World of horse racing comes out in force to pay respects to two stalwarts
THE world of horse-racing came out in force today to pay tribute to two staunch linchpins of the industry.
President Michael D Higgins sent a representative to the funerals of Marguerite Weld, mother of trainer Dermot Weld and of Johnny Harrington, the husband of trainer Jessica Harrington which took place in Co Kildare.
The funeral mass for Marguerite Weld (98) was held at St Brigid's Church at the Curragh Camp, where she used to attend mass.
Mrs 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 the 1916 Rising, the War of Independence and Civil War as well as the Great War and the Second World War, as well as the Celtic Tiger and recession, said Fr PJ Somers, chaplain at the Curragh Camp, adding that she had remained “always optimistic”.
He described her as a “strong, independent lady and a loyal and trusted friend.” She had also been a “lady who got things done,” he said.
Her husband, Charles, had pre-deceased her when he died suddenly at the age of 62 and 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. She had hated Winter but loved Spring, when the foals were born, he said.
Mourners included her grandchildren, Mark and Kris Weld and great-grandchildren Alistair and Beatrice who, the congregation heard, had given her a “new lease of life.”
Also in attendance were ADC to the President, Comt Tony Whelan and Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett, trainer Ted Walsh and jockey Ruby Walsh.
Trainer Tommy Stack, Coolmore Stud owner John Magnier’s son MV Magnier, former Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy were also present, with trainer Michael Halford and Christy Grassick, manager of Coolmore Stud.
Racing commentator Tracy Piggott, former jockey Mick Kinane, trainers Jim Bolger and Noel Meade and Demi O'Byrne, the main buyer for Coolmore Stud were there alongside bloodstock agent Peter Doyle and Joe Connolly of Red Mills.
A short time later, many of the same mourners travelled across country to Moone, Co Kildare, to attend the funeral of Johnny Harrington (77), who died after a long struggle with cancer and who was spoken of fondly as a man who had been “larger than life.”
Just last month he had enjoyed watching the Cheltenham Festival where he saw Jezki, trained by his wife, win the Champion Hurdle, with Barry Geraghty aboard.
Chief mourners were Mr Harrington's widow, Jessica 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 said.
He remarked how Mr Harrington had loved flowers and plants but he soon realised that Jessica “did all the work”.
Their greatest triumph had been the National Hunt champion Moscow Flyer, which Mr Harrington had purchased and Jessica had trained, he said.
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.
He had once played charades with the Queen, he revealed and had 'instant success' as a bloodstock agent.
Meanwhile he revealed how, three years ago, Mr Harrington had fallen down the stairs and insisted to the hospital treating him that he had broken his neck. It was a week later before staff realised that he, in fact, had.
Shortly after, he was diagnosed with cancer.
“We are much richer for having known him,” said Mr Nicoll.