GAA FACTS: Who Was Dr McKenna?
Doctor McKenna, who happily gave his name to the cup Tyrone adore so much, is an often rumoured about and mistaken figure. One legend has it that he wasn’t a real doctor at all, like Ian Paisley senior. This legend is probably correct. Today, for the first time, we reveal the man behind the silverware…
Doctor McKenna is often mistaken as being “the man who founded the IRA along with Saint Patrick in 1868”. That was the other Doctor McKenna and Saint Bridget.
This Doctor McKenna, our Doctor McKenna, actually hailed from a land across the sea. He was born into the Rappahoe people of Nevada in 1847, and in 1849 the then 10-year-old father of none, who felt he was destined for more than “just hills and buffalo”, set off for Boston and a began an apprenticeship as a silversmith.
Soon after, Mendeleev published his perodic table of the elements and the young McKenna, realising he had an allergy for all things Ag, set sail for the port of Clonmel in County Tipperary. He first set foot in Ireland in 1844 aged just 19.
Significantly for the people of Hibernia, he brought with him a clay glass with a handle on it, which he called his “wee cup”. This is credited as the introduction of the word “wee” in Ireland.
He immediately fell in love with the ignorant and foolish Irish people he met, and liked to tap his right foot to reels (never jigs) with his cup full of whiskey of an evening.
A Tyrone woman, Kitty Harte, who travelled to Clonmel in hunt of a baby, was smitten by McKenna and remained smited but not bited.
Not much is known about Kitty other than she returned to Tyrone and went mad talking about and longing for a cup and a Doctor McKenna the remainder of her days. The Tyrone natives of the time saw what the talk of the cup did to the woman. Over a million of them attended her funeral, swearing to hunt down Doctor McKenna and his cup, and drag both kicking and screaming by hook or by crook back to the O Neill County, not least for child support for all the wee McKennas.
And so it remains. Every January since, the people of Tyrone scour the land in their droves remembering the hurt and the loss caused to one of their own all those years ago.
The accuracy of the record above hasn’t been certified by the National Gallery of Ireland or Wikipedia.