Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Ballybar Race Course

Carlow Races


First three Illustrations taken from the Illustrated London News 1850.

Google Street image of what is left of the original Race Stand

OSi map of Ballybar race course showing the sand bank, the stand and the area of the course.

Photo taken of Carlow Races at Ballybar course May 1887.
Source: Frankie Cole.

The Ballybar (or Carlow) races ran at least from the 1760's. They were a significant event in the County Carlow racing calendar. In August 1846, the opening of the Great Southern and Western Railway was brought forward in order to accommodate race-goers.

In later years special trains were run on which race horses as well as spectators were accommodated. The Ballybar races did not run continuously. They were revived following an absence of some years, in 1861. Captain D.W. Pack Beresford chaired a meeting in the Club House Hotel, which re-established the races.

The events of race day were graphically described in the "Carlow Sentinel" of 14th September 1861. It was reported "On arriving at the course a very gay scene presented itself. To those unacquainted with the locality, the beauties of the surrounding country with its hills and dales, and many and richly-tinted foliage would amply repay a visit. Thousands of spectators occupied the rising ground in the centre of the course, the stand house, and every other available spot from which there was a good view.

On the space apposite the winning post, a large number of private cars and carriages were drawn up. Some perches to the rear, a line of tents were erected, facing the stand-house, and on the opposite extremity of the course there was another row of tents, "theatres," and an almost endless number of thimble riggers, roulette tables, "Aunt Sallies" and stands of every description, where vendors of cooked meats, vegetables, fruits, and other eatables, were kept busy attending to the creature wants of their numerous customers." The meeting took place over two days. The event was well conducted and as reported "there was no drunken persons to be seen".

A large contingent of police ensured that the proceedings were orderly right up to the "closing of the tents" at six o'clock in the evening. However not everything went to plan.

A horse owner wrote to the Carlow Sentinel to complain of an un-savory incident, which occurred during the race meeting. The letter was issued in the Carlow Sentinel 19th October 1861.

Source: Carlow County Library

Image: 'Betting on the Favourite' from Wikipedia

Carlow Races 1846

A reporter from the Carlow Sentinel wrote about the near completion of the railroad from Carlow to Dublin, in July 1846, commenting that " the progress of the works has been rapid and effectual." He also wrote that "it leaves little doubt that in a few days the communication will be open for the public to the metropolis."

The Sentinel continued:

"On Monday last we visited the works along the line from the station-house, a distance of three miles, and enjoyed an excursion of unmixed pleasure; first, in witnessing as busy a scene as it is possible to imagine, only to be compared to the operations of a beehive and also in viewing the beautiful and picturesque scenery which embellishes the environs of our town. We are bold to say that tourists travelling to Carlow by the railroad at such a season as the present will partake of much gratification, as it would be, indeed, rare to find a country of equal richness and luxuriant beauty such as that from Carlow to Athy displays".

When the "splendid railroad has been completed, ?..a greater accession of company may be expected to attend the course, and the directors will have the satisfaction of opening their line with a prospect of full trains during this week of amusement and glee".

The Sentinel continued with a description of the races during the three day meeting. "On the first day there will be four races first, the gold cup for county Carlow bred horses; for this race three prime nags will come to the post next, the Carlow stakes, for which there are 24 entries, 14 of which will contend for a clear 300 then there are the Tullow Hunt Stakes, and the half-bred stakes, for each of which there are numerous horses in training, perhaps not so well known to fame as their more distinguished confreres of the Curragh, yet still when well matched, capable of affording equal amusement".

"On the second day there will be three capital races; first, the County Plate, for which we have been informed several nags have been purchased under the rose; next, the Ballybar Stakes eleven horses to start; and last, not least in interest, the Ladies' Purse, or Carlow Corinthians this is a good 'take up', and we expect there will be a large entry for it".

"The third day will open with the Railway Plate, and for which the sporting gentry were indebted to the liberality of the Dublin and Cashel Railway company, and we only express the universal feeling of our neighbours when we say, we trust the spirited company may reap an ample return for their kindness and liberality.

The Farmer's Stakes is next on the list; and the Selling Stakes will wind up the sports of the day. This we consider a first rate bill of fare, one rarely equalled at a provincial meeting; and when we contemplate the many inducements afforded by a splendid race course, ample sport, first-rate accommodation; the gratification of beholding scenery of surpassing richness and beauty, and a boundless population, powerful, prosperous, and happy, we freely indulge the confident hope that our race meeting will prove one of the most brilliant in the kingdom; but we ought to apologise to our fair readers for omitting to mention what to them may not be the least interesting of the amusements namely, the Ball; for this there are active preparations in progress, painting and embellishing the rooms; and, knowing how highly popular the stewards are, we do not hesitate to promise them a brilliant and fashionable assembly".

Source: Carlow County Library (Carlow Sentinel, July 4th, 1846.) 

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