THE Rolling Stones feature prominently in Christy and Carmel Keenan’s Bar, the venue of the South County Dublin Harriers’ meet at Prosperous, Co Kildare.
In fact the bar is like a picture gallery with many of their friend and regular customer Ronnie Woods’s drawings and paintings, in particular one striking image of band member Keith Richards.
Woods, who lives and breeds bloodstock nearby, together with band members Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts and Keith Richards were frequent visitors to this friendly pub where they whiled away many a happy hour, imbibing on their favourite tipple amongst good company. Christy and Carmel also provided the bar at their house parties, but are very discreet about any of interesting happenings!
Other photos displayed are of the pub’s racehorse syndicates and racing colours. Christy is a proud Kilbeggan man who never forgot his roots and has a special attachment to Kilbeggan racecourse, and Carmel has a famous Kildare name, that of Weld.
Their daughter Orlagh is now a medical doctor and she was a Young Rider and Junior eventing international on her coloured horse Moss Star that she accumulated over 200 points on. Carmel, who drove the horsebox to the events in the UK and France, told me that they had great fun and made many new friends. She still has all the cuttings of the features that Margie McLoone wrote for The Irish Field. Orlagh also hunted with the Souths and the Kildare Foxhounds.
I was however a bit surprised at the claims attributed to the patron saint of the area, Saint Farnan, as it is said that, ‘Those who drink from St Farnan’s Well will never have any relish for intoxicating drink’. Judging from the healthy numbers in Keenan’s Bar enjoying the racing – and a good pint – not too many locals have drunk from the well!
Huntsman and Whippers-in
Paul Kerr is one of the most experienced huntsmen in the country, now in his 30th season hunting the Souths and he also hunted the Kildare Foxhounds for eight seasons. And as if that was not enough for one man, he has been master of his own family pack of beagles, Mr Kerr’s Beagles, founded by his father Paddy in 1955, since 1975.
Daughters Eve and Catherine whip-in to him and it was a pleasure to see such well turned out hunt staff with sparkling hunt horses. His other daughter Grace, who has been hunting both the Souths and the family beagle pack when she is home, has been on the National Stud course. Grace was awarded the 2020 John Durkan Scholarship to racehorse trainer Brian Meehan’s yard on the Manton Estate, Wiltshire but she plans to resume hunting duties when she gets home.
Shay O’Haire and Des Bell made sure I was in the right place all day. Shay has kept a livery yard for many years and he had a truck load of horses out on the day.
He is a former chairman of the hunt and he has been hunting with them for 51 seasons and knows every inch of ground as he lives nearby.
Shay’s son, James, is a well know event rider with Liberty Belle, a winner at Punchestown, owned by Hon. Penelope Guinness, and HFS Eclipse, owned by Patricia Heffernan who lost her good mare China Doll through colic. He also has Ballistown Castlebar who he owns himself and all three horses have won this season. His next campaign will be in France next season.
Des Bell is a regular with the Souths and also whips-in to Mr Kerr’s Beagles, but would be also well known as a talented photographer with frequent hunting photos appearing in The Irish Field.
There was a large turnout of followers on the day, including visitors from the Brays, Taras, and Fingals. Comdt Geoff Curran was out with his nine-year-old son Charlie, on a smashing pony, who remarkably has the very same jumping style as his father.
Others hunting were Danielle McSorley, Brian Murphy, Jamie Taaffe, Lisa Doran, Deirdre Donaghue, John Hanlon (sporting his hunting flask), Bryan Maher from the Taras, Lisa Goran, Declan Harpur, Robert and Sinead O’Connor, Aine Doyle, Peter Barnwall and Tony McMenamin.
The Souths are a drag pack with the scent being laid on the day by the all-family affair of joint-master Niall Byrne, his wife Eileen and daughter Aisling.
Paul Kerr, and his smashing pack of black and tan hounds, moved to the first line, off the avenue lined by autumn golden leaves in Pat Curry’s of Killybegs House. Here they jumped a coffin off the lane with a good lead by the huntsman and his daughters Eve and Catherine whipping-in, all on beautifully turned-out hunters.
However, it was not the ideal start for some, especially the three thoroughbred racehorses from Oliver McKiernan’s yard, but their riders Robert Duffy, Tiago Vidal and Niamh Kelly persevered. A touch of class came from international army rider Geoff Curran and his son Charlie. It was not strange to course builder Tony McMenamin as he has built so many of them in his day, especially working with the remarkable international rider and course builder Tommy Brennan. Good displays were also given by Danielle McSorley, Sarah and Harry McNally.
There was a wide variety of made fences in the woods, taking them into Fitzpatrick’s and then over some testing ditches in Albert Weld’s before a line of fly fences erected by the hunt in racehorse trainer Peter Maher’s taking them out by Cock Bridge on the Grand Canal.
A man walking a beagle thought that he would pick up the scent (as I could get it) and he explained that the beagle spends most of the day on the couch which I thought was a shame as he was bred with a good nose!
The next line was laid along the Royal Canal out at Healy’s Bridge crossing over the dry canal into Fitzsackery’s and on through Costello’s, Gay Parkinson’s and out beside Robertstown. They hacked down the Clane to Edenderry Road to Blackwood and into Corrigan’s which took them in a line back to the meet.
Carmel Keenan had the last word as she put up a soup and sandwiches, saying that it is always a pleasure to have the Souths visit as they always tidy up after themselves and above all, come back again the following day to check that all the landowners are happy and check in with the bar that everything was left in order.
And it was a pleasure to see The Rolling Stones Ronnie Woods’ works of art in the pub as he is such a talented artist.
The South County Dublin Harriers were founded in 1867. Their whole history is told in a book written by James Norton and titled The History of the South County Dublin Harriers, together with an archive of historic photos. They hunt on Saturdays.
South County Dublin Harriers
Chairman: Kevin Mulvey
Masters: Niall Byrne, Barry Murphy and Liam Brew
Huntsman: Paul Kerr
Whippers-in: Eve, Catherine and Grace Kerr
Field-master: The Masters