‘Tom Molineaux (1784-1818), the slave who fought his way to freedom’
In the summer of 1818, an African-American bare-knuckle prize fighter by the name of Tom Molineaux was discovered sick and destitute on the streets of Galway. Aged just 34, the washed-up fighter was given shelter in the band room of the Shambles Barracks in Galway (where St Patrick’s national school today stands) by three drummers from the 77th (East Middlesex) Regiment. Despite this act of kindness, Molineaux died on 4 August of that year and was buried in an unmarked grave in St James’s Cemetery in Mervue, Galway.
In 1810 and again in 1811, Molineaux had fought the English champion, Tom Cribb, and was defeated both times in what were the first and second world title fights. Afterwards, Molineaux had gone on a tour of Scotland and Ireland where he fought off challengers, gave public displays of his skill and taught the ‘sweet science of bruising’.
This summer, Galway City Museum is marking the 200th anniversary of Molineaux’s death with an exhibition and a series of events including a talk by boxing historian Patrick Myler and a screening of Des Kilbane’s documentary, Ag Trasnú An Atlantaigh Dhuibh (Crossing the Black Atlantic). The exhibition – Tom Molineaux (1784-1818): the slave who fought his way to freedom – which documents his life story from his childhood as a slave in Virginia to his death in Galway will run from Friday 13 July until Saturday 24 November in the foyer of Galway City Museum.
The exhibition was officially launched by Mayor Niall McNelis on Thursday July 26 and will run in the museum foyer until November 24, 2018 – admission is free!