The famous Grand National horserace is being run at Aintree this weekend and it's 50 years exactly since the great Mr What won, and I have a particular reason for celebrating the anniversary of his win.
My Great Uncle DAVID 'TONE' JOSEPH COUGHLAN (1898 - 1962) owned the racehorse MR WHAT when it won the Grand National in 1958 and came 3rd in 1959 & 1962, as well as another horse Careys Cottage which came 3rd in 1955. (He had gone to America in 1916 but returned to Ireland in 1938.) Mrs Barbara O’Neill of Rathganny, West Meath bred Mr What and strangely the next Irish winner was L’Escargot in 1975 also bred by Mrs O’Neill. What A Daisy dam of L’Escargot was a 3 parts sister to Mr What. In 1958 he was ridden by Arthur Freeman, the Queen Mothers jockey and won 'at ease' winning by thirty lengths, a record for the National and at odds of 18-1. Another record was the winnings, which amounted to £13,744, the largest prize distributed so far as a first prize.
Mr What was trained by Mr Tom Taaffe in Rathcoole, the grandfather of the present Tom Taaffe, the trainer of 3 horses running in this years National. As a report in the local paper of the time described it 'In Skibbereen town the bookies were disgorging for nearly a fortnight and bookies across Ireland that never in the history of their 'profession' did its members receive such a keelhauling. 'Tone' was the recipient of a gay reception in Skibbereen. A band met his family party at the outskirts of the town and there was a reception held at the West Cork Hotel.'
Mum and Dad sadly hadn't put a bet on, and nor had my great uncle! so they were mightily chagrined when the horse actually won and at such great odds. They had however, told the local milkman who did, and who was cock a hoop at his win. I don't think they ever really got over it :-) Ive found an old newsreel of the race which you can watch below, and very exciting it is too :-)
Since I started studying my family history and genealogy in general I have been trawling the internet for references to this little bit of history and have tracked down a Jacobs biscuit tin and a shot glass on eBay, and photos of my Great Uncles triumphant return to Skibbereen which was printed in the local paper at the time and Mr Whats return to his stables in Rathcoole, it's amazing what one can find with a bit of diligance!
NEW! NEW WEBPAGE DEDICATED TO MR WHAT ON MY WEBSITE - EVEN MORE NOW ON MR WHAT'S WEBPAGE
Are you a Coghlan/Coughlan with roots in Skibbereen, Co.Cork? Then visit my family history WEBSITE and get in touch.
If video link broken watch it on YouTube HERE