YOU can’t miss the sign at Fergie McGuire’s, the owner of Fergie’s Bar in Kilmessan, as in large letters it proudly announces the bar as, ‘The Home of Hurling and Camogie’. In this heartland of Gaelic Football his pub has a gallery of outstanding achievements in this small village. It reminded me of being brought up hurling in East Galway where, like Kilmessan, we had no Gaelic Football. The local Kilmessan hurling team have won 29 titles, but their finest hour was when they won the Intermediate Hurling Championship, remarkably beating the Kilkenny club Éire Óg in 2008. Fergie is a keen cyclist and with double Rás Tailteann (distance 767km and 14 climbs) winner Philip Cassidy they have raised over €70,000 for Suicide Prevention by cycling the length of Portugal (500km). On the morning of the hunt, Joan was dispensing all types of sustenance to the followers young and not so young.

On a sad note, the passing of Judith MacMahon, wife of the late Lt Col Ronnie MacMahon and daughters Emily and Clare in nearly Lambertstown will be a huge loss to equestrian activity in the area (see tribute page 98).

Kilmessan Railway Station

The railway station is now The Station House Hotel, a boutique hotel that is popular for weddings. But the station has strong equestrian connections, as from its inception in 1862, hunting and racing specials connected Dublin and Meath, and hunt followers booked carriages for their hunters to be transported with their grooms to meets of the Tara Harriers, Meath Foxhounds, Ballymacad Foxhounds and the Ward Union Staghounds. The carriages had a compartment for grooms and kennels for hounds.

I remember when I interviewed European Show Jumping Champion Iris Kellett, she recalled how they booked carriages for their hunters on the Hunt Special, hacking the horses from their base on Mespil Road in Ballsbridge through the city of Dublin to Amiens Street and Kingsbridge Stations depending on where they were hunting. This is how horses were transported to the Dublin Horses Show as well, and I recall Betty Galway-Greer telling me that her father, Nat, who has the record of 10 Supreme Hunter Championships, transported his horses by train.

James Cottin and William Tully at Fergie's Bar at the Tara Harriers meet in Kilmessan \ Noel Mullins

An Experienced Organisation

The Tara Harriers have gone from strength to strength as they have maintained a blend of seasoned masters with additional masters, all who have excelled in their individual fields. Joint-master Henry Smith has been master for 42 seasons and huntsman for 22 seasons. Lorraine McDowell, a third generation Briscoe who inherited the pack from Lord Tara, has been master for 32 seasons, and they have been joined in the mastership by Larry Cunningham, Bryan Maher and John Moran of Bective Stud.

Sabine Dowdall is kennel huntsman doubling up as whipper-in as well. She has had a good education as her late father, Terry, was kennel huntsman and hunted the pack over 35 seasons as did her grandfather also for 35 seasons. Sabine whipped into her father for two seasons, eventually taking over as kennel huntsman, and celebrates 24 seasons with the Taras making the combined Dowdall family years looking after the pack at 94 seasons! She has great support from the masters, her brother and sister, Christopher and Yvonne, as well as her niece Kate Hegarty and Billy Kavanagh. Although they had a compact pack of 11 and a half couple of bitches out including three and a half couple of new entry by Meath Driver, in the first covert they sounded like a pack of double their numbers, they made such a resounding sweet sound. That only comes from careful breeding, and can often take years to accomplish, so they have to be complimented for such a remarkable achievement. Whipper-in Peter King has been side-lined with an injury but everyone looks forward to seeing him back very soon. On the day, farrier Michael McAteer and Jimmy Coyle were honorary countrymen


Jimmy Coyle did not need to unload Henry Smith’s hunter, Galileo, as the 20-year-old seasoned hunter knows when to climb on and off the ramp on his own, and stands quietly to be tacked up. Jimmy Coyle is a former jockey having ridden horses like Pride of Eireann, placed 58 times from 62 starts, Fast Lazer, Crowned River in the La Touche at Punchestown and The Mole. He also rode at Cheltenham and was runner-up to Pat Taaffe on one occasion. He also rode for Archie Watson and worked for art dealer and racehorse owner Daniel Wildenstein, well-known author of books on artist Edouard Manet. Wildenstein won four Prix de l’Arcs and Jimmy worked for him when he owned Killeen Stud in the 1960s.

Barry O’Brien-Lynch won the Skijoring event at Calgary in 2023 with Susan Oakes riding a Quarter Horse, and they are going back again in March to defend their title. With no snow they will practice with a tractor towing him along the beach!

Larry Cunningham and Cepta Finnegan-Marchant were on two hunters by Jack and Ann Lambert’s Killinick Bouncer that Jack himself hunted.

Also hunting were honorary treasurer David Patton, Lisa McDowell, Steven Dillon (who looks after the hunt’s social media), Ashling and Sadie O’Dowd, James Hyland, 11-year-old James Cottin on Harvey and William Tully who were taking a well-earned break from school and James’ mother, Irene Oakes.

Ready for the day were Robert Guilten, Gerry Tully, Hallie Crowe on a smashing dun Connemara, Stephanie and Martin Horan, Dave Hyland, Kevin Tully, Louis Doyle, and farrier Ben McAteer who is the sixth farrier in family.


The pack crossed the bridge over the old Kilmessan Railway line into the stubble in McBride’s where the huntsman drew the ditches towards the Swamp and Ennistown Stud. As soon as they reached the Old Railway line hounds had a fox up and running. It was remarkable that with 11 and a half couple the extraordinary power of their voices, easily one of the best I have experienced all season, was a real pleasure to listen to. He ran the railway line first and then crossed into Jack Smith’s and over Fergie McGuire’s where his hunters were having a day off but they tracked the pack with their heads, ears pricked but no panic.

He then headed towards Robbie Dennehy’s, who was hunting on his white hunter, as the fox did a circle eventually going to ground under the Hungry Bridge close to Rath Maeve built between 2,000 and 1,500 BC. Maeve (meaning Intoxicator), a Celtic goddess, was said to have been a wife or lover to nine successive Kings of Tara!

The huntsman moved on and drew along the Skane River towards Quinn’s and crossed the lane into Sheridan’s Pheasant Runs which kept the followers moving as there was another downpour. When they crossed the road into Ann Curtis’ the pack were on song again pressing him hard up along the ditches over the road into Nigel Crowe’s where he went to ground.

The huntsman moved quickly along through Paddy Reynold’s tillage farm and Ward Union joint-master, Gerry Reynolds, which took them to Damien Murray’s where the pack were flying again on a fox making melodious music which made them easy to follow. He ran a circle and back through David Farrell’s and Reynold’s under the ancient Hill of Tara’ the seat of the High Kings of Ireland after the Stone Age and made famous during from 600BC to 400 AD with Saint Patrick visiting there in the 5th Century. Equestrian commentator, author and journalist Michael Slavin is the expert as he has written a number of books on the subject which are available in his Tara Bookshop on the Hill which is well worth a visit.

The final draw at Francis Steen’s yielded nothing so they crossed country through McAuley’s back to the meet.

Fergie’s Bar is famous for its food and the followers had the benefit of a fine display to choose from, as well as an open fire which helped to dry off all those that got caught in the downpours during the afternoon.

History of Hunt

Founded in 1760 by Lord Tara known as the Bellinter Harriers. When John Preston, the last Lord Tara died in 1870, the pack was left to G.V. Briscoe, great grandfather of current masters Henry Smith and Lorraine McDowell, on the understanding that the hunt no longer be known as the Bellinter Harriers, so the name was changed to the Tara Harriers


Chairman - Eugene O’Reilly

Masters - Henry Smith, Lorraine McDowell, Bryan Maher, John Moran, Eugene O’Reilly, Larry Cunningham

Huntsman - Henry Smith

Kennel Huntsman - Sabine Dowdall

Whippers-In - Sabine Dowdall and Peter King

Honorary Secretary - John Moran and Louise Daly

Honorary Treasurer - David Patton

PR and Social Media - Steven Dillon