Irish News

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Racing world mourns two of its leading lights

Nicola Anderson

Published 15/04/2014 | 02:30

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Pictured are (L to R) Kieran McManus, son of JP McManus, jockey Ruby Walsh, and James Nash at the funeral of Marguerite Weld. Photo: El Keegan
Pictured are (L to R) Kieran McManus, son of JP McManus, jockey Ruby Walsh, and James Nash at the funeral of Marguerite Weld. Photo: El Keegan
14/04/2014. Pictured the coffin leaves the church carried by son Dermot Weld at the funeral of Marguerite Weld who passed after a short illness at the age of 99. The mass was held at St. Brigid's Church, The Curragh. Photo: El Keegan
The coffin leaves the church carried by son Dermot Weld at the funeral of Marguerite Weld who passed after a short illness at the age of 99. Photo: El Keegan
Trainer, Tom Taaffe pictured at the Holy Trinity Church, Moone, Co. Kildare this afternoon for the funeral of Johnny Harrington, husband of horse trainer, Jessica Harrington. Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.
Trainer, Tom Taaffe pictured at the Holy Trinity Church, Moone, Co. Kildare this afternoon for the funeral of Johnny Harrington, husband of horse trainer, Jessica Harrington. Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.

HE played charades with Queen Elizabeth and was "one of nature's gentlemen", with loyal friends all over the world.

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The Irish horse racing industry came out in force to mourn the loss of distinguished bloodstock agent, Johnny Harrington – the husband of leading trainer, Jessica Harrington.

Mr Harrington (77) died last week after a long struggle with cancer.

It was a day of sadness for the racing community. Earlier, the funeral of Marguerite Weld (98), mother of leading trainer, Dermot Weld, took place with many of the same figures driving across country in Co Kildare to attend both Masses.

Just last month Mr Harrington had enjoyed watching from home the Cheltenham Festival where he saw Jezki, trained by his wife, win the Champion Hurdle, with Barry Geraghty aboard.

Chief mourners at the Mass at the Holy Trinity Church in Moone were Mrs Harrington, with their children Kate and Emma, his stepchildren James and Tara and seven grandchildren.

The President was represented by his ADC, Col Brendan McAndrew.

Bishop Jim Moriarty, a close friend, told the congregation that Mr Harrington had been a "most popular person" because he had liked people.

He had friends all over the world and his stories "lost nothing in the telling".

The bishop told mourners the partnership between Mr Harrington and his wife had been an ideal one, with their greatest professional triumph being the National Hunt champion Moscow Flyer.

Top Bloodstock Agent Adrian Nicoll, chairman of BBA Ireland, paid a moving tribute to his close friend, saying he was "one of nature's gentlemen".

"He was a marvellous character and a friend to everyone," he said, adding that he had played charades with the queen.

Three years ago, he revealed, Mr Harrington fell down the stairs and told the hospital that he had broken his neck. It was a week later before staff realised that he actually had. Shortly after, he was diagnosed with cancer.

He was buried in the adjoining churchyard at the Holy Trinity Church in Moone.

The funeral Mass for Marguerite Weld took place at St Brigid's Church at the Curragh Camp. Ms Weld was a former poultry instructor at the Department of Agriculture and was once a regular columnist on country life in the Irish Independent.

Born in 1915, she lived through "four wars" but always remained optimistic, said Fr PJ Somers, chaplain at the Curragh Camp. He described her as a "strong, independent lady who got things done".

Her husband, Charlie, a prominent trainer, pre-deceased her at the age of 62.

Her only child, Dermot Weld, told mourners that his mother "could ride before she could walk" and in the mid-1940s, once rode from Naas to her parents' home at the foothills of the Comeragh mountains in Co Waterford.

He said his mother "did not want to die" and still had so much to contribute.

Mourners included her grandchildren, Mark and Kris Weld and great-grandchildren Alistair and Beatrice.

Irish Independent

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