There was a famous surgeon in Cork called P.K Kiely who was a great friend of my fathers and was probably the most loved and respected medical people ever in Cork. Today I am going to tell you a few stories about him, as in my view his book should have been written and I am just afraid that some of the great stories about him might get lost.
He was a golfer and a race horse owner and a very famous and renowned surgeon who according to my Dad was a general surgeon who sorted out problems in all areas of the body.
He had a gentle way with him but had a roguish side to him and even though he was probably 60 years older than me we often played golf and in his later years when he was over 90 years of age, if Vincent O’ Brien or his nephew John Kiely the trainer in Dungarvan had a horse running, he would often walk the mile or more from his house in the Douglas Road to my office in The South Mall for a chat about the likely outcome of the race.
He once owned a horse called Dominick’s Bar who won the Irish Grand National but had many other horses that didn’t run so fast and a nice saying attributed to him was “If you don’t like someone and you want to do them serious financial harm give them a present of a racehorse, and if that doesn’t fix them then give them another one”!
The first time he attended the Cheltenham racing festival in March he was accompanied by Mick Sheehan the wealthy Cork coal merchant who introduced him to William Hill the renowned and very profitable UK bookmaker. Mick said “this is Dr Kiely from Cork and Mr Hill he is good for whatever bets he wants to make”
According to my Dad who was in their party it was about the 4th race before PK decided to have a bet with Hill and the horse whose name I don’t recall was priced at 7 to 2. In other words you put on 2 to win 7. PK said to Hill that he would have 2 on the horse to win 7. Hill to his clerk says £200 to win £700 for Dr Kiely. No no says PK its £2,000 to win £7,000. Now back in the 1960’s this was an extraordinary large bet.
Having placed his bet PK walked away and then out of interest and devilment and natural curiosity looked back to see if Hill had shortened the odds on the horse as a result of his substantial bet. Hill saw PK turn around but out of bravado and to show the man from Cork that his bet was really chicken feed to him; instead of shortening the odds he changed the price from 7/2 to 4 to 1.
Well if he did PK got a bit insulted and retraced his steps and said quietly and firmly “in that case Mr Hill I will have another £ 2,000 on to win £8,000 this time.”
And yes this nice story had a happy outcome and there was a good bit of Sterling brought home on the boat to Cork that year.
Another day they were travelling by train to a race meeting at the Curragh and decided to have a game of poker to pass the time. They were 6 of them playing jackpot poker which meant you needed a pair of Jacks or better to “open the pot” to play.
Everyone playing put in ten shillings (50% of an old Irish pound) each time. It wasn’t opened on the first dealing so everybody put in the same stake again and in fact nobody opened the next two or three times with either queens nor kings and then PK decided he would check the kitty to make sure the correct amount was on the table.
Well as you will have guessed the kitty was short and PK asked everyone were they in and all said yes that they were. There was a pause and then PK picked up all the money on the table and opened the sliding window that used to be on the old trains and threw the lot out the window where it fluttered gently in the wind to the shocked silence of all and said. “Well now we will start again as nobody is going to be playing for my money unless they are in themselves”
Nobody argued and nobody was shy again!
When he was very old and frail I remember Liam Higgins the wonderful professional golfer at Waterville who used to caddy for PK at Little Island. I went to visit PK in a nursing home in Rochestown and whilst PK wasn’t sure who I was his face lit up when he saw that Liam was visiting him. In those days when Liam used to caddy for him PK would often have walked from Douglas to Little Island about 7 miles and then would play 36 holes. He might then take a lift home if he was tired!
I met his son P.B.Kiely at Mallow races a few years later and asked about PK. Well he said “As you know he is in a nursing home but he is doing well. He will be 101 in two months time and he wants to get to 101 to show us all that getting to 100 wasn’t a fluke!”
He was buried the morning of his 101st birthday!
Ted Dwyer Family Business