Last week on holiday in Kerry I had arranged to play in a four ball at Waterville Golf Club one of the most wonderful golf courses in Ireland overlooking Ballinskelligs Bay. Driving over the road to Waterville I was thinking of the man who put Waterville on the map for so many visiting golfers.
Waterville used to have a little nine hole golf course and in 1973 John A Mulcahy an Irish American millionaire bought the existing course and the land closer to the sea and with golf architect Eddie Hackett set about creating a wonderful golfing facility. I think that I have played it every year since it opened. In recent years golf architect Tom Fazio made some really good changes particularly at the 2nd and 4th holes.
Jack Mulcahy as he was affectionately known, when he was a young lad in Ireland, was caught acting as a messenger boy for De Valera during Ireland’s civil war and was jailed for a year. After his release he was packed off to America by his family for safety where he qualified as an accountant and became a very successful businessman.
When he bought the golf course he also bought the Southern Lake Hotel on the southern shore of the famous fishing lake in Waterville and subsequently knocked that little hotel and built the magnificent Waterville Lake Hotel which sadly has not been operating to its former glory in recent years. He also bought Waterville House formerly The Butler House which is the house on the river where the lake water flows into the sea. At one time the house owned cages in the river and basically controlled and owned all the salmon and sea trout that were running into the lake system of Waterville.
My first meeting with Jack Mulcahy was on the practice ground at Waterville Golf Club in the late 70’s. I was hitting a few practice shots and also on the practice ground at that time was the long hitting Liam Higgins the professional at Waterville who was getting a lesson from Mr Mulcahy. Liam originally from Little Island in Cork was an old friend of mine and really wasn’t that interested in getting a lesson from Mr Mulcahy and saw me as his escape route.
Liam called me over and introduced me and quickly vanished and now I was the one getting the lesson! We had great fun and indeed he was a very knowledgeable and very good golf teacher. He could obviously see from my swing that I wasn’t the most consistent of golfers and after a few wayward shots he remarked. “Ted my boy you are as loose as a goose”! Not sure all these years later if it was a compliment or not!
After that initial meeting I got to know Jack Mulcahy quite well and he was always kind and welcoming and he was so proud of the golf course that he had created.
City Life used to bring customers to Waterville for an annual golf outing around that time and we used to stay with the Huggard family at the Butler Arms which was and still is one of the most wonderful places to stay in Ireland. On one of our outings Mr Mulcahy kindly invited all of us perhaps 35 or so back to Waterville House for a few drinks and started to reminisce about his friendship with the great horse trainer Vincent O Brien and the horses that he had in training with Vincent and indeed he had some good ones. Thatch a champion miler and Cloonlara and Critique were a few I can remember.
In a roundabout way he was instrumental in transforming the fortunes of Vincent O Brien because he was the person who recommended to Vincent that he should take a financial interest in every racehorse he trained so that if they became successful stallions afterwards as so many of them did, that Vincent would also benefit from a share of the stallion fees.
Photo of Vincent and John A Mulcahy at the gallops at Ballydoyle
This was readily acknowledged by Vincent’s’ wife Jacqueline in the book about Vincent she wrote with Ivor Herbert and this tied in nicely with Vincent’s own plans as he had in 1973 purchased a large percentage of Coolmore Stud from his friend Tim Vigors who needed the money for a divorce settlement.
I don’t think that Vincent O Brien had any idea as to how successful Coolmore would become and how it would transform the Irish bloodstock industry and how it would highlight Ireland as a major player in the world of bloodstock.
The final part of the success story of Coolmore was of course John Magnier who was a year behind me at boarding school in Limerick. John is a distant cousin as my grandmother was also a Magnier from Fermoy. John didn’t get to finish school as his Dad died young. Consequently he went home to look after the family business which was at that time the Grange Stud in Fermoy, famous for standing the great national hunt sire Cottage who was the sire of Cottage Rake one of Vincent’s famous racehorses. John also later took over the running of Castle Hyde Stud near Fermoy.
The O Brien’s and the Magniers were old friends and when John married Vincent’s daughter Susan it was agreed that they would amalgamate all of their stud interests under the Coolmore umbrella with John at the helm and what a success he has made of it.
Yes definitely one of Ireland’s family business success stories
Ted Dwyer Family Business