The development of sport in County Westmeath 1850-1905
This thesis examines the development of sport in county Westmeath between 1850 and 1905. The subject is an unexplored one in the Irish context but by extensive use of contemporary newspapers and the census enumerators' household schedule forms of 1901, an attempt is made to re-create the sporting and recreational world of Victorian and early Edwardian Westmeath. The thesis is organised thematically in that selected sports are examined individually on a chronological basis within each chapter. The development of a club institution, the fmancing of the activity and the development of a competitive structure within the sporting discipline are key issues explored. The study is inclusive in that a wide range of sports is examined, as well as the recreational habits and social networks of the different socio-occupational classes. The role of sport in the lives of women and the importance of the military in recreational development are also explored. Quantification, and classification is an essential feature of this study. The number of events organised are measured, a sample of individual participants in the different sports are identified and are classified into one of four different social classes. As a result of this methodology a key fmding that emerges from the study is the extent to which sporting involvement was a product of the class structure of Westmeath society. The importance of sports participation to the socialisation process is also explored and the manner in which sport became a conduit for socialisation is documented. In its entirety, the thesis makes a major contribution to the history of sport and social interaction in Ireland, and demonstrates how in the context of Westmeath, sport developed as a major focus for people's live.