Oscar Pistorius’ murder case’s haunting similarities to Irish NYPD cop story in 1910
Matthew J McGrath, Tipperary Olympian, shot an intruder on Christmas Eve
The story of Oscar Pistorius is hauntingly reminiscent of the troubles of one of New York’s finest who happened to be one of the most famous Olympians a little over a century ago.
Matthew J McGrath from Nenagh, County Tipperary, had already made an international reputation for himself as an athlete before he shot what he said was an intruder in his New York home on Christmas Eve in 1910.
McGrath, who had emigrated to the US as a teenager in the 1890s, joined the New York Police Department in 1902 and was awarded the medal of valour for rescuing someone trying to take their own life in the Harlem River in 1907. The same year he burst onto the sporting scene by breaking the world record for the hammer throw.
He represented the US at the 1908 Olympic Games in London. What he reportedly said there during the opening parade was heard around the world. As the American team was approaching the royal box with King Edward VII and his family, McGrath reportedly said to shot putter Ralph Rose, who was carrying the Stars and Stripes, “Dip that flag, and you’ll be in hospital tonight.”
If he did say it, it was probably in jest. Rose was a much bigger man who was not likely to have been easily intimidated. The decision not to dip the flag had undoubtedly been planned.
The whole thing caused a diplomatic incident and sparked a bitter rivalry between Britain and the US at those games, foreshadowing the rivalry with the Soviet Union later in the century.
McGrath led the hammer throwing going into the last round, but was beaten into second place by his compatriot and NYPD colleague, John Flanagan, who came from the outskirts of Kilmallock, Co Limerick. Flanagan, who had already won the hammer at Paris in 1900 and St Louis in 1904, thus became the first man in the modern Olympics to win a specific event at three consecutive games.
The winner of the bronze medal that day was Con Walsh from Carriganima, near Macroom, representing Canada. It was the first and only time in the Olympic Games that three men born and reared in Ireland swept all the medals in an event.
On Christmas Eve 1910, McGrath was back in the news for all the wrong reasons. He shot a man five times in his Flatbush home in New York City. He said that George Walker was an intruder, but Walker claimed that McGrath’s wife had invited him to the house to adjust a Christmas tree.
A barman at a local hotel testified that McGrath’s wife had been drinking with Walker in the hotel bar during the afternoon. McGrath was tried on a charge of causing grievous bodily harm, but the jury found him not guilty after a three-day trial in March 1911.
The Police Commissioner James C. Cropsey dismissed McGrath from the NYPD the following month, but the Mayor William Jay Gaynor of New York ousted the commissioner a few weeks later. The new commissioner, Rhinelander Waldo, reinstated McGrath in May 1911. A concerned group then took a civil case to prevent McGrath being paid from public money.
This was an obvious attempt to force him out of the police department, but his colleagues agreed to have money deducted from their salaries to pay McGrath’s salary. While this dispute was continuing, McGrath was back competing at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, where he won the gold medal with probably the most devastating display in the history of the event.
- The New York Times questions Ireland’s highly-p
- Gay wedding cakes latest target of anti-gay...
- Bah! Humbug! The ten worst things about Christm
- Spanish judge slams Ryanair’s sexist air...
- Racist incidents in Ireland up by 85 percent...
- No Irish prosecution for man named as world’s...
- Offensive NFL sign outside restaurant just...
- Ireland crowned “Top Tourist Destination”...
- Irish radio presenter suspended after anti-Isra
- How the Irish celebrate Christmas has changed...
To be fair, most American words and slang came FROM Ireland to begin with. I plan to visit Ireland and learn as much as possible. Can't wait.New Northern Ireland flag is not an option, loyalists tell Richard Haass
I think we have enough flags in Ireland as it is.Racist incidents in Ireland up by 85 percent says Immigrant Council
@Chuck: My point is that immigrants who are willing to work for low wages are not to be demonised but rather be pitied and/or admired. It's the greedyHow Christmas was in my father’s time
molliebawn, many many kids in rural Ireland used to share shoes or only wore them for special occasions so as not to ruin them or wear them out too fa