Mattie “Nutty” Curran

Picture of Mattie Curran
John Williams
1911 Census in Plymouth of Michael Curran

He was born in 1882  in the town-land of Killnagaligh  in the Parish of Kilkee just over the border from Cammoge town-land  near where the Cammoge Monument to the Ferry Disaster of  1849 is situated.A small section of the gable of his home is still there and is at  the end of a lane that brings you down to Poulnasherry Bay past Killnagaligh  Graveyard to the shore where  the remains of a railway bank sticks out into the bay. The bank is used by Oyster fishermen at present.

Matthew ‘Nutty’ Curran’s boxing career.

A world-renowned boxer in his day Matthew ‘Nutty’ Curran is largely forgotten. He joined the Royal Navy which many men of his age did at the time and rose to the rank of Petty Officer. His first professional fight was against fellow navy man Jim McDonald at the Royal Navy Barracks, Devonport, on 20th October 1908 which he lost. He subsequently went on to win the Irish heavyweight title exactly one year later on 20th October 1909. He fought a total of 86 fights of which he won 43 and lost 35 with 3 drawn. Many of his losses were by disqualification. His final professional bout was in Sydney on 29th August 1921 against Colin Bell which he lost. He died in Australia in 1938 aged 56 years, a long way from Lisdeen.

Folklore.

The story told he was wild and strong in is youth. His poor mother  had awfull trouble in getting him to Querrin National School, she had to tie a rope around him and drag him to the school. The headmaster there at the time was James Lillis. He had brother a priest in Dublin who was involved in a boxing club. Around here he was referred to as Mattie Curran, when he finished NS the priest brought him to Dublin and got him involved in the boxing. He ended up in the British Navy.

Paddy Waldron on his genealogy.

“I cannot find a birth record for Matthew Curran, but he was undoubtedly a grandson of Edward Curran (d. 22 May 1891 aged 67) and Julia Elmo (d. 13 Feb 1911 aged 91). They appear to have come to Kilkee parish shortly before the baptism of their youngest child Jane on 24 June 1866. While their address is often given as Cammoge (in Carrigaholt parish), I suspect that the house that you describe where they lived is in Leaheen (on the other side of the parish boundary in Kilkee parish).

To make up for the absence of a birth record for Matthew Curran, there are two death records for James Curran, son of Edward and Julia, in 1883. One says that he was single and the other that he was married, so we are no wiser as to whether he might have been Matthew’s father!

The boxer appears to have had two paternal aunts who each had a large family. Anne Curran married a blacksmith named Patrick Morgan from Kilfenora, where their descendants remained as blacksmiths until recent times. Julia Curran married a railway guard named Patrick Morrissey and lived in Kilkee. Their son Patrick Morrissey jr. died fighting for the USA in WWI and is commemorated on the war memorial in the grounds of Kilkee Church.

There is a user-donated family tree at
https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/tree/46280894/family/pedigree?cfpid=6510619961
in which the home person appears to be a granddaughter of the boxer, and claims that this is his death record:

Australia, Death Index, 1787-1985
Name: Matthew Joseph Curran
Death Date: 1938
Death Place: New South Wales
Father’s name: Matthew
Mother’s name: Sarah
Registration Year: 1938
Registration Place: Ryde, New South Wales
Registration Number: 10765

I can find no other record of Matthew sr. or of Sarah. The original death certificate could be purchased to establish Sarah’s maiden surname.

The year coincides with that in the Wikipedia article. I could not find any confirmation in the online Australian newspapers, but eventually found these obituaries:

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000329/19380823/027/0004
Western Morning News – Tuesday 23 August 1938
PLYMOUTH BOXER Death Of “Nutty” Curran In Australia P.O. Curran, popularly known as ‘Nutty’ in Plymouth boxing circles and well known throughout the world as a heavy-weight boxer who defeated lan Hague and Gunner Moir, both English heavy-weight champions, has died at his residence, Bolton-street, Ryde, New South Wales, Australia. He was 56 years of age, and, according to a letter received by Mr. Samuel French, Plymouth, from his wife, who is left with six children, some grown up, died from a clot of blood on the brain Mr. Curran was working as a stevedore at the docks at Ryde and also ran a gymnasium for the training of young boxers His second son, Jimmy, was trained so well in this gymnasium that he became the amateur middle-weight champion boxer of Australia. Curran intended bringing him to England this coming winter in order to try him out with some of the best middle-weights in this country. Curran’s former home was in Kilkee, Irish Free State. P.O Curran married a daughter of Mr Frank Brettell. the first Plymouth Argyle manager.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0002318/19380825/176/0006
Belfast Telegraph – Thursday 25 August 1938
NOTED NAVAL BOXER DEAD. Petty-Officer Curran. popularly known as “Nutty” in Plymouth and Naval boxing circles, and well known throughout the world as the conqueror of lan Hague and Gunner Moir, both English heavyweight champions. has died at his residence, Bolton Street, Ryde, New South Wales, Australia. “Nutty hailed from Kilkee. Clare.

Old James Thomas Lillis (d. 1934) who taught in Querrin had a son Fr. William Lillis, ordained in 1918, long after Nutty Curran had become a professional boxer. James was succeeded in Querrin National School by his son Daniel James Lillis (d. 1951), who had two sons who became priests, James and Richard. So there may well have been a fourth priest in the first generation of the Lillis family.

The attached image from https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2352/rg14_12939_0345_03 shows that on 2 Apr 1911, Matthew Curran, 29, single, professional boxer, b. Kilkee, County Clare, Ireland, was a boarder with the French family at a redacted address in Devon
Plymouth
Plymouth North
01.

I cannot find a birth record for Matthew Curran, but he was undoubtedly a grandson of Edward Curran (d. 22 May 1891 aged 67) and Julia Elmo (d. 13 Feb 1911 aged 91). They appear to have come to Kilkee parish shortly before the baptism of their youngest child Jane on 24 June 1866. While their address is often given as Cammoge (in Carrigaholt parish), I suspect that the house that you describe where they lived is in Leaheen (on the other side of the parish boundary in Kilkee parish).

To make up for the absence of a birth record for Matthew Curran, there are two death records for James Curran, son of Edward and Julia, in 1883. One says that he was single and the other that he was married, so we are no wiser as to whether he might have been Matthew’s father!

The boxer appears to have had two paternal aunts who each had a large family. Anne Curran married a blacksmith named Patrick Morgan from Kilfenora, where their descendants remained as blacksmiths until recent times. Julia Curran married a railway guard named Patrick Morrissey and lived in Kilkee. Their son Patrick Morrissey jr. died fighting for the USA in WWI and is commemorated on the war memorial in the grounds of Kilkee Church.

There is a user-donated family tree at
https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/tree/46280894/family/pedigree?cfpid=6510619961
in which the home person appears to be a granddaughter of the boxer, and claims that this is his death record:

Australia, Death Index, 1787-1985
Name: Matthew Joseph Curran
Death Date: 1938
Death Place: New South Wales
Father’s name: Matthew
Mother’s name: Sarah
Registration Year: 1938
Registration Place: Ryde, New South Wales
Registration Number: 10765

I can find no other record of Matthew sr. or of Sarah. The original death certificate could be purchased to establish Sarah’s maiden surname.

The year coincides with that in the Wikipedia article. I could not find any confirmation in the online Australian newspapers, but eventually found these obituaries:

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000329/19380823/027/0004
Western Morning News – Tuesday 23 August 1938
PLYMOUTH BOXER Death Of “Nutty” Curran In Australia P.O. Curran, popularly known as ‘Nutty’ in Plymouth boxing circles and well known throughout the world as a heavy-weight boxer who defeated lan Hague and Gunner Moir, both English heavy-weight champions, has died at his residence, Bolton-street, Ryde, New South Wales, Australia. He was 56 years of age, and, according to a letter received by Mr. Samuel French, Plymouth, from his wife, who is left with six children, some grown up, died from a clot of blood on the brain Mr. Curran was working as a stevedore at the docks at Ryde and also ran a gymnasium for the training of young boxers His second son, Jimmy, was trained so well in this gymnasium that he became the amateur middle-weight champion boxer of Australia. Curran intended bringing him to England this coming winter in order to try him out with some of the best middle-weights in this country. Curran’s former home was in Kilkee, Irish Free State. P.O Curran married a daughter of Mr Frank Brettell. the first Plymouth Argyle manager.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0002318/19380825/176/0006
Belfast Telegraph – Thursday 25 August 1938
NOTED NAVAL BOXER DEAD. Petty-Officer Curran. popularly known as “Nutty” in Plymouth and Naval boxing circles, and well known throughout the world as the conqueror of lan Hague and Gunner Moir, both English heavyweight champions. has died at his residence, Bolton Street, Ryde, New South Wales, Australia. “Nutty hailed from Kilkee. Clare.

Old James Thomas Lillis (d. 1934) who taught in Querrin had a son Fr. William Lillis, ordained in 1918, long after Nutty Curran had become a professional boxer. James was succeeded in Querrin National School by his son Daniel James Lillis (d. 1951), who had two sons who became priests, James and Richard. So there may well have been a fourth priest in the first generation of the Lillis family.

The attached image from https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2352/rg14_12939_0345_03 shows that on 2 Apr 1911, Matthew Curran, 29, single, professional boxer, b. Kilkee, County Clare, Ireland, was a boarder with the French family at a redacted address in Devon
Plymouth
Plymouth North
01.”

 

 

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