Patrick Douris: From Sligo to New York
Updated: Jun 5, 2019
The Common Read team recount the story of Sligo and Brooklyn hotelier, Patrick Douris, intersects with the development of football in Connaught, Dublin and New York.
PATRICK J. DOURIS OF B'KLYN, SOCCER FAN AND PLAYER IN IRELAND IN HIS YOUNGER DAYS, OFFERS SUGGESTION
Mr. Joe McKeown Sports Editor The Advocate, Park Row, New York.
Dear Mr. McKeown:
I read your soccer column each week with interest as your presentation of soccer news is clear and shows a deep understanding of the game. May I not suggest a feature that I think would interest most of the old timers and which might renew their interest in the game. The feature I have in mind is that each month in your column you would give a summary of the games and standing of the clubs in Ireland. I know as an old Dublin Shelbourne and Belfast Celtic player it would afford me great pleasure. I hope you will not think me presumptuous in making this suggestion.
Patrick J. Douris, General Manager of the Hotel St. George, Brooklyn. August 22, 1945
By 1945 Patrick Douris had been living in New York for 32 years when he wrote this, one of a stream of letters sent to 'soccer' journalists in the USA. The message and feelings were constant: a deep nostalgia and a craving for news of the football scene in Ireland - especially about his former clubs - Belfast Celtic FC and Shelbourne FC. In another 1946 letter he delights in news of a new professional team being established in Sligo - even sending money over for shares in the new venture. It would be two years before it would happen, but Patrick was abreast of developments from far afield.
Patrick Douris was born in Sligo in 1888, to a middle-class family. His father worked for Sligo Corporation as a plumber before becoming the town’s water engineer. By the start of the twentieth century, the family also owned the Abbey Hotel, a relatively modest hostelry on Castle Street. It was apprenticeship this family Hotel business that would sustain him when he emigrated to New York in October, 1913.
Photo: Abbey Hotel located corner of Castle Street /Thomas Street, Sligo (NLI)
In New York, his fellow Sligo émigré, Ed Gilgane recalled Douris as one of the earlier pioneers of club football in Sligo. From 1905 to 1906 he played full-back on St Mary’s Sligo FC Junior Cup Finalists, bearing Shamrock Rovers in the semi-final but losing to Linfield Pirates in a replay in Belfast and for the short-lived Sligo Athletic FC team in 1907-08.
By March 1909, he was with Belfast Celtic FC as a professional, albeit for a short-time before his reported declaration as an amateur for Bohemian FC for the upcoming 1909-10 season. One of his final games for Belfast Celtic had been at Dalymount Park, where his team-mate Patrick O'Connell (photo, below), future manager of Barcelona, was making his final appearance before transferring to Sheffield Wednesday.
For one reason or another, the records have him playing with St Mary’s Sligo (now consisting of ex-Sligo Athletic players) as an amateur mixing football with working in the family hotel business. By 1911 in April he lists ‘journalist’ as his profession lodging in a hotel in Bundoran and by September that year he is in Dublin – playing for Shelbourne FC, and on occasion as captain. Scrapes were aplenty.
In 1911 on October 10th, while captaining Shelbourne versus Cliftonville in a soccer match, the Irish Independent reported the following:
‘Douris, the Shelbourne full-back, sustained a compound fracture of the leg just below the knee. Previously he had wrenched his knee, and despite the advice of the Shelbourne trainer persisted in playing. Douris, who is a Sligo man, has been most unlucky since joining the Reds, whom he captained this season. Last Saturday in the game against Glentoran in Belfast, he sustained a serious injury to his nose.’
Douris was no stranger to being at the receiving end of many a challenge. Indeed he lined out for County Sligo v. Dublin University 2nd XV in 1910, under a different code – rugby.
Photo: Sligo Rugby Team, 1910 (Douris, front row, third from the left)
May 11, 1912, sees Douris as referee in a match between Carrick-on-Shannon United and Collooney in Ballymote and his next recorded Irish football endeavour is over a year later when he is named, again as a Shelbourne player for the upcoming 1913-14 season. Hoever, he was not to don the red shirt that season - less than a month on the 4th of October, 1913 he has arrived in New York from from Liverpool again listing his profession as ‘journalist’.
When Douris arrived in New York, the leading organiser of Irish soccer teams was Tom McCamphill from Swateragh, Co. Derry and Douris was to fall in with his soccer gang. With the formation of Hibernian in 1908-09 and Brooklyn Celtic from August 1910, McCamphill provided a sporting outlet for young (and old) Irish footballers to play football in the New York State Amateur League. Douris would find some familiar foes on his arrival - amongst the Hibernian team was Mike King formerly of Glentoran. It was McCamphill's Brooklyn Celtic which would leave its mark on USA soccer over the decade with former Irish League players Frank O’Hare (Belfast Celtic, ex-Hibernian’s), Mike King (Glentoran) and Paddy Butler (formerly St James’ Gate, Dublin). Brooklyn Celtic were to win the American Amateur Football Association Cup in 1912, in doing so earning the title of ‘Soccer Champions of the United States’ .
Every year a tournament was held between players in New York, representing the different ethnic or national teams: USA, England, Ireland, Scotland and The Continentals. The tournament was organised by the New York Footballers’ Protective Association, which raised money to meet claims from injured players in the leagues. In the 1914-15, tournament, Ireland won the tournament and there was a strong Celtic (of many a hue) and ex-northern Irish sides representing the Ireland team, including King, Campion (Brooklyn Celtics and ex-Portadown), J. Duffy (New York Celtics, ex-Derry Celtic) Patrick Douris (Camerons FC, New York, ex-Shelbourne FC captain, Belfast Celtic and St Mary’s Sligo) and his former Belfast Celtic team-mate F. O’Hare.
The latter two, Duffy and Douris had previously squared off against each other in the rough and tumble of the Irish League as different Celtics, Derry and Belfast respectively. Duffy, himself seemed to be one who could stand up for himself and it was certainly a rough game played in New York at that time. In February 1914 in a New York Celtics match versus Yonkers FC it was reported that
‘The Lenox Oval was the scene of a wild third round affair between Yonkers FC and New York Celtic. With Yonkers leading 3-1 with twenty minutes remaining in the second half, Celtics J. Duffy fouled a Yonkers player who was on the ground. Referee George Caldicott ordered Duffy off the field, but Duffy refused to leave. An unidentified Yonkers player then struck Duffy and was sent off as well. Duffy finally left the field, but retuned to attack Caldicott, causing him to be removed from the field by two policemen. Ten minutes later Waters, right fullback for the Celtics, was ordered off for rough play. Waters also refused to leave the field, leading Caldicott to stop the game with ten minutes to play’.
Photo: The Lenox Oval, 145th Street New York (https://www.harlemworldmagazine.com/famous-lenox-oval-harlem-ny-1911-1930s/)
The New York Footballers’ Protective Association had no comparable organisation at the time in Ireland, and while sympathy was a plenty, recompense would not have been common. It is interesting that in 1915-16, seventeen of 182 members in New York required assistance, as an example of the toughness required in New York soccer games. One of these players was Douris, who broke his leg for a second time in a match at the Lennox Oval, ending his playing career that had spanned eleven years from Sligo to Belfast to Dublin and New York. The losing 1915-16 team 'Ireland' team retained Douris, O’Hare, Campion and O’Halloran from the previous year’s team, including four players from Brooklyn Celtic, including Tom McCreevey, O’Halloran and Patrick Butler (now signed as a professional with Bethlehem Steel) and returned to again win the competition in 1916-17.
According to Gigane, it was not unknown, such was this commitment, for douris to walk the four-mile journey from West 90th Street to the New York Oval before donning his football uniform in those days. This interest and commitment endured to his dying days.
On a professional level, Douris’s first job in New York was as a track worker with the City Railroads, quickly followed by a less strenuous job as a carpet salesman in Altman’s Department store on Fifth Avenue. While working there, he studied for a BA degree in Accountancy in Fordham University and in about 1915 joined the Comptrollers Staff of the Vanderbilt Hotel, marrying Elizabeth Foote in 1922 and settling down in Jamaica, Long Island. He subsequently was Chief Resident Accountant at the Hotel Ritz Towers, New York, the Governor Clinton, New York and eventually executive manager of the Hotel St. George, Brooklyn.
Postcards: St Georges Hotel, Brooklyn New York
Douris acted as New York league referee during the early 1920s and was one a lecturer at Columbia University in 1929-30 on soccer football where he utilised the next generation of soccer stars such as Bob Miller and Teddy Glover of the New York Giants with three New York Nationals players, Harry Chatton (an Irish International) and Slavin and Martyn. These were used as 'field models' for clarifications of rules to students of the game in New York in a lecture series titled 'The Birth of Soccer'. Taking to golf in a serious way in the 1930s he was elevated to the position of manager of the Hotel St. George, then the largest hotel in New York. Among the teams he hosted as manager of Hotel St. George were the Cuba and Israel national teams and Liverpool FC in 1946 and 1948.
Liverpool FC’s first tour of North America in 1946 came about due to Chairman William McConnell’s friendship with Belfast born Joe Barriskill, then General Secretary of the United States Soccer Federation and was repeared in 1948. Douris himself was asked to give the farewell speech to the assembled Liverpool team and USFA dignitaries which included Bob Paisley, the future manager of the club.
Photo: 1946 The Liverpool Team at the St George's Hotel
It was fitting that one of his last engagements with Irish football was to receive a hospital visit from Austin Donnelly, a former teammate and by now chairman at Belfast Celtic, along with the 1949 touring Belfast Celtic team. The card he delivered was signed by all of the touring team that included Bohemian FC guest-player Mick O’Flanagan.
Photo: 1949: The Belfast Celtic team in New York (Standing far-right is Austin Donnelly)
He never left football behind him, and whether it was refereeing games at the New York Oval in 1922 to writing regularly to the Irish Advocate newspaper in the forties about football or soccer matters, to hosting visiting teams in Hotel St. George, Brooklyn his small part in the Irish football story, at home and in the USA is worth remembering.
Patrick Douris died in 1951 after a long illness and by his bedside was a copy of the Glasgow Evening Herald containing the latest football news of the progress of his fellow Sligoman in the green and white hoops of Glasgow Celtic - Sean Fallon. Sean, like Patrick started his career with St Mary's Sligo and was to make a living for himself overseas.
Photo: Sean Fallon (rack row, third from the left, in Sligo Rovers colours 1948/49)