Holycross, synonymous with the famous Abbey was also home to the illustrious Holycross Horse Show.
First held in 1970, it was the brainchild of a local committee, initially mentioned in a casual conversation around a local table as a way of raising funds towards the restoration of the Abbey. We are grateful to Tom O’Donoghue, one of that first committee for sharing his memories and his collection of photos and documents relating to twenty years of involvement with the Holycross show. It was enthusiastically supported by the whole community who gave freely of their time to bring the whole project to fruition; from constructing the jumps, stewarding at the venue, growing flowers to decorate the grounds, and providing the refreshments on the day.
A magnificent cut glass trophy was produced by Waterford Glass. Each year, the trophy was on display in Ryan Jewellers, Liberty Square, Thurles and the winner’s name engraved on the wooden base by the renowned Matty Ryan.
The show had support from clergy, local and national politicians right up to the then Taoiseach, Charles Haughey. Of course, one very enthusiastic supporter was the local Archbishop Thomas Morris. Local riders mingled with international names such as Larry Kiely, Paul Darragh, Eddie Macken and many more. Today’s well-known names such as Michael Kinane and Willie Mullins competed as children in Holycross.
At its peak, the show had an attendance of over 20,000 people, held on fields loaned by the local farmers. As the show had such a high profile amongst the top-class riders, sponsorship was forthcoming, not just from the local business people but also the bigger national companies.
One unique visitor to Holycross Horse Show was the Aga Khan Trophy. It had never been displayed outside the RDS, but in 1980, it took pride of place at the show, together with the winning team members Eddie Macken, James Kiernan, Paul Darragh and Con Power. One newspaper report said that it was fitting that the Aga Khan Trophy should go to an area so steeped in bloodstock, where so many notable horses had been bred.
The show had appeal for all members of the family as it did not confine itself totally to horses, local dancing schools, canine clubs, sporting activities such as tug of war, bonnie baby competitions and best dressed ladies’ competitions all had their place on the grounds and so the show was considered a great day out for everybody. At its height, it was actually a two-day event. One of the founding committee, Tom O’Donoghue sums it up perfectly. “There were great people involved all over the place and I cannot speak highly enough of them. They made it happen, it could not have happened without them and it is something Holycross parish should be very proud of forever.”