The annual tradition of running a Meathman through the streets of Drogheda will continue next year after the capture of ex-GAA All Star Trevor Giles on a recent shopping excursion to Scotch Hall. Giles will be kept in solitary confinement in Laurence’s Gate until organisers settle on a date for the centuries old tradition.
According to the Annals of the Four Masters, The Running of the Meathman is a tradition believed to have begun in the early 1500s. The Meathman was usually a captive or vagrant who was granted clemency by the town aldermen. He would be set loose on Millmount and granted his freedom if he could make it to Sunday’s Gate alive. The running had a survival rate of 34% when it was discontinued in 1920 due to the Civil War. The practice was resurrected in the 1950s by Drogheda Town Council as a means of controlling population migration from east Meath and other deprived areas eager to sample the cosmopolitan ways of a port town.
The running garnered international attention in 1994 as Nobber man Jimmy Stafford was brutally de-chinned and Oliver Plunketted metres from safety at the top of Magdalene Street. The spectacle was filmed on camcorder by an eleven year old boy attending his first running.
Gardaí were helpless to save the Nobber man as an unrepealed medieval statute prevented any form of judicial intervention under pain of death. It was only the third fatality since the practice was reintroduced and generally seen as the exception rather than the rule. However, the man’s family took the case to the European Court of Human Rights and the statute has since been repealed. It is seen as a landmark case in European Law.
The Running of the Meathman is part of the fabric of Drogheda. It celebrates our heritage and is a great day out for all the family. – Local politician Diminick Watson.
Sam Butchins, who de-chinned Mr. Stafford, received a fine of £200 from a young Judge Bran Flannen. The four estate agents who Oliver Plunketted the deceased were each fined £65 for minor offences including misuse of horses, improper hanging, and quartering using blunt and rusty swords. One of the men met his end the following month after getting lost in Navan maze. The other three have not left the town boundaries since.
Giles has been given decent odds by local bookies. Whether he will be permitted to wear his Meath jersey with the cut off sleeves is under discussion. A big crowd is expected for the Running and primary schools are expected to be given the half day. Navan Gaeilgeoir Hector O’Hectoraigh from the telly has been given a temporary work and immunity permit to allow him to cover the event for TG4. However, Gardaí have been unable to guarantee his safety. Speaking on local radio, ex-Meath boss Seán Boylan backed Giles to rise to the occasion. “Nothing fazes Trevor, be it facing down a Hill 16 full of Dubs or having to go into the hall of mirrors at Bettystown.”
Organisers are hoping for a big turnout while lobbying is under way to bring a cruise ship of Americans up the Boyne to witness the spectacle and spend cash in the town. Send your pics to The Faa Side and look out for our caption competition.