Friday, 18 September 2009
Richard and horses
To follow up on my last blog, I mentioned Richard, the youngest boy of Samuel Robinson McIlhagga. Some time ago I received a letter from an Australian McNeice descendant of Samuel's grandfather about two Samuels, which said that when Richard was born Samuel Robinson was a Linen Remnants Salesman who used a donkey and cart to peddle his wares. He then referred to an occasion in 1919 when his father visited Belfast and found Samuel trading as a Wood, Coal and Coke Merchant and using a horse and cart for deliveries. There is a newspaper record of a nasty incident in January 1893 in relation to Samuel 'McIllhagga' (sic). He had employed a man named Allen and for some reason Samuel had given him notice to leave his employment. Allen took 'revenge' by cutting off the tail of a pony used in their work. Allen was charged with cruelty to a pony as a result of his 'spite'. He was fined £5 and ordered to pay Samuel £4 compensation. It is said that Richard would not go near his father's horses when he was a lad, which may have had something to do with this incident. However, this is fascinating because later when Richard moved to live in Dublin his career moved into the owning, breeding and training of race horses. He won some noteworthy races and including the Irish Grand National in 1971 with a horse named King's Sprite. My Australian correspondent told me that he was a millionaire when he died. It's a long call from his father's donkeys and ponies to a grand national winner, and I can verify the 'end game' from my own experience! When I was a student in Dublin in the 1950s I went into a shop in Grafton Street to buy a College tie, which I paid for by cheque. The assistant took one look at the signature and said very respectfully, "We do your racing colours, don't we sir?" I said, no, it must be another McIlhagga- in fact the only one in the Dublin telephone book, if I remember correctly. I'm afraid I was too shy a young man to make the phone call, and perhaps meet the racing millionaire! Richard married Madeline Robinson and had six children, four boys and two girls. There are eleven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren to my knowledge, living in Ireland, England and Spain.