History of The Curragh


History of The Curragh

There are stories told that from the very first race that took place on the Curragh around the 1700’s, which was recorded by Cherney’s racing calendar in 1727.

The word “Curragh” means place of the running horse. As early as the third century there was chariot racing on the Curragh. This is well documented. The Irish turf club was founded in the coffee rooms in Kildare and it was soon established as the governing body for horse racing throughout Ireland.

From Celtic Warrior to Celtic Tiger

From Celtic Warrior to Celtic Tiger – a look back at the Curragh over the centuries

In 1865 a commission was set up by the house of parliament to examine the Curragh, and the resultant 1868 Curragh of Kildare act settled the right of common pasture, and preserved the use of the Curragh for the purpose of horse racing and training. The total area of the Curragh was defined as 4870 acres, and the management of the Curragh was vested in the office of a ranger. The 1870 Curragh of Kildare act dealt with grazing rights and specified that only sheep could be grazed on the Curragh.

Following the treaty of 1921 the lands passed from the British crown to the minister for finance, and later to the minister of defence and his department, under the Curragh of Kildare acts, now administers them.

The Curragh of Kildare act of 1961 repealed the 1868 act and parts of the 1870 act, and allowed for the enclosure of parts of the Curragh, and the attendant extinguishment of sheep grazing rights.

In 1964 the minister for Defence introduced a set of bye laws which were statuary instruments providing for further regulation in the use and management of the Curragh. Basically these were a practical list of “do’s and don’ts” relating to the Curragh. The Curragh of Kildare act of 1969 extended the 1961 act and incorporated many of the 1964 byelaws, thereby putting them on the statute book.

The Curragh Plains

The area of the Curragh Plains is recognised as one of the oldest natural grasslands in Europe. It is a recorded monument under the National Monuments Act, being designated a Special Environment.

It now comprises 4,870 acres. It is divided into three areas and identified as follows –

  1. Brownlands, an area of 771 acres and includes all built up areas and is designated for the exclusive use of the Irish Military.
  2. Bluelands, an area of 815 acres is allocated as Ranges and Danger Areas.
  3. Greenlands, the largest area, comprises of 3284 acres, 817 acres of which is controlled by the Turf Club. The Irish Military retain manoeuvring and exercise rights in this area. It is an historical military assembly and training area. Its ancient name of ‘Cuirreach Life’ would suggest that at one time it extended to the banks of the River Liffey. In pre- Christian times it was the site of Aonach Life, a gathering of all the people of the Kingdom of Leinster.

The Danes passed along the plains on more than one occasion, as they raided and plundered the monasteries of Kildare. The Curragh was the place chosen by Richard Talbot, Earl of Tyreconnell to prepare his Army for the cause of James II.

The end of the 18th Century saw the 1798 Rebellion. During this rebellion at the Gibbet Rath, 350 rebels were massacred by the forces of General Duff.

Wellington passed through the Curragh on his way to the peninsular wars. It was the Crimean War (1855-1856) which led to the construction of the first permanent camp at the Curragh while in the early 1900’s the present structure of the camp began to appear. Queen Victoria visited the Curragh in 1861 to visit her son the Prince of Wales (Edward VII), who was serving in the Curragh and to inspect troops..

The Irish Bloodstock Industry

The Curragh is at the heart of the Irish bloodstock industry, and due to an enlightened and supportive approach by the department of defence, the management of the Turf Club , and the expertise of our trainers, the Curragh training grounds have developed into a world-renowned training centre, and a major source of employment, using indigenous skills and talents.

In addition to the training stables mentioned earlier, numerous large stud farms, including the National stud, have developed on the fringes of the Curragh with the consequent spin off effect into the local economy. Approximately 26% of the horses trained in Ireland are trained on the Curragh, and it is not unreasonable to apply the same percentage to employment levels.

Horses trained on the Curragh have won major races world wide in countries as diverse as England, France, Germany, Hong Kong, America, Canada, and Australia with both 1993 Melbourne Cup winner Vintage Crop and Media Puzzle, winner of the same race in 2002, both trained by Dermot Weld on the Curragh. Other recent notable Curragh successes include world champion Sea The Stars, Champion Hurdle winner Hardy Eustace, Epsom Derby winner Sinndar, Alamshar and Grey Swallow, both winners of the Irish Derby, Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Davy Lady together with Breeders Cup winner Ridgewood Pearl

Click here to go to Curragh Training Grounds.