BY CON DOWNING
DUBLIN-based Dunmanway native Kieran Connolly launched his latest book, Ballabuidhe 1615-2015 – A Social History, to coincide with this year’s Ballabuidhe Races and Horse Fair.
The launch, organised by Dunmanway Chamber of Commerce, saw a lavish array of refreshments on offer at Atkins’ Hall where Dunmanway Heritage Centre is located, an appropriate venue given that Ballabuidhe spans over 400 years of the town’s history.
MC was Deirdre Kelly of Dunmanway Chamber of Commerce and the first guest speaker was native of the town, Cllr Joe Carroll, in his capacity as chairman of the West Cork Municipal District of Cork County Council, and he fondly recalled some of his memories of Ballabuidhe and was delighted to be mentioned in the book.
Special guest was Tipperary horse trainer Thomond O’Mara, who grew up in Dunmanway and took his first steps as a jockey at Ballabuidhe races, before turning professional. Subsequently, he moved on to training and now has his own yard in Fethard.
Growing up, he was steeped in Ballabuidhe as his uncle, Des McCarthy, was and remains one of the small group of dedicated people who keep the racing festival and fair going. He said that whenever people in the racing world hear that he came from Dunmanway, they immediately associate it with Ballabuidhe.
He recalled many of the famous jockeys who rode there in their early years. Among them are well-known locals, including recently-retired champion jockey Noel Fehily and current notables Gavin Sheehan and Phillip Enright.
Also among the top jockeys who competed at Ballabuidhe down through the years were Tommy Carmody, John Joe O’Neill, Paul Townend, Jack Kennedy, Norman Williamson, Aidan Coleman, Wayne Lordan and many more.
The author thanked everybody who had helped him compile the book, especially his brother James – chairman of the Ballabuidhe Race Committee – his sister Josephine McSweeney, and all of his family. He fondly remembered his late parents, Mary and Paddy, deeply involved in Ballabuidhe for many years.
He also acknowledged the presence at the launch of Noel Collins of Drimoleague, who gave him the story of Seán Buí, the breed of horse that is native to West Cork and for which Ballabuidhe was famous. Kieran said he is often asked about Ballabuidhe and what makes it so special and he replies that the occasion is to Dunmanway people what the 12th of July is to Orangemen in Northern Ireland!