RACING tourism is growing in Kildare and there is now another attraction for Thoroughbred County visitors to see when passing through the town.
Last Saturday a plaque was unveiled to mark the spot in Kildare town where the Turf Club held its first meeting in 1790. Located adjacent to the old post office and opposite the court house, the plaque was originally unveiled in 1990 but was ‘kidnapped’ some years ago and it took a lot of effort to get it back on public display.
Jim Kavanagh, former trainer and local historian, takes up the story: “The late Michael Dargan, then senior steward, unveiled the plaque in 1990 to mark the 200th anniversary of the Turf Club’s first meeting in a Kildare town coffee room.”
A local property developer later acquired the site and the plaque went into storage.
Jim said: “I am a member of the Derby Festival Committee and I wanted to get the plaque back up. I’ve been at it for five years and, with the Turf Club’s support, we managed to reinstall the plaque on a site as near as possible to the original location.”
In fact version two of the plaque has been enhanced with a display unit on either side. On the left is a picture of the original coffee house where the rules of racing were first drawn up. On the right is the story of Thomas Connolly, “the father of the Turf Club”.
Jim has an excellent knowledge of the Turf Club’s history. He says the ‘bowler hats’ moved to Dublin in 1891 and that building later became The Club House Hotel and was often used to house British Army personnel, including the notorious Black & Tans, allegedly.
It was demolished in 1973. Jim Bolger denies all responsibility.