“ONE of the greatest comforts we have is that Jack knows how much we loved him. Whoever you love, make sure you tell them. We’d love you all to take that away with you.”
Henry and Heather de Bromhead had that advice for the congregation at the funeral Mass for their son, Jack, this week. Every night before he went to sleep, Jack told them: “Night Mum. Night Dad. Love you.”
Jack and his twin sister Mia were born on August 31st, 2009. “Without doubt the best day of our lives, followed by the birth of their younger sister Georgia, also the joint best day!”
Surfing on Tramore beach was Jack’s first passion and he was good at it, his father revealed. “Then he moved on to farming and driving – his real passion.” We heard how Jack would plague the neighbours for spins in their tractors. Cutting silage was heaven to him.
“Hunting was the next big thing – he absolutely loved it,” Henry said. Jack wasn’t one for trailing along in rear either. He wanted to be up with the leaders, actually following the hunt. One Sunday morning he got up at 5am to get dressed in his hunting gear and he even won a competition for blowing a hunting horn.
Next came show jumping. “He won so many competitions on Flash but his greatest achievement was qualifying for Dublin and getting to ride in the main arena at the RDS with Mia. That was an incredible day for us. Heather put so much work into it.”
Football, hurling and most recently rugby all vied for Jack’s spare time. He was part of the Waterpark rugby team that recently won the local league though his tackling was sometimes a bit over-the-top, we were told.
“And then he discovered his real passion, pony racing,” Henry said.
It was Shark Hanlon who gave Jack his first ride at Thomastown in the summer of last year.
Henry said: “I told him to drop in but the pace was slow and he moved to the front at halfway, which I felt was the right thing to do. It was uncanny he knew to do that in his first race. He was just beaten on the line but his first winner came soon afterwards at Taghmon and we were all there for it.“
It went up a gear this year. Jack had 18 rides over the three days of Dingle, rode a winner and finished second in the Derby. “He was buzzing, we all were, it was incredible. Three glorious days,” Henry recalled.
In all these activities, Jack quickly made lots of new friends and he treasured them all.
Two weeks ago the de Bromheads travelled to Mullingar to see Mia and Georgia show jump before taking a four-hour car journey to Cahirsiveen where Jack rode a winner but then had a fall. He wisely stood himself down for the rest of the day but on the way home told his father: “I just love pony racing.” Asked if he was afraid of falling, he replied: “Hen-boy, if you can’t take the falls you can’t be doing it.”
Even if Jack had not gone on to be a champion jockey, he was already showing signs of being a trainer. Last Tuesday week, a day before he went to boarding school for the first time, he spent time with Henry loose schooling.
“Jacksie had the technique just right, saying ‘hup’ every time the horse hit the stride. He was making very informed comments on the horses. I was blown away by it.”
Everyone in the yard was very fond of Jack and they were delighted to teach him anything he wanted to know, Henry said, before finishing with a story which showed Jack’s sense of humour.
Larry, one of the trainer’s longest-standing employees, asked Jack, “So, what are you going to be when you grow up?”
Jack replied: “Your boss, Larry!”
SCHOOL friends, sports team members and pony racing riders formed guards of honour for Jack de Bromhead’s arrival at the church in Butlerstown, Co Waterford, at noon on Tuesday.
Leading the hearse were three tractors, symbolising Jack’s obsession with the farming vehicles. His good friend David Kent was driving one of them.
A sharp shower as the procession arrived outside the church failed to move any of the mourners from their spots along the road. As the de Bromhead family entered the small church, the dance track Prayer in C was played, presumably one of Jack’s favourites.
The ushers worked hard to get as many people as possible seated in the church. Hundreds more listened from outside and more watched a broadcast from a nearby school hall. The Mass was live streamed and at one point more than 13,000 people were watching the near-two-hour service.
Parish priest Fr Pat Fitzgerald opened the Mass by welcoming the aides-de-camp representing President Higgins and Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
Some of Jack’s friends and relations brought symbols of Jack’s life to the altar. They included a racing whip, saddle, goggles, a rugby ball, hunting horn, a favourite pair of runners, and some designer swimming trunks.
Jack’s two sisters Mia and Georgia delivered their own emotional prayers. Younger sister Georgia said: “Jack was the kindest, bravest, most caring big brother I could ever ask for.
“He was never scared to stand up for people, and was always there for you, no matter what. He had such a bright future ahead of him but sadly it was all taken away from him so early. Life will never be the same without Jack. May he rest in peace.”
Mia said: “Jack, you were the best brother ever. I got so lucky when you were born with me. I will miss your cheeky smile that made all my friends fall in love with you. May you rest in peace, my beautiful brother.”
The Nights by Avicii was played during communion and Jack left the church to the sound of Coldplay’s A Sky Full Of Stars. Again his friends from pony racing, show jumping and hunting formed a guard of honour outside the church.
A hunting horn sent Jack on his final journey and the congregation broke into a spontaneous and heartfelt round of applause as the hearse slowly pulled away.
JACK’s grandfather Andrew Moffatt shared some lovely stories with the congregation.
He revealed that Jack had taken to addressing him, not as Grandad or even ‘Gramps’ but as Grandy-boy. And Jack’s nickname for his father Henry was Hen-boy.
“Jack had a serious number of interests beyond his fame as a horse rider,” the proud grandfather continued. Driving anything with an engine was high on the list. From playing with toy tractors and diggers, he quickly graduated to hijacking his grandad’s mobility scooter before pestering neighbours for spins on farm machinery and even getting behind the wheel of an Aston Martin which had pulled into the yard.
One thing Jack wasn’t very interested in was sitting in the classroom. He had only just completed his first week as a boarder in Kilkenny College.
On the way to Glenbeigh last weekend his grandfather asked him if he had managed to make any friends. “Grandy-boy, it’s like this,” Jack said. “They’re mostly farmers’ kids and they’re all in my gang now!”
Little did either of them think at that moment that Jack’s schooldays were over. “On late Saturday afternoon all our hopes and dreams for our beautiful, charming charismatic, wonderful Jack were shattered forever in a riding accident. In the dark, murky Atlantic waters washing on to Rossbeigh beach, Jack’s horse came down and he was thrown. And in an instant the horse delivered to him a fatal blow.
“Our 13 years with our beloved Jack will never be forgotten by his family and all our friends and colleagues who knew the happiest, loving child you could ever hope for. Jack, you will live in our hearts and memories forever. Thank you.”
THE world stopped spinning last Saturday evening. Around 6pm, phones all over the country started beeping.
“Did you hear what happened at the pony racing today?”
We prayed it was fake news, someone had got it wrong. It couldn’t be true. As the reality sank in, all our own petty troubles and complaints disappeared. We thought only of the horror being visited upon the de Bromhead family.
“Imagine getting that news. It’s the worst thing that can happen.”
Waking up on Sunday morning, there it was in black and white on the newspaper. The radio news bulletins confirmed it.
“The teenage jockey who died in Kerry yesterday has been named ...”
It was impossible to focus on anything else. How could something so terrible happen to such a young and innocent person? And how can a family possibly pick themselves up from such a devastating blow? How would you cope?
It will remain one of life’s great mysteries how Henry and Heather de Bromhead managed to write 400 perfectly chosen words last Sunday, telling the world a little bit about the son they had just lost.
Again on Tuesday, Jack’s parents displayed huge inner strength when they spoke so openly and lovingly at the funeral Mass. Maybe we all have that power within us but, please God, we will never have to find out.
It has been a heartbreaking week but there have been some inspiring moments. Henry spoke of how much the family appreciated the support they had received in the last few days. “Every person you meet gives you a little bit more strength,” he said.
Around the world, from America to Australia, racing communities stopped and saluted Jack this week, acknowledging that a very special talent had been taken. He is immortalised in memories, photographs and videos, and lives on in the minds of all of us who have been touched by his story.
His family will miss him hugely. There will be hard days and nights ahead for all of them but better times will come around. Knowing you have the whole world on your side hopefully helps lessen the burden a little bit.
This week the de Bromheads have shown gratitude, love, courage and resilience rather than despair and hopelessness. If they can find a way to move forward with their lives then that is truly inspiring for the rest of us. And that is a good legacy for Jack to have left.
ON September 3rd we said goodbye to our extraordinary, beautiful 13-year-old son, Jack.
A one-of-a-kind child who touched all our lives in the best way possible - he will be forever present in our lives. Always cherished, always loved, frozen in time with a beautiful young soul. He was an amazing son who told us he loved us every day - an over-brimming heart of loyalty, empathy, patience, pluck, courage and how he made us laugh!
Not only the perfect, funny, loving son but also an incredible, loving brother to our beautiful daughters, his twin sister Mia and his little sister, Georgia. He always had their back and was fiercely loyal and kind. Our hearts are truly broken.
He made so many friends wherever he went and they felt his special, unique and loyal touch on their lives too. We ask that they please celebrate and love him as we know he would have wished.
Jack has lived so many more years than the 13. He filled every moment of his days, always busy, forever curious grasping at life and new interests.
The passion he had for his family and friends extended to all his hobbies and interests - too many to fit into 13 years and certainly too busy to spend more than a minute more than he had to in the classroom! “It started with his work on the farm, the tractor, the cattle, the ponies and horses. He was a passionate expert on them all by the time he was 10. By 11 he was offering expert advice and consultation to his father on training horses as he developed his father’s passion for all aspects of racing.
He recently started at a new school and by day two had already made a huge number of new friends to add to all his closest friends from home - Jack’s friendships were of the deep and loyal kind and treasured by him.
Jack, you will be with us always at home in your family and friends’ hearts. Always present, always cherished with so many memories from your packed, extraordinary life.
Deeply loved and missed by your parents, Henry and Heather, your sisters Mia and Georgia, your grandparents Andrew, Marian, Harry and Sally, your aunts and uncles, extended family and friends.
Our precious Jack
“And he will raise you up on eagles’ wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of his hand”
‘Jack was charming and funny, polite yet curious, loving but brave’ – Ruby Walsh pays tribute to Jack de Bromhead followed by a minute’s applause at Leopardstown for the young jockey #rteracing pic.twitter.com/xW19200xjU— RTÉ Racing (@RTEracing) September 10, 2022