by ehistoryadmin on July 29, 2016

Two Mile Horse

Liam Kenny

“A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!” clamoured Richard III in the play of that name by Shakespeare.  Around Two Mile House way the beleaguered king’s quotable quote might be fairly varied to read “My parish for a horse”!  An enterprising punt by a shrewd parish committee who engaged in the unorthodox venture of putting a horse up for a raffle was to bring a dividend that even the most hopeful of punters could only dream about.

The story of the horse that carried the hopes of a parish is related in a fine new book on Two Mile House parish, and its gem of a church – St Peter’s , with the title “ A history of a parish in Transition.” The book tells the story of the church since its bicentenary in 1990 when a handsome hardback volume with colour plate reproductions of stained-glass windows and old parishes marked the occasion. And what a quarter of a century it has been for the parish: a major refurbishment of St Peter’s Church;  an effective rebuilding and expansion of the national school; and, on the sporting front, the winning of the All-Ireland Junior Club Championship  at Croke Park in  February 2014.

For a Kildare team at any level to win an All-Ireland is a cause for celebration but that the honours should come via one of the smaller clubs in the county makes the victory all the more remarkable.  Mind you, the Two Mile House team might have had some strong spiritual guidance to help them on their quest from their grounds in Harristown to GAA Headquarters. The book reveals that the then resident curate Fr Paul Dempsey celebrated a Mass for the team and supporters early on the morning of the final fixture.

The parish is also in favour in high diocesan circles with some pictures featuring of a happy Bishop Denis Nulty joining in a celebration in St Peter’s Church some time after the trophy was brought home. As a Meathman, the Bishop would know a thing or two about the business end of football so such episcopal endorsement is praise indeed for the wearers of the green-sash.

But back to another sporting arena – that of the equine kind – to round out the story of the horse that funded a parish. Two Mile House had become an independent parish for the first time in the modern era in 1981 when it was created from 28 townslands in an area roughly bisected by the road from Punchestown to the Curragh.  The new parish council and finance committee were faced with some major projects not least a major refurbishment of the church in advance of its bicentenary year in 1990. It was clear too that the gradual rise in population in the parish – although less frenetic than other villages in the Naas commuter environs – would necessitate expansion of the school facilities.

Located in the heart of Kildare’s bloodstock belt it was perhaps not surprising that the committee should hit on the idea of offering a horse for a raffle. And with eminences of the sport such as Mr D.K.Weld on hand to give advice the prospects of a modest return on a sound purchase were good – if not quite as spectacular as eventually unfolded. A horse was bought at Goff’s Open Yearling Sale for 8,400 Irish pounds and appropriately named -Teach Dhá Mhilé. The raffle promoters fanned out to race meetings, football matches, and personal contacts, to sell the forty pound tickets. However when the raffle took place the winning ticketholder decided to accept cash in lieu of the horse. The Two Mile House parish committee was now going to be the owner of the horse for a longer term than it had bargained for. It was decided to enter the colt into racing in the hope that good performances might boost its value. This was a big call for the parish – such is the unpredictably of the racing game that the whole plan could have come a cropper at the first fence. And the initial outing – at Naas – Teach Dhá Mhíle unplaced. However the pace picked up quickly and T.D.M showed a clean pair of heels to the rest of the field in races at the Phoenix Park and Killarney before landing the big one – a Group 3 race at the Curragh in September 1989. The race card – reproduced in the book – indicates the rider, trainer and owner as – jockey M.J.Kinane, trainer, D.K.Weld, and owner, one Brendan O’Byrne. Only those Curragh patrons clued in to east Kildare racing knowledge would have divined that the last name –without clerical title indicated – was, in fact, the parish priest of Two Mile House. And this was one occasion where the clergy could truly be said to have outpaced the judiciary as the horse to finish second to Teach Dhá Mhíle was owned by Mr Justice T.F.Roe, well known to both punters and litigants in the Kildare court districts.

The win boosted the value of Teach Dhá Mhíle exponentially and when put up for sale it recouped a sum of 97,000 guineas to the parish – not bad for an initial investment of 8,000 Irish pounds. Well-judged investment of the money has allowed Two Mile House parish to thrive over the past quarter of a century and carry out further renovations to St Peter’s church making it look like new as it proceeds beyond Bishop Nulty termed its “Quasquibicentennial” or 250th anniversary year.

This story of progress and transition is set out in great detail in the book together with some more history research by its indefatigable editor Col. (ret’d) W.H. Gibson who is well known to many as the historian-in-residence of the Royal Curragh Golf Club.

The future for Two Mile House and St Peter’s looks as appealing as the view over the plains of Kildare from the elevated ridge on which it stands. The only possible cloud on the horizon might come from the machinations of an over enthusiastic EU bureaucracy looking to the complete the transition from Imperial to metric measurements. Grant it we already have metres, kilos and litres but if Two Mile House were forced to rename as Three Point Two Kilometre House, it would not have the same ring, would it? Leinster Leader 12 January 2016, Looking Back Series no: 467.


Previous post:

Next post: