Wednesday 22 November 2017

Farewell to a racing legend

Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

HE was a mentor and a gentleman, a keeper of secrets, a loyal friend and no horse ever had a better life than had walked through his arch. This was the John Mulhern friends and family had come to mourn at the funeral yesterday of the well-known and colourful racehorse trainer and businessman.

Something few might have known about was his surprising love of teddy bears and that he was often affectionately known by his wife Eimear as "the child".

Mrs Mulhern, who heads the thoroughbred auction house Goffs and is the daughter of the late Taoiseach Charlie Haughey, was escorted into church on the arm of her brother Conor Haughey, followed by her mother Maureen on the arm of son Sean Haughey.

Eminent figures from the worlds of sport, business and politics rubbed shoulders at the service at St Brigid's Church in the Curragh, Co Kildare, including Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson and former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen and President Mary McAleese were both represented at the funeral by their aides-de-camp. From the racing world, the mourners included trainer Michael Stoute, legendary jockey Mick Kinnane, and trainers John Oxx and Jim Bolger.

From the political arena came the former foreign minister Michael O'Kennedy, former EU commissioner David Byrne and ex-senator Don Lydon. Businessman Dermot Desmond and Judge Robert Barr also paid their respects.

The mass was celebrated by Fr Simon Sleeman, who is a family friend and monk from Glenstal Abbey, with Eimear Mulhern's uncle, Fr Eoghan Haughey, and Fr John McDonald as con-celebrants. Music was by renowned spiritual singer Noirin ni Riain and by the Vard Sisters.


Fr Sleeman said it was "both an honour and a challenge" for him to celebrate the Mass. It was a challenge because Mr Mulhern -- who had an acute antenna for falsity -- would have vented his ire on anyone who had even hinted at piety in his life.

However, he said there was something of the monk in Mr Mulhern in that he was "modest, alone and searching". Mr Mulhern, who died earlier this week aged 69 after battling a long illness, had no interest in spending this life by "being good, waiting around for the next one" -- he wanted it now, Fr Sleeman said.

The greatest sins for Mr Mulhern were not living fully and not believing in oneself. "For him the great question was not whether there was life after death but whether there was life before it," said Fr Sleeman.

Describing Mr Mulhern as a very private man who had never complained about his lot in recent months, he said his legacy as a human being was his great warmth, generosity and reverence for life.

Prayers of the faithful referred to Mr Mulhern's great love of animals, especially horses and his beloved dogs; while a prayer for sports people was read by Mick Kinnane.

A eulogy was to have been given by Mr Mulhern's life-long friend Galen Weston but the congregation was told that he had been unable to make it so Mr Weston's daughter, Alannah, spoke instead and described Mr Mulhern as "irresistibly irreverent".

After the funeral, the remains were taken for burial at St Conleth's cemetery in Newbridge.

Mourners were also invited to lunch at a local hotel where they were assured racing from Cheltenham would be "on full blast".

Irish Independent

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