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RACING AT THE CURRAGH 100 YEARS AGO



Leinster Leader 8 July 1916

Racing at the Curragh 100 years ago

  Perhaps a few little particulars of the arrangements of the Turf Club at the Curragh over 100 years since may be of interest to our racing friends during the week of the popular June meeting at the Curragh. After listening one evening for a considerable time to a discussion on “form” in respect of the probable winners at the Curragh during the week it struck the writer that some account of the manner in which our sporting forefathers got to work in the racing world in the olden time should not come amiss. My mind turned back to a book in my possession – a copy of the Racing Calendar, published in 1814 containing an account of “Plates, Matches and Sweepstakes,” run for in the year 1813 with an abstract of engagements entered into for future years. The names and addresses are also given of the subscribers numbering 1,800, and it is interesting to note that in very many instances at the present day the same old families and names are identified with the interests of the county generally in the same districts still in various ways as well as with hunting and sporting, while many worthy scions of the same old Irish families are to be found to-day in the County Kildare, and in the different hunting fields of Ireland.
 In “The Emigrant’s Return,” written by the late Canon Sheehan, of Doneraile, the lines occur where news being sought of Ireland :-
Is there frost on the field? Is there snow ion the hollow?
Is the air quite as crisp in the valley below?
Is there pink on the rider and silk on the horses?
Are the hounds baying loud to the Hark, Tallyho?
And over the burrows and over the fences
Do the horsemen still plunge when the hounds have the scent;
And the farmer forget in the glee of the moment
That to-morrow the agent will press him for rent.
 The air is still crisp on the hunting morning, when the Killing Kildare’s are baying loud to the Hark Tallyho, but the agent is gone, and the farmer can now, indeed, duly manage, in the “glee of the moment” without any latter thought of the morrow.
 In the volume referred to, written in the old fashioned type, the old rules and orders of the Turf Club are of much interest and the arrangements for the payment of riders, the choice of members of the Kildare Coffey House, the appointment of Stewards, the punishment for watching trials, the arrangement of matches, subscriptions and sweepstakes, as well as other matters incidental to the government of the turf are dealt with in somehow a rather quaint fashion. It would appear that a century back the members of the famous Daly’s Club were in exceptionally good standing with the Turf Club, as they were admitted members of the Turf Club and Coffee Room at Kildare without a ballot on paying the usual subscription. The members of the Turf Club indeed who attended the old Coffee Room at Kildare in those days were able to look after the main point of finance, evidently very well, as a prominent rule reads:- “That no member of the Turf Club will be allowed to dine with the club without first paying his subscription and arrears to the Treasurer. In 1813 the subscription to the Club and Coffee Room was increased to two guineas a year and two Crowns, while every winner was ordered to pay to the Keeper of the Match Book for the account of the club two guineas over and above the usual fees. The preliminary fees for admission to the Coffee Room were in that year increased to five guineas, while that to the Turf Club was increased to fifteen guineas, one guinea of each to go to the keepers of the Match Book.
 “It would seem that the Stand House was then recognised in practically the same way as it is now, as the following appears:- “The stables at the Stand House being now fitted up ‘tis directed that all horses (except those that stand on the hill) who are to start for any race on the north side of the Turnpike road shall assemble therein at least half an hour before the time appointed for starting and notice is hereby given that no excuse whatever will be admitted of for want of punctuality in any groom who shall neglect to comply with this regulation.”
 At this time military officers who were members of the Turf Club were not habit to the annual subscription for the time of their absence on duty out of “this Kingdom with their regiments.” They should, however, sign a declaration to this effect and deliver it to the Clerk.
 Some of the rules read – “That in future all new rules to be balloted for shall be balloted for before 12 o’clock at night on the Monday of each meeting subsequent to the meeting during which they have been stuck up instead of being ballotted for at nine o’clock.”
 In the racing at the Curragh of a 100 years ago, indeed there was evidently a forfeiture for the entertaining of members at dinner as shown in the following:- “That any members of this club residing within two miles of the Curragh who shall entertain at dinner a member of the club during the meeting shall pay to the Keeper of the Club one guinea for self and one guinea for each member entertained at his house during the meeting – this to be ascertained upon the honour of  the member who entertains. That whenever any member of the Club, himself to be an individual, shall propose a bet such bet shall not be taken up by any other person.”
 “That the Yearling Two Years Old Course and Three Years Old Course should be the Newmarket lengths instead of those present established.” “That each member of the Turf Club for whom the keepers of the Match Book shall keep an account, shall pay them not less than two guineas for each meeting, otherwise they are not obliged nor do not keep an account for such member.” “That in future no greater sum than one guinea for scales and stand, and one guinea to the judge shall be paid by the winner of any race at the Curragh, and that for any feather race (where a course scales are not used) nothing more than the guinea for the judge shall be paid.” “That all ballots shall take place before the hour of dinner.” “It is ordered that in future all horses to run for King’s Plate must be at the post precisely at two o’clock under a penalty not forfeiting two guineas before they are allowed to start.”
 It would appear at this time as if the Deputy Ranger was the starter. “The deputy Ranger must start whatever horses are at the post in half an hour after the time appointed by the Stewards.”
 At this time there was an infirmary at Kilcullen, which has been disused so long that the oldest inhabitant does not appear to remember. One of the order for the Stewards for 1813 says – “The Stewards of the Turf Club have resolved in future that any reference to them from country meetings, one guinea must be sent along with it, which will be handed to the Kilcullen Infirmary. The final rule runs: “The Gold whip, given by the Marquis of Sligo, to be challenged for on Friday of the June meeting, to be run for on Friday of the following October meeting, each person at the time of challenging to deliver the name of his horse or mare, sealed up to the Keepers of the Match Book, and to subscribe his name to a paper to be hung up in the Coffee Room. The Keepers of the Match Book shall hold up seals delivered to them until eight o’clock on Saturday of the meeting, in which the whip is challenged (at which time the possessor of the whip is to declare his Acceptance or Resignation of the whip) and then if the challenge is not accepted, return them unopened, but if the challenge is accepted he is to open them and declare a match or sweepstakes for 100 guineas each. P. P. weight fir age. Four miles.”
 The rules were signed by the Stewards 100 years ago by Right Hon. D. B. Daly, M. P.; Lord Viscount Cremorne and Jas. Daly, Esq., and published by order of the Stewards in the name of Robert Hunter.
 
COMPILED AND EDITED BY JAMES DURNEY

An interesting article on Racing at the Curragh 100 years ago from the Leinster Leader of July 1916 compiled and edited by James Durney.   Our thanks to James.


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