Ireland ~ The Land of Horses

Summer GrazingHorses are a fundamental part of Ireland and Irishness. We stand tall on the world stage when it comes to horse-breeding, horse-racing, show-jumping and so many great names and places comes to mind when horses are mentioned in the Irish context.  How about Arkle, Redrum, Dawn Run, Moscow Flyer, Nijinsky, Shergar, Australia,  Vincent O’ Brien,  Tom Dreaper, Aidan O’ Brien, Jim Bolger, Capt. Michael Tubridy, Eddie Macken, Paul Darragh,  Coolmore Stud, The Curragh, Punchestown, Fairyhouse, Pat Taaffe,  Ruby Walsh, Barry Geraghty,  The Royal Dublin Horse Show,  Laytown Races …  just for starters?

Horses have always been part of my landscape. I loved hearing my father telling me about his younger brother, Michael, who was a world class show jumper and nothing soothed me more at bedtime than Mother telling me about her happy childhood days on a farm with her beloved pony, Jock.  I must have read every single book that was ever written about young girls and their ponies and was fortunate to be brought to places like the Dublin Horse Show and race meetings all round the country.

I have what I consider to be my very own ‘horse show’ here in Tramore every day when I bring the dogs out along Cliff Road to Newtown Wood. There is a field, with a spectacular view of  Tramore Bay, which is the grazing place of the friendliest horses I know. These are horses that trot gently over to the gate to be patted.  I could spend hours there running my fingers through their manes and gazing into their big brown eyes.

I guess most Irish people have a special field such as this in which noble, nuzzling friends reside and ones that evoke thoughts of echoing hooves and contented whinnying.










Good Friday ~ Gatherings from Ireland #108

Good Friday is a day of huge significance in my life for both private and public reasons.

On the private front, it has always been a day of mourning in our family as it was the day on which my famous uncle, Captain Michael Tubridy, died.  Uncle Michael was Dad’s kid brother. They grew up in Kilrush, Co. Clare ~ 5 brothers and 4 sisters~ their mother, my grandmother died when Dad was twelve. Their father, who was a busy veterinary surgeon, devoted his life to nurturing this large family.

There was immense sporting talent among the nine kids but it was Michael who rose to huge national and international fame, particularly in the UK and right across America and Canada. They always had horses in Kilrush but it was when he joined the Irish Army Equitation School that his horsemanship was really noticed and nurtured. He went on to become one of the world’s leading show jumpers and died as a result of a  freak accident on Good Friday, 1954, at the tender age of 31.

While I never knew Uncle Michael, I am fiercely proud to be the the niece of this amazingly talented man. He won an All-Ireland football medal with Cork in 1945, playing along side Jack Lynch, who later became the Taoiseach of Ireland. According to Father, he could run like the wind, had brains to burn and was an absolute natural when it came to horses.  To my eye, he was also extremely handsome and he comes across from his widow, Dot, as being an absolute romantic and the ultimate soul mate.

Captain Michael Tubridy on Ballynonty.
Captain Michael Tubridy on Ballynonty.

Good Friday also stands out for me because of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 which was so significant in terms of bringing peace in Northern Ireland.  I grew up in Co.Monaghan and Co. Louth, close to the border with Northern Ireland, and found the Troubles and loss of life in the North absolutely terrifying and heartbreaking. The fact that there was a religious element to it made it all the more poignant to me as I am a child of a  loving mixed marriage.

Reading through Dad’s scrapbooks today, I am so struck by the words of  tribute from Colonel Harry Llewellyn of the English Team, who was Uncle Michael’s main rival on the international scene:

We have lost a very great friend and a most charming person against whom to compete in international riding contests…..He was a very great ambassador for Ireland. 

There are no politics between horsemen, and the members of the English and Irish jumping teams who have met each other in so many international competitions since the war became very close friends. It is terribly sad to feel that Tubridy will no longer be with us. He was a beautiful rider and an exceedingly charming person…..’

My abiding hope today is that peace will reign in Northern Ireland and that the memory of Captain Michael Tubridy will long be remembered, especially in his beloved Co. Clare.