JP McManus, John Magnier and Barney Curley pay respects to Limerick bloodstock agent

Donal O'Regan


Donal O'Regan

The late Frank Barry at the Tattersalls Ireland sales in Fairyhouse in 2010

The late Frank Barry at the Tattersalls Ireland sales in Fairyhouse in 2010

THE LATE Frank Barry was revered in all circles - whether it be in the parade ring of Royal Ascot or in his local parish.

It is a rare man that can be at home in any company but that was Frank. The bloodstock agent and owner of Manister House Stud passed away peacefully after a short illness on Wednesday, June 6.

Frank, aged 83, had a long association with many prominent owners and trainers throughout his career. 

His standing in the Irish and Limerick horse racing community was reflected by those who paid their respects at his removal and requiem Mass - JP McManus, John Magnier and Barney Curley to name but a few. The legendary gambler from Tyrone flew in especially to say prayers at his bedside and did a reading at the funeral Mass.

Luke Barry, who carries on the family business at Manister House Stud with continued success, said his father and Barney were very close friends. 

“The two of them would have palled around for 50 years. He would have been an adviser to a number of people when buying horses. One of those was Barney Curley,” said Luke. 

Frank recommended two Gold Cups winners to Barney in Silver Buck and Forgive N’Forget. On the flat, the great Kevin Prendergast and Frank bought a lot of very good horses together. 

According to Leo Powell in the Irish Field, there was no better advertisement for their judgement than for an outlay of €70,000 at the Goffs Sportsman’s Sale 10 years ago they purchased the 2009 Group 1 winning juveniles Termagant and Kingsfort. Links were also forged with leading trainers Mick O’Toole and John Mulhern

Other famous owners that he advised included John Magnier, Lord Iveagh and Lady O’Reilly. Frank and JP McManus were great friends and go back a very long time. They used to go racing a lot together in the early days and the two families remain close to this day.

Frank is a Limerick man through and through. His great grandfather was former lord mayor, coroner and high sheriff, James J Barry. 

Frank lived in a number of different places - Janesboro, Ennis Road, before settling down in Manister in 1978 with beloved wife Liz. They had one son Luke and adored their grandchildren - Alex, Freya and Petra. Luke’s wife Rebecca became the daughter Frank never had because he was so fond of her.

Frank loved living in the countryside and he was much-loved in the parish. 

In his death notice, donations in lieu of flowers were asked to go to the Injured Jockeys Fund or Direct Aid for Africa (DAFA) - the charity set up by Curley.

Luke said his father had a strong involvement with racing all his life and owned many racehorses. 

“If he had any opportunity he liked to support the Injured Jockeys Fund because he had such a strong interest in racing but he would have also liked to support DAFA. It’s a wonderful charity. All the money goes to Africa. Barney pays all the administration expenses,” said Luke.

It is a hard question to ask any man - but how would Luke describe his father.

“Very popular, well-liked and he made the most of life. He can have no regrets. He had a great quality of life until the week before he passed. He was not one for the limelight, he loved to be in the background and be involved in everything. He would have been as good a loser as he was a winner. 

“He was always very kind and very quick to help out. He always wanted to help those around him and give the younger man a leg up,” said Luke.

One man who will testify to that is Bryan Murphy, of the Dunraven Arms Hotel.

“I came here in 1977 but I got to know Frank straight away. He was extremely helpful to me. I rode points to points for Frank in the early days,” said Bryan, who vividly remembers a win in Tralee in the early 1980s.

“I have a picture of it at home. It was a maiden hurdle and it was a horse called Monister. It was owned by Frank and Gerry Neville. They had a serious gamble and he won at a canter - I think he won by about 10 lengths!” recalled Bryan.

The hotelier describes Frank as a very quiet, unassuming man, a great judge of a horse and extremely helpful to everybody. 

“We have a stud farm outside the village in Clonshire and I would often invite him over to look through the horses and give me advice. He had a natural eye for a horse. He was fiercely talented, he literally bought all the yearlings for Kevin Prendergast on the Curragh. He was highly regarded in the bloodstock industry” said Bryan. 

Frank was at the sales up to a few months ago and his absence there is keenly felt.

The two men were great friends and Bryan said Frank’s passing is a huge loss to the horse racing community, but especially to his son, Luke.

One of countless acts of kindness by Frank was visiting Michael English every Sunday when he was in the TB sanitorium in the city some 60 years ago.

“He lived in the Ennis Road and as I was from the country, visitors were scarce. He would bring me oranges and bananas,” said Michael, a horse owner from Hospital.

“Frank was a character - a lovely man. He had a great turn of phrase,” he continued.

Michael said Frank was one of a legendary group of six friends.

“There was former mayor, Jack Bourke; Stuart Clein, of Munster Metal; Michael “Brud” Condon, who had a pharmacy in Hospital; Dermot Foley, he had a pharmacy on O’Connell Street; Pat O’Connor, butcher on William Street and my brother Tom English, former manager of the Savoy. 

“Every one of them was a better character than the next. They were great storytellers, you could listen to them forever. They were great buddies. Frank was the last of them,” said Michael.

May he rest in peace.