Connemara pony breeder and trainer groomed many champions.
Paddy Geoghegan, who has died at the age of 85, was a leading Connemara pony breeder who groomed a number of champions, including the renowned stallion, Bridge Boy.
Geoghegan becomes a fifth generation breeder and trainer, after he was raised in the town of Oughterard, Co. Galway. His father, Mark, who grew up in the nearby town land of Lettercraff, decided to emigrate to find work in 1912, and had a ticket for the ill fated Titanic.
However, Mark’s love of socialising saved his life – he missed the ship from Cobh, Co. Cork, and had to wait for the next transatlantic sailing. When he arrived in Boston he stayed for six months and then returned to Connemara, as his own father was ill at home. He and his wife subsequently farmed at Lettercraff, and ran a shop in the town, where Paddy Geoghegan and his siblings were reared.
Paddy known as “Paddy Mark”, also immigrated in the 1950’s to Canada. However, before he left he had met and fallen in love with a Longford woman by the name of Angela Doris, who had taken up a job as a confectioner in the Burns bakery Oughterard. Their daughters have kept their love letters. Paddy came home after a short period, and the couple married in Dublin in 1954.
Paddy worked on land which he inherited from his aunt, and he and his brother Jackie learned all they knew about horses from Mark who lived to be 96. Trained animals were exported to France, Germany Denmark and Sweden where the popularity of the horse was such that Connemara pony societies had been established. In the summer, the family ran pony trekking excursions for visitors.
The most famous Geoghegan stallion was “Bridge Boy”, which won four times in Clifden over an eight-year period. The horse was subsequently sold to Holland, where an owner broke the stallion, then aged 17, to ride it. The news came as a great shock to Paddy and Mark, who could not understand how anyone could treat a prize-winning stallion in this way at that stage of its life.
Paddy and Angela Geoghegan’s four daughters learned to ride ponies before they could walk, and became involved in teaching in the trekking business from a young age. The family would drive to shows every Sunday – ranging from Clifden to the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) to Tullamore and beyond.
Paddy also travelled abroad to compete and judge. He was never at ease with formal social settings, such as that at the RDS, and was in his element at flapper meetings, which were held in Clifden, Oughterard, Ballyconneely, Louisburgh, Co Mayo, and at low tide off Omey Island.
He and his father ran a forge and shoed horses, and he also owned a side –car, which he took to weddings, and a trap. His love of history and heritage was such that he could not bear to part with farm equipment, such as an old Fordson Major tractor bought new in the 1950’s. When the Connemara pony museum was established in Clifden, he donated a lot of equipment and took great pleasure in witnessing its exhibition.
When television presenter Mariella Frostrup made a BBC documentary on the old Galway-Clifden Railway line, entitled “Off the Beaten Track”, Geoghegan was one of those interviewed for his memories. Friends who shared his varied interests included the late historian Maurice Semple, author of “Reflections on Lough Corrib”.
He was a regular visitor to the Domnick Street barber shop run by Irish boxing champion and trainer Michael”Chick” Gillen.until Gillen’s retirement in 2008. He planned to write a book according to his family, but ran out of time when he became ill last year.
In the 1970’s he had purchased the Oughterard town hearse, a horse drawn carriage built by Rolls Royce in 1826. The hearse transported many of Geoghegan’s contemporaries in pony breeding in the Connematra area, including that of his own father. Two jet-black plumed horses from Sixmilebridge in Co. Clare pulled it for his funeral, and his coffin was draped in the flag of the Connemara Pony Breeder’s Society.
His wife Angela survives him and his daughters Mary, Deirdre, Carmel and Joan and grandchildren.
Note: This obituary appeared in the Irish Times on January 15th 2011