Winner of the First Gold Medals for both Singles and Doubles Tennis.
|Medal of the First Olympic Games, 1896|
John Pius Boland was born on 16 September 1870. He was one of seven children of Dublin baker Patrick Boland and his wife Mary. Patrick died in 1877 and after the death of Mary in 1882 John and his siblings were put in the guardianship of their maternal uncle Nicholas Donnelly, auxiliary bishop of Dublin. Boland was educated at Catholic schools in Ireland and Britain which put him in a unique position to argue the case for Home Rule in Ireland when he represented South Kerry in Parliament from 1900-1918. He earned a BA from London University and a BA and MA in Law from Christ Church, Oxford. He was called to the bar in 1897 but never practised.
John Pius Boland is most well known for his participation in the first modern Olympics held in Athens in 1896. He travelled there to visit a friend from University, Thrasyvoulos Manos, who also happened to be on the organising committee for the Olympics. Manos persuaded Boland to enter the lawn tennis competition. Even though some accounts have him playing in leather shoes and using a racquet purchased at a local bazaar, Boland a Gold Medal in the singles tournament defeating Dionysios Kasdaglis of Egypt in three sets. He then paired up with Fritz Traun of Germany to win a Gold Medal in the doubles event.
Boland was part of the Irish Parliamentary Party who pushed for Home Rule and left Parliament during the Conscription Crisis in 1918. He was also an advocate of the Irish language and would remain so until his death in London on St Patrick’s Day 1958.
He married Eileen Moloney (1876–1937), in 1902, she was the daughter of an Australian Dr Patrick Moloney. He had one son and five daughters. His is daughter Honor Crowley (née Boland) succeeded her husband Fred Crowley upon his death sitting as Fianna Fáil TD for South Kerry from 1945 until 1966, when she died. His daughter Bridget Boland was a playwright who wrote the The Prisoner
He received a papal knighthood, becoming a Knight of St. Gregory in recognition for his work in Education, and in 1950 he was awarded an honorary doctorate of Laws by the NUI.
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