By Eamonn MurphyThe Kilkenny Foxhounds have a great tradition going back to 1797 when it was formed by Sir John Power of Kilfane and the kennels have been at Mount Juliet since 1921 when Dermot McCalmont took over the hounds from Isaac Bell. .
However their point-to-point on Sunday (February 27th), which begins at 1pm in Kilbline, Bennettsbridge, will be tinged with sadness for many of those that will be in attendance, following the death of a member of the host family, George Williams (junior) in a tragic accident last September.
The popular 37-year-old died while cutting down trees with a chainsaw at Norelands Stud, beside Mount Juliet. A father of two, George was a tremendous sportsman and he excelled in a number of disciplines including hockey and rugby.
Clerk of the course Nicholas Lambert said: "When the golf course was built at Gowran Park in 1999, we moved to Bramblestown. We were four years there and in 2004 we went to Williams'. The land now where the point-to-point is staged at Kilbline in Bennettsbridge belongs to George and Mabel Williams and family. Their son George (junior) was tragically killed last autumn. It was a dreadful thing, absolutely dreadful.
"He was a huge supporter of ours. He was very helpful with setting it up, the course and everything else. He was a very nice fellow too.
"We organised with the Williams family that there would be a tribute to George on the front page of the racecard this year.
"Before it went to Gowran Park racecourse (about 1960) it was at Woollengrange (at Oldtown before that again) which is the other side of Bennettsbridge to the current course. That was the last banks course in Kilkenny.
- Great effort
© Healy Racing Photos"Jim Murphy is the point-to-point secretary and the O'Donnell family (owners of Bramblestown) have been hugely influential – Kevin senior would have ridden a lot of winners. Indeed all the O'Donnell family would have ridden plenty of winners at Kilkenny point-to-points and they were always very deeply involved with it.
"Charlie Farrell (a successful owner with Mag Mullins) also does huge work on the track and he does the scales on the day.
"We are lucky in the Kilkennys to have people like the O'Donnells and the Farrells. They have a great love of point-to-pointing so they always row in and help.
- Plenty of organising needed
"I am very much a hunting man but there are a lot of hunts that would say that there are easier ways of making money than point-to-points.
"Between raising sponsorship, getting sponsorship and everything else and then organising everything that has to be done – getting doctors to come, vets to come, all the things that have to be done to have the day run smoothly.
"We use Billy O'Brien's fences and Pat O'Connell's aprons. We've been doing the same since we left Gowran Park."
- Good horses
"The best horse we've had since we went to Williams' was Tranquil Sea who won his four-year-old with us.
"Royal De La Thinte won in Bennettsbridge last year and funnily enough the horse that's beaten him the last twice on the track – Quito De La Roque of Colm Murphys won at our autumn meeting at Milltown in Kilmacow.
- Milltown in Kilmacow South Kilkenny
"We do the Milltown meeting as a charity meeting with the Kilmacow camogie club and a residential nursing home (Rosedale) down in the Kilmacow area as well.
"It would basically be the same people that run both meetings.
"Peadar Kelly is the landowner at Milltown and he is very much part of the orgainising team there.
"That meeting gets very well-supported. Last autumn was our fourth year there and it is working out really well for us. It's all in one field and it is a great track.
- Very Lucky
"We are very lucky in Kilkenny between Peadar Kelly and the Williams family – we have two great landlords and two smashing tracks.
"I haven't been out hunting myself much lately but since the weather took up at the end of January I think they've had some really good fun. The hounds have been hunting really well." .