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.
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
Image: 'Betting on
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
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 equaled 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
apologies 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
Source: Carlow County
Library (Carlow Sentinel, July 4th, 1846.)
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