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Tommy Wade; Tipperary’s showjumping legend

By Tom O’Donoghue

Born in 1938 in Goolds Cross, Tipperary, Tommy Wade was an Irish Showjumping legend who passed away in 2018. So many will recall Tommy Wade on the great little ‘Dundrum’ winning grand prix and Nations cups around Europe in the early 1960s including winning the Aga Khan Trophy in 1963 and 1967.

In 1963 Tommy won all five international classes at the Dublin Horse Show, a feat that speaks volumes for the drive and determination of the man. In 1967 Wade and ‘Dundrum’ were the undisputed kings of the green ring. In that year and years proceeding, Wade had captured prizes at almost every major international show. Prizes that included the coveted King George Cup at the White City, the Vaux Trophy at Newcastle, the Boylan Trophy at Ballsbridge, the Grand Prix at Brussels,  the top prize at the Horse of the Year show at Wembley, as well as being on the Irish team in two Aga Khan victories.

In Michael Slavin’s book ‘Irish Show Jumping Legends’ he says “tommy thought, dreamed and schemed about being first and he usually was”. As Chef d’Equipe he claimed over 30 Nation Cup wins at some of the biggest shows in the world, Aachen, Dublin, Rotterdam, Hickstead, Calgary and Labaule. Two highlights of his tenure as Irish Chef d’Equipe were the team gold medal win at the 2001 European Championships,  and Dermot Lennon’s individual World Championship win in 2002. Tommy commented about the European Championship in 2001 and what he considered was needed to be a Chef d’Equipe “You have to know each rider is different”.

I invited Tommy Wade to join the Holy Cross Gymkhana in 1976 as course builder, and he joined the Gymkhana committee in 1980. Tommy and I had great years together from 1976 to 1991 when I retired from the show. A final quote from Michael Slavin’s book “..there is another story worth recalling, that of his jumping The Wall in the dark. The papers published a cartoon the following day showing the Irish man sprouting wings.” In a way that too is symbolic of Holy Cross Show, it’s beginning in 1970 was a leap in the the dark.

Tom O’Donoghue

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