Heather Callaghan (b. 1943)
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Heather Callaghan (b. 1943)


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Rathealy House in Glanworth near Fermoy was the home place of the Callaghan family. Heather Callaghan’s father was a prosperous farmer, and the family always kept horses. She recalled that during her early days, well known trainer Nat Galway-Greer would come to the Callaghan home to buy foals from her father. Heather recalls an interesting fact which involved the making of the British film “The Blue Max” in 1966. Filming took place at Rathealy and included footage of the viaduct which ran through the Callaghan property. She began to compete in show jumping at quite a young age and she won the Pony Championship at the Spring Show at the RDS. She also won the first Guinness Novice Show jumping Championship on Doneraile, owned by Joe McGrath. She recalls her relocation to work in stable yards in England for Barry Hills and David Brew, for whom she worked as secretary for a period. Later she returned to Ireland to work at Paddy Slater’s yard. She took on secretarial duties and she was also involved in training and racing for the yard. At this time, she won four major races. She was one of the first pioneering women to race professionally, with Rosemary Ferris and Jackie Ward who were at the top of their game, she says. The first race she won as a professional jockey was at Tralee Races in 1960. She later competed in Navan and elsewhere and in a ladies’ international race in Punchestown in 1973 when she rode Clare Delight. She recalls her point-to-point racing days, and explains that she was the winner on nine occasions. She describes the courses in those days, which included dangerous banks and bush fences, and her great point-to-point horse called Sandy Saddler. She worked for some time at Joe McGrath’s stables where she was involved in the international transport of show jumpers, and she recalls the journeys, the accommodation, the jockeys including Seamus Hayes, Tommy Brennan, Tommy Wade and Diana Connolly-Carew. This was a wonderful period for Irish show jumping she explains. While examining old photograph albums and press cuttings, which were donated to the RDS archives in 2015, she names the great owners, trainers and jockeys she worked with down through the years. Heather Callaghan retired from racing in 1976.

Additional information



Audio series:

Heritage Collection 2016


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

69.2 MB

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Product ID:



A Corkwoman’s passion for horses

Recorded by:

Maurice O’Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore