Life Health & Wellbeing

Sunday 17 February 2019

'I used to get so frustrated with my stammer, I pulled all my eyebrows and eyelashes out' - Irish jockey Katie walsh

Katie Walsh on the Late Late Show
Katie Walsh on the Late Late Show
Conor McCrave

Conor McCrave

Irish jockey Katie Walsh opened up about her struggles growing up with a stammer, admitting she began and pulling her hair out in frustration at living with the speech impediment.

The 33-year- old said she would get so upset that she couldn't speak that she would hurt herself in an attempt to provoke a vocal reaction.

"It was dreadful. I was 13 or 14, it got so bad I couldn’t answer the phone. I couldn’t say hello. It was definitely looking back now, it must have been heartbreaking for mam and dad because I used to get so frustrated not being able to get the words out and I have a lot to say," she said on Friday's Late Late Show.

"I used to pinch myself on the side of my leg for pain to see if I could get the words out. It got so bad that I used to get so frustrated, I used to pull all my eyebrows out, all my eyelashes and the hair from the top of my head."

She described her time at school at age 12 as a "hard place", adding that "small people can be very mean".

While on a programme in Dublin to overcome the impediment she recalled being terrified at the prospect of standing on stage and saying her name out loud in front of others.

“Lucky enough I went to the McGuire programme,” she said, “It was on in the Ashling Hotel in Dublin right beside Heuston station, and I went in and we went into this big conference room and I was petrified.

"I was the youngest there. There was loads of people ranging from every age. They brought you into a room and sat you down. You’d to go up on stage with a camera.”

"You went up and you had to try and say your name and everyone struggling, you couldn't," she said.

Later, an intensive course run by the McGuire Programme would see the then teenager overcome the stammer after one part of the course involved speaking to strangers on Dublin's Grafton St.

"You had to walk from the Ashling Hotel with someone who had done the programme the year before and you had to meet different people. So say I would go up to anybody and ask them what time is it, do you know where Trinity is. It was to engage with complete strangers.

"The very last thing you had to do at the end of the week was to go up to Grafton St and they’d put out a box. Now only if you wanted to, no one was forced to do anything. You had to stand up on the box and speak.”

Katie was joined by father, racehorse trainer Ted Walsh, along with brother and famous jockey Ruby Walsh.

Ruby joked that Katie was always the favourite child in the family after spending a lot of time working with her father.

"Katie was the youngest, she was a couple of years younger than the others. She was always sort of there, I mean she stayed with me at home until she went off and married," Ted said.


"When she was small, like all girls would, she would sit up on my lap and she would say, 'I’ll never leave you daddy!'"

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