Death of Master M'Grath

The legend of Master M'Grath is sustained in part by mystery surrounding his death and burial. Many believe he was poisoned; others will tell you that he strained his heart in his gallant efforts in bringing the Waterloo Cup to Ireland on three occasions. But no one can say just where he is buried. Mr. Pax Whelan of Abbeyside, Dungarvan, speaking to 'The Irish Weekly Examiner' in 1978 who revealed a very valuable document. It is part of a letter written in 1931 by Lord Lurgan, son of the Lord Lurgan whose name is synonymous with Master McGrath. It was written to P.N.B. Galwey Foley, grandnephew of James Galwey- Foley who bred and "owned" the dog.

The Lord Lurgan of the period in his historic letter states: "I knew and remember your granduncle, James Galwey-Foley of Colligan Lodge, Dungarvan very well and he used to come and stay at Brownlow House when I was a mere boy. Furthermore, I regarded him as the real sponsor to my father regarding coursing. Sad news. You may not be aware that Master McGrath died during the Christmas holidays. It was a Sunday night at 9 o'clock. The trainer came down from the kennels to say the dog was very ill. As my father was at Windsor Castle - he was Lord-in. Waiting to Queen Victoria at the time, I rushed out to the kennels and actually saw the great dog die. I had to wire the sad news to my father in the morning. Of course, you are probably aware how the book-maker who originally did my father's commission in the first Waterloo Cup won by Master McGrath had the dog doped by his trainer on the only occasion when Master McGrath was defeated. Afterwards, the trainer admitted the whole transaction. He died soon afterwards."

This is very important as it throws some new light on the contentious incident in the Waterloo Cup of 1870 when the dog was defeated. As regards where the great Black is buried, this remains a debated question also. Bury St. Edmunds is mentioned, so is Colligan, Dungarvan and, of course, Brownlow. But the mystery remains. His owner-ship is also a mystery. He won his first stakes in James Galwey Foley's ownership and his first Waterloo Cup was won in his ownership also but in Lord Lurgan's nomination. The one point which is certain, Galwey was the dominating personality in what is best described as a sporting partnership and I suppose that we can decide the ownership by saying, the dog was 'The darling of Ireland'."

Lord Lurgan's letter continued: "This much is certain. The great dog was bred by James Galwey-Foley at Colligan Lodge, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford and won three Waterloo Cups in the years 1868, 1869, and 187l. The end of the story is told by a distinguished Master of Science who was superintendent at the post-mortem. An attack of pneumonia, affecting the lungs which were already diseased was the cause of death. The end was a short and painful struggle. We call Master McGrath 'lion-hearted' and a curious coincidence of the post-mortem was that his heart was found to be twice the size of an average greyhound. For generations to come, coursing men will narrate his history. And when the men of the present day have passed away, his achievements will remain green and unfaded in many chronicles of the leash."

There is no doubt the statement of Lord Lurgan that the history of Master McGrath would never fade. Indeed even the song about the great Black seems to endure. However, to add to the mysteries of Master McGrath, the monument which stands outside the town of Dungarvan at the junction where the Cappoquin road and the CIonmel road meet remains another matter of considerable debate today. No one knows who did this beautiful sculpture of the dog. Pax Whelan, again speaking in 1978, and who had long associations with the Irish Coursing Club, told the 'Irish Weekly Examiner' that while it was generally believed the sculpture was done by someone in Kilkenny, no one knew for sure who did it.

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