Friday 30 September 2016

'Everyone had to walk home' from 1916 race

Jane O'Faherty

Published 10/03/2016 | 02:30

Westerners Son, with Connie Cleary (right), granddaughter of the 1916 winning trainer Dick Cleary, and Johnny Lynn (89), son of 1916 Irish Grand National winning jockey Jack Lynn. Photo: Damien Eagers
Westerners Son, with Connie Cleary (right), granddaughter of the 1916 winning trainer Dick Cleary, and Johnny Lynn (89), son of 1916 Irish Grand National winning jockey Jack Lynn. Photo: Damien Eagers

The Irish Grand National winners in 1916 were probably expecting a victory lap, but they may not have anticipated a five-day walk home.

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Shortly after the race in Co. Meath, British Army officers commandeered all vehicles to respond to the storming of the GPO by Irish rebels - leaving racegoers and competitors somewhat stranded.

It is one of the tales being remembered at Fairyhouse at this year's Easter Monday event.

All Sorts and rider John Lynn won the top prize at the races that day, which were attended by 25,000 people.

Historian Stan McCormack said most attendees and horses would have travelled to the course by train, taxi and horse-and-cart.

"All the trains were shut down when the word [of the Rising] got out, and the effect of that was that everybody had to walk," he said.

Fairyhouse Racecourse plans to re-enact the race at this year's Irish Grand National, which will be attended by relatives of 1916's champions.

Connie Cleary (71) is the granddaughter of All Sort's trainer Dick Cleary. She said the day had become the stuff of legend in her family.

The trainers and horses had to walk home - a distance of 60 miles.

"It took them five days to eventually get back to Bishopstown [Co Westmeath]," she said.

Irish Independent

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