Galway City Museum is hosting a special exhibition in memory of former slave and champion African-American bare-knuckle fighter, Tom Molineaux, who died in the city in 1818.
Tom Molineaux was discovered sick and destitute on the streets of Galway in the summer of 1818. Aged just 34, the washed-up fighter was given shelter in the band room of the Shambles Barracks – where St Patrick’s National School is today – by three drummers from the 77th (East Middlesex) Regiment. Like him, they were freed slaves.
However, despite their kindness, Molineaux died on August 4 and was buried in a pauper’s grave in St James’s Cemetery, Mervue. It was a sad end for a unique man.
By the time he arrived in Galway, Molineaux was destitute and worn down by drinking and fighting, but this man had once been among the world’s top boxers, mixing with the wealthiest people in England.
In 1810 and again in 1811, Molineaux had fought the English champion, Tom Cribb. He was defeated both times in what were the first and second world title fights, although there were allegations that he had been robbed of victory due to underhand behaviour by Cribb’s supporters. Afterwards, Molineaux had gone on a tour of Scotland and Ireland where he fought off challengers, gave public displays of his skill and taught the ‘sweet science of bruising’.
Galway City Museum is marking the 200th anniversary of Molineaux’s death with an exhibition and a series of events including a talk by boxing historian Patrick Myler and a screening of the documentary, Ag Trasnú An Atlantaigh Dhuibh (Crossing the Black Atlantic). This documentary is the work of local filmmaker Des Kilbane and was shot in Virginia and Ireland. It premiered at last year’s Galway Film Fleadh.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
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