Monday, 25 July 2016

"Riders upon galloping horses" - The Galway Races from the Archives

Cover of programme, Galway Races, 1969
An evening at the Galway races over a century ago inspired the poet W.B. Yeats to write a poem especially to mark what he had experienced. Written at the home of his friend and collaborator, Lady Augusta Gregory, Coole Park, in county Galway in 1908, "At the Galway Races" sums up the spectacle, passion and revelry that the unique annual Galway race meeting brings. There is also a series of watercolour sketches by Jack.B Yeats which depict various scenes from the Galway Races, race meetings, horse and trade fairs in the West of Ireland dating from 1900 and which are on display in our Archives and Special Collections Reading Room.

At Galway Races
There where the course is,
Delight makes all of the one mind,
The riders upon the galloping horses,
The crowd that closes in behind:
. . . .
Its flesh being wild, and it again
Crying aloud as the racecourse is,

And we find hearteners among men
That ride upon horses."                                  

Within the archives of the Hardiman Library is a race card from the centennial meeting of the Galway Races. The 1969 meeting marked 'a century of racing at Ballybrit' and in particular, its centrepiece event, the Galway Plate. The programme includes a note on the history of the races written by Christy Townley, then Librarian of the Hardiman Library, U.C.G., as the University was then known. 



The runners and riders for the centennial plate race are listed - thirteen listed starters in all. The prize money is detailed and the distance noted as being "two miles and about five furlongs". The owner of the race-card lists the placed finishers with the winner of the 1969 Galway Plate being "Royal Day", owned by Mr. P. Dunne Cullinan and trained by P. Sleator. (there is no evidence that this racegoer had the winner backed!)

Entrants in Galway Plate, 1969
Also of note on the back cover of the programme is a tip for "an essential for Galway Week . . ." and being "a credit or deposit account with Tote Investors (Ireland) Ltd." Hopefully that 'credit account' did not grow too large. 

Happy race-going to all!

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