COURSE inspector Bernard Smullen is the newest recipient of the Healy Racing Personality of the Year Award.

From Dublin, Bernard joined the Turf Club in 1965, aged 17, and has given 57 years of service to racing. He worked in various departments before specialising in point-to-points in 1978.

Bernard retired just last month after 44 years of working with hunt committees all over the country.

Martin O’Donnell, who is the 39th senior steward Bernard has worked for, said: “The point-to-point industry is successful because of passion and commitment, and you exemplify that.”

Bernard commented: “I have enjoyed working with all the various people through the years and seeing the development of the young riders and the top horses coming through.”

He echoed the comments made throughout the meeting about the importance of volunteers in keeping point-to-points alive. Addressing guests, he said: “Some of the people I dealt with this season are the same I dealt with 40 years ago. What we need now if for you young people out there to start giving your local committees a hand.”

Mary Hickey, who has retired as entries secretary for the Cork & Waterford Association after 46 years, received a Special Recognition Award for her services.

When Mary and her late husband Jim began taking entries, it was done by post or telephone, with the horse name, breeding and colours all taken down by hand. Telephone calls via the exchange operator to “Ballinamult 158” had to be made before the operator clocked off at 9pm. But if you missed the deadline you could still try the local Garda station who might deliver the entry for you.

Various technologies have come and gone in the intervening years and there is now an online entry system. On racedays Mary could be relied on to be first at the venue with the numbercloths and she was often the last to leave. Where will the next generation of people like Mary come from?

Maxine O’Sullivan and Jerry Kelliher paid tribute to Mary on behalf of the riders and handlers, and they joined Pat Coleman of the Cork & Waterford Association in wishing Mary a long and happy retirement.