The Irish racing community was shocked to learn of Paddy Dunican’s sudden death last Saturday. Aged just 61, Paddy had been general manager of Kilbeggan Racecourse for over 35 years and was one of the most recognisable faces of the racing scene.

Racing professionals and racegoers mingled with the huge number of locals who turned out for Paddy’s funeral Mass in Kilbeggan on Wednesday. Also in attendance was Captain Paul O’Donnell, aide de camp to President Michael D. Higgins.

Nine priests co-celebrated the Mass, headed by Fr Brendan Corrigan who described Paddy as “a very good and generous person” who was “always positive and helpful to other people” and “would never do anyone a bad turn”.

Fr Corrigan listed the many public roles Paddy filled, many of them voluntary, before concluding that “behind this there was a man who felt isolated and alone”.

He added: “Suicide happens when our pain exceeds our ability to cope and this pain can have multiple and interconnected sources. Death is not a choice, it is more a succumbing to internal pressure. That is why it is so important that people speak and people share.

“Look at all the people here who Paddy could have talked to, who could have helped him, who could have relieved the pain and pressure he felt.

“It is so important to speak. It relieves the pressure that we are under and it gives us a chance to get things into focus. All our problems can pass. Death leaves pain and suffering behind and it cannot be undone.

“It’s a pity Paddy had to die. We pray that he may have peace and happiness now forever.”

As Paddy’s remains were buried in the Relic Cemetery, his close friend Leo Powell delivered these words.

ON Sunday night, Google published a list of the subjects that were trending on social media in Ireland. Storm Kathleen was in fourth place, but leading, by some way, were three words – Paddy Dunican Kilbeggan.

God, how Paddy would have enjoyed that! He would be telling us about it for months. He knew the value of getting your name in front of people, but not this way.

Now, if you think for a minute that this says something about Paddy having an ego, think again. Nevertheless, he was one of the best, if not indeed THE best man I knew to network, make friends, talk and mingle, and the huge crowds at his removal last night, and here again today, testify to his popularity, his friendliness, his loyalty, and his dedication.

Two versions

Let me talk about two versions of Paddy Dunican; Paddy the professional man and Paddy the truest of friends.

I am aware that many people will know Paddy from perhaps just one aspect of his public persona, so let me try to encapsulate something of his professional achievements in a few words – an impossible task, to be honest.

Ireland is home to 26 racecourses, well run by good people. I know of only one where the managing director is known by the name of the racecourse. You see, in the world of horse racing in Ireland, Paddy Dunican was known to one and all as Mr Kilbeggan. He lived and breathed the racecourse, putting his heart and soul into it. He gave it his life.

At one level, good people knew this, and it is no accident that Paddy was three times voted Racecourse Manager of the Year, took the track from having three days racing a year to 10, and established the Midlands National as a mid-year National Hunt highlight.

He brought crowds to the venue, got it an inordinate amount of publicity and coverage using his charm and networking skills, and attracted dignitaries such as the President of Ireland, Taoisigh, Ambassadors from around the world and more to attend the racing.

Paddy welcomes President Michael D. Higgins to Kilbeggan in 2018 \ Healy Racing

None of this happened by chance. It was because Paddy made it happen. When he was not spending countless hours working at the track, he spent his leisure time working to get sponsors and customers through the turnstiles. It is my honest belief that few here know the lengths he went to make Kilbeggan the success it has become.

Last night I was looking at the statistics for the most successful trainers at Kilbeggan, and the top three are Gordon Elliott, Willie Mullins and Henry de Bromhead. Enough said.

Never took break

I have been in the company of Paddy at events from the smallest to the biggest, and Paddy never took a break from his role as Mr Kilbeggan. He could sniff a potential sponsor out in an instant, and five minutes later business cards would be exchanged. I sincerely hope that what he achieved for Kilbeggan over 35 years in the hot seat will now be acknowledged.

Outside of the ‘day and night’ role as Mr Kilbeggan, Paddy also found time to be an acting steward, a director of the Association of Irish Racecourses, a member of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, President of the Rotary Club, an auctioneer, be voted Athlone Business Person of the Year which I attended with him as his guest, give generously of his time to many causes, and be a vital part of the Ploughing Championship family. In recent years he even returned to education and graduated with a Masters.

You see that was the thing about Paddy – he was a giver, not a taker.

Steadfast friend

On a personal level, I will miss Paddy terribly, as so many of you will. Ask Robert Fagan, Tom Duffy, Henry, Peter, Lorraine, Christy, Siobhan, Pat, Anna May and Anna Marie, Stan, Brian, Carol Anne, Joey and many, many more what was it about Paddy that set him apart. They will all tell you the same thing. He was a steadfast friend. These are just a few of the close friends Paddy had that spring to my mind. I also know that there are many more, and forgive me if you were omitted.

What words would I use to describe Paddy? I will narrow it down from a hundred to a few. On a light note, sartorial elegance. Always dressed to the nines. I was told a story about him collecting someone to bring them to the Galway Races, but insisting that they go back and change into something more appropriate. I won’t shame the man!

More seriously. Integrity, he had this in spades. He was loyal, funny, strong, stubborn (oh yes, he was stubborn!), kind, sensitive, generous, and thoughtful. He valued community, service, honesty and more than anything else, friendship. He never took friendship for granted, and any kind action was always acknowledged and appreciated.

Show kindness

It is something of an Irish phenomenon that we tend to find fault rather than give praise, and Paddy took criticism very personally. We are all human, none of us is perfect, and I would ask that everyone here today take home a message that in a world where you can be anything, be kind. Show kindness, share with others. Talk.

The manner of Paddy’s passing was tragic, the effect it has had is catastrophic for so many here today. This is not the time or place to question why it happened, that is for another day. What is clear is that this is not how I want to remember Paddy, or for it to be the overriding memory in a life lived well. Please recall Paddy with love and kindness – he deserves that.

I would love to be sharing jokes and funny remembrances with you, but I hope you will forgive me if I do that with friends. You should too. Instead I will leave you with a phrase that was given to me by a mutual friend of mine and Paddy’s. Its beauty is in its simplicity.

God give him the skies.

I will repeat it – God give him the skies. Paddy, you are free of pain now, but we are all heartbroken. We will never forget you dear friend. Fly high and keep us safe. You were loved, more than you will ever know.

Codladh sámh – sleep well, Paddy.