Irish Stud Farm

The Snows visited a horse farm during their tour of Ireland. They found the geldings quite tame and got to pet them. 

(Whitney Snow and her mother Barbara Snow of Snow Point near Union Grove are world travelers. They visited Ireland earlier this month. This is Part 2 of Whitney's account of that trip.)

The bus stopped at St. Patrick’s Cathedral so everyone could take photographs. Then we were all taken to the GPO Witness History experiencem which is a museum devoted to the 1916 Easter Rising, the Irish Revolution against the British.

I devoured the displays and learned a great deal. Most of my knowledge on Ireland is of the 16th-19th centuries so I need to make a point to read more about the 20th century. After a couple of hours there, Mrs. McCarthy gave us the afternoon to ourselves.

The bus dropped us off near Trinity College, but we had seen the Book of Kells and the Trinity College library back in 2016.

While we were interested in the Dublinia Museum which is devoted to Viking history, our tour guide had told us we would see plenty of Viking artifacts in Waterford. With that in mind, we set off on foot in an attempt to locate the Natural History Museum.

Amazingly, after many twists and turns, we found it only to see that it did not open for another hour. We moseyed next door to visit the National Gallery of Ireland. The art was lovely.

I think my favorite piece was "The Assumption of Saint Mary Magdalene" by Silvestro del Gheraducci. Once we had toured the gallery, we went next door and looked around the first floor of the Natural History Museum. The second floor was devoted to animals of the world, but the first floor had Irish animals.

Mrs. McCarthy had told us Dublin children refer to the Natural History Museum as “The Dead Zoo.” The museum had wonderful displays. I especially like the seals and the skeletons of the Irish elk.

Pressed for time, Mom and I walked back to where the bus was to pick us up. We still had time so we opted to grab a quick lunch at a pub called J.P. Mooney’s. Mom had the Guinness stew, a special Irish dish, while I had the fish ‘n chips. What can I say? I love seafood, and where I live in north Texas, my main options are BBQ, steak, and Tex-Mex. Whenever I’m near any ocean, I indulge in fresh fish and crustaceans.

After the bus took everyone back to the hotel, we joined about half of the other tour members for an optional evening at Taylor's Three Rock, an Irish cabaret with singing, dancing, and jokes. I had the chicken liver pate, lamb stew, and apple pie before washing it down with a Smithwick’s red ale. Mom had the roast root vegetable soup and the cured loin of bacon.

Then came the entertainment. The headliners were tenor Rob Vickers and comedian Noel Ginnity. We had attended this same cabaret back in 2016, but Mom had really enjoyed it. Hence, our return. I enjoyed the dancing most of all. I thought Vickers a legend in his own mind, still riding the wave of once having played Jean Valjean in London’s West End. I remembered Ginnity being corny, but thought him funnier this time. He said “Snow White and Dopey had a baby—I’m living proof.”

Another of his lines was “I ran out of sick leave so called in dead.” Then he said “You can find the book Men: Master of All Women in the fiction section."

My favorite of his jokes was between a husband and wife. The husband says, “Whatever will you do when I’m gone?” The wife replies, “I’ll probably be acquitted.”

Mom and I split a bottle of Luciente red wine with the Australian sisters and enjoyed conversing with them and the previously mentioned Connie and Steve. It was a fun night and was had a lot of “craic,” Gaelic for fun. That evening, I still had trouble sleeping so continued watching movies.

On Tuesday morning, we breakfasted and then boarded the bus at 8 a.m. As we left Dublin, I snapped a few photos of the Guinness Storehouse. As the bus ambled along the countryside, I tried to photograph various sheep and saw spruce tree farms.

Our destination was the Irish National Stud in Tully. While there, we were given a tour by one of the employees who regaled us with tales of founder William Hall Walker (1856-1933) who was something of a stud himself, having fathered 63 illegitimate children. While known for being a devil-may-care playboy, he was also a renowned astrologer.

He would decide whether to keep or sell a foal based on its star chart. Many of his peers ridiculed this method but miraculously, it appeared to work. According to a sign near his statue on the grounds, “In the 10 year period of 1904-1914, there were seven Classic winners bred at Tully including Minoru (Derby and 2000 Guineas), Prince Palatine (St. Leger and Ascot Gold Cup) and Cherry Lass (Oaks and 1,000 Guineas).”

The on-site guide showed us the stalls, and we got to see a stallion named Free Eagle whose stud fee is 12,500 euros. As we walked through the Japanese Gardens, also established by Walker, the guide explained that the stallions were always kept apart as if in close proximity, they would try to kill one another.

During the spring season, she said each stallion mated four times a day.

As we walked through the gardens, we came to a copy of a cone-shaped monastic cell, and it was rather striking. Nearby was a “Worry plaque” with a place for visitors to place their hand. It read, “I can take your worries away. Whatever’s on your mind today. Breathe deeply and believe in me. Walk tall, for now you’re worry-free.”

At long last, the guide showed us the mares and foals. Twelve days after a foal is born, its mother is bred again. Right down the way was a field of the geldings and as they were quite friendly, we were allowed to pet them. I petted one called Hurricane Fly, a prize-winning hurdler. We were then given about 30-45 minutes to explore the Japanese Gardens on our own and I took myriad photographs of brightly colored flowers. 

Next, the bus stopped at Kilkenny where we toured the Smithwick’s Experience, a brewing tour and beer tasting. We were educated on the history of this particular red ale and got to see how it was made. In one room, we learned about the lives of the various owners, and we gazed at their portraits. For an instance, I thought jet-lag was catching up to me as I could have sworn I saw a subject’s eyes move. Soon, some subjects were winking, smiling, and even talking and telling us about themselves. The portraits turned out to be cool holograms which spoke about the life experiences of each subject. 

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