John O’Grady, an Irish champion and world record holding weight thrower who represented Ireland at the Olympics, was born on 17 February 1891 (though he was often recorded as born in 1892) in Ballybricken, Co. Limerick.

His parents William O’Grady and Catherine O’Grady née Foley were farmers. When John was only six years old his mother passed away from heart disease. This left his father William to raise six young children on his own. The family was on the 1901 census for Ballybricken. John was still living with his father in 1911 and was recorded on the census for that year (His sister Bridget was away from home on the night both of the censuses were taken).  His uncle Ned O Grady was also a famous weight thrower.

John stood over 6 feet tall and weighed more than 18 stone, a formidable sight. Although he was considered a gentle giant as all who knew him mentioned his jolly disposition.

John O'Grady

He was a world record-breaking weight thrower. He represented Ireland in the 1924 Summer Olympics and was the country’s flag bearer. He participated in the shot put, which he threw a distance of 12.75 metres which placed him 17th in the Olympics.

In his later years, he was the rates book inspector for the Limerick County Council.

He died 26 November 1934, at his home in St. Kevin’s, Alphonsus Terrace, Limerick. His funeral took place in St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church, Limerick and he was buried in Kilmurry, Caherconlish. His parents and many of his siblings were also buried in Kilmurry, Caherconlish.

His headstone reads:

Erected by his admirers in proud memory of John O Grady World’s Champion Weight Thrower born at Ballybricken, Co. Limerick 17th Feb 1892 Died at Limerick 26th Nov 1934 He worthily upheld Ireland’s Athletic prestige and endeared himself to all by his loveable character and simple bearing.

John O’Grady’s Sporting Achievements:

Putting 16 lb Shot:

  • 1914, Irish Championships, 38 ft. 3 in
  • 1916, Irish Championships, 42 ft. 6.5 in.
  • 1918, Limerick Co. Board Sports, 40 ft., 7 in.
  • 1923, Dublin Metropolitan Police Sports, 44 ft. 11 in.
  • 1923, Clonliffe Sports, 45 ft. 5 in.
  • 1924, Irish Championships, 43 ft. 2.5 in.
  • 1924, Tailteann Games, 44 ft., 6 in.
  • 1925, Irish Championships, 45 ft. 6.5 in.

Putting 28 lbs:

  • 1913, Irish Championships, 35ft. 1in.
  • 1913, Limerick v. Kerry, 35ft. 5in., World Record
  • 1913, Kilmallock, 36ft. 2in., World Record
  • 1913, Mallow, 36ft. 10.25in., World Record
  • 1914, Irish Championships, 35ft. 6in.
  • 1915, Irish Championships, 35ft. 10in.
  • 1916, Irish Championships, 37ft. 9.5in.
  • 1917, Irish Championships, 36ft. 6in.
  • 1918, Irish Championships, 37ft. 4in.
  • 1918, Limerick Co. Board Sports, 36ft., 3in.
  • 1922, Civic Guards Sports, 38ft., 10in., World Record
  • 1923, Dublin Metropolitan Police Sports, 38ft. 10in.
  • 1924, Tailteann Games, 39ft. 9in., World Record

Putting 42lbs:

  • 1921, Limerick, 29ft., 10.125in.
  • 1922, Civic Guards Sport, 30ft. 4in, Curragh, Irish Record

Pushing 56 lb (or from the Sholder):

  • 1914, Kilmallock, 23ft., 11in., World Record
  • 1915, Dungarvan, 24ft., 8.875in., World Record
  • 1917, Irish Championships, 24ft. 0in.
  • 1918, Munster Championship, 24ft., 4.5in.,
  • 1920, Cratloe Sports, 25ft., 4in., World Record 
  • 1922, Civic Guards Sports, World Record
  • 1928, Castleiney Sports, 26ft. 7in.
  • 1930, Kilmallock Sports, 25ft. 4in.

Slinging 56 lb:

  • 1917 Irish Championships, 25ft. 2in.
  • 1918, Irish Championships, 24ft. 4.5in.
  • 1924, Irish Championships, 25ft. 0in.
  • 1928, Galway Sports, 26ft., 9in.
  • 1929, Limerick Sports, 26ft. 7in.

Throwing (or Slinging) 56 lbs:

  • 1923, Dublin Metropolitan Police Sports, 29ft. 4in
  • 1928, Cappamore Sports, 31ft., 3in. (certified)
  • 1928, Limerick Sports, 30ft., 6in.
  • 1929, Limerick Garda Sports, 29ft., 11in.

Over the Bar 56 lbs :

  • 1923, Clonliffe Sports, 15ft., 3in.
  • 1924, Tailteann Games, 14 ft., 6 in., tied with P. McDonald
  • 1928, Tailteann Games, 15 ft., 0 in. (this was returned in error as 14 ft.)
  • 1928, Newport Sports, 15 ft. 10 in.  
  • 1930, Kilmallock Sports, (no score printed)
  • 1930, Mallow Sports, 15 ft.

The monument on Mulgrave Street, Ballysimon Road to John O’Grady was filmed in Rediscovering Limerick Episode 6.


News reports about John O’Grady’s Achievements:

The Gaelic Athlete Journal 22nd August 1914

The Gaelic Athlete Journal 4th September 1915

The Gaelic Athlete Journal 11th September 1915

An Camán 16 December 1933 Part 1

An Camán 16 December 1933 Part 2

Séamus Ó Ceallaigh recall a Limerick Sports Man