveiled in the house where Johnny lived in Cleveland and the area was renamed as Kilbane Town in his honour. Also the Great Lakes Brewing Company, in Cleveland, is preparing a tribute beer which should be available in the Autumn. A number of other civic events are planned to take place to honour Johnny Kilbane in Cleveland during the year.
Plans are well under way for similar celebrations in Achill and a 16 bout boxing tournament organised by the Geesala Boxing Club will take place on June 8 in Óstán Oileán Acla. In addition, a social evening celebrating the Achill-Cleveland Connection will take place on Saturday, June 9 from 8.30pm.
Members of the wider Kilbane clan, wherever they have settled, are expected to arrive home for the weekend to be part of the celebrations and to help update the Kilbane family tree. A traditional Achill welcome and registration evening will take place on the opening night at Patten’s Bar, Derreens on Thursday, June 7 with music by Scoil Acla musicians, Straw Boys and Set Dancing. All are welcome and registration starts from 7pm with the entertainment starting from 9.30pm.
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