Brothers in arms who had magic hands: The late Martin and Tim Molony who swept all before them in the saddle in the 1940s and 1950s
TRIBUTES to the late Martin Molony, who passed away on Monday, will focus on his public life as a jockey – a giant of the Irish and UK racing scene.
But it was in his private life that the man showed true greatness. A wonderful husband to Julia, who died last October aged 78, and a loving father to Peter, Jan, Sue and the late Mary.
“He was an unbelievable husband to my mother. She was in a wheelchair for 40 years. He nursed her and looked after for 40 years – he was incredible to her,” said Peter, who received the sad news that his dad had died while he was in Japan. He dropped everything and was back home in Manister by Tuesday.
Peter was often asked how he felt being introduced as Martin Molony’s son instead of Peter Molony.
“I was so proud of his achievements it never bothered me,” said Peter.
Martin and his late brother Tim swept all before them in the saddle in the 1940s and 1950s. Tim, who died in 1989, was champion jump jockey in Britain five times.
Martin was a six-time champion jump jockey in Ireland, won the Irish Grand National three times and a Cheltenham Gold Cup. He had the rare distinction of being equally successful on the flat, winning three Classics. All this despite the fact he retired at just 26. He rode for many big-name trainers, most notably Vincent O’Brien, while in Britain he was retained by leading jumps owner Lord Bicester.
Martin was on the crest of the wave of success in 1951 when he got a very bad fall at Thurles. The base of his skull was badly fractured and he lay at death’s door for several days. With the racing world at his feet Martin obeyed doctor’s orders and hung up his boots. He subsequently ran Rathmore Stud, which continues to be successfully headed up by his son Peter.
No less a judge than Michael O’Hehir said: “He was truly one of the all-time greats.”
Peter describes his dad, who would have turned 92 on July 21, as an “inspiration”.
“He was obviously an incredible rider. I wasn’t around when he was riding at his peak but immensely proud,” said Peter, who knew at a young age his dad wasn’t like others.
“Every time you met people when I was a child they wanted to shake his hand. I was very lucky that I was interested in the farm and the horses and I used to hang around with him everywhere,” said Peter.
Martin must have been very proud of Peter’s role as Irish representative of superpower owners Qatar Racing and manager of Spring Lodge where he is nurturing their equine stars of the future.
Martin kept saddling up late into his seventies.
“People used to say I was mad to let him ride out but he was actually less likely to get a fall than anyone else – he was just so good. Horses just relaxed the minute he sat on them – it was like magic. He was a horse whisperer, that’s what he was, he didn’t realise it himself but that’s what it was - he had a gift,” said Peter.
In 2014, a gala ball was held in the Dunraven Arms Hotel to honour Martin and Tim. A huge sum was raised for the Injured Jockeys Fund and for a bronze statue of the Molonys. It was unveiled in 2015 in Limerick Racecourse and Martin, a very modest man, was there to see it. Peter said at the time: “He kept asking me why were all the people there and I said they were there for him. It is a smashing statue, he loved it.”
The title of a book written by Guy St John Williams is a fitting one – A Legend in his Lifetime. He wrote: “To the majority of modern racing aficionados Martin Molony constitutes an enigma. He was forced into premature retirement half a century ago. And yet, whenever the merits of jockeys past and present are debated, older observers nod wisely and declare that the likes of Martin Molony has never been seen since.”
Funeral home private on Friday. Removal to St Michael’s Church, Manister at 7.30pm. Requiem Mass on Saturday at noon with burial afterwards in the adjoining cemetery.