Connemara and its Ponies 1969

Documentary by David Shaw Smith                  Scroll down for pics.  For caption move cursor on pic.

♦   Madeleine Beckman of the Carnaby Stud  in Sweden has very kindly answered a query which has generated some comments (see below on this page).   Going to her website I find this very clear picture of Thunderbolt (see 2nd last pic in Gallery below) taken in Connemara in 1975.   That is 6 years after his  name appeared in the 1969 Clifden Show book which shows Mikey King with a distinctly ‘white’ pony.   (See rearing stallion in the centre of the Picture Gallery.)  Madeleine, thank you, I hope you did not mind me using your picture to illustrate the different ponies involved.

David Shaw Smith 2011

This short film features Connemara people, their lifestyle and their ponies and depicts a wondrous unspoilt landscape and a half-forgotten rural daily life of over forty years ago.

The filmmaker of the later “Hands” series brought to this film his deep love of the landscape and his empathy with its inhabitants and produced a picturesque and evocative work, with scenes of rare birds, wildflowers, gambolling rabbits and fox-cubs set against a background of the ever-crashing Atlantic seas. The late night birth of a foal, one of the first to be recorded on film, is followed by pictures of a scampering healthy foal with its dam, a day or two later. He records the partnership of farmer and work-pony, either gathering and transporting seaweed for use as fertilizer, cutting and transporting turf, cutting corn, or saving the hay. Usually there is a foal trotting alongside, which will be sold before Winter to provide a little extra much-needed income for the family.

Padraig O’Raghallaigh, reads the script penned by Lord Killanin – for many years a President of the Connemara Pony Breeders Society. Noel Kelehan’s specially composed music complements the film work and Sally Shaw Smith is responsible for sound and art work. We see former Connemara Breeders Society Council Members such as Donal Kenny and Michael O’Connell at Inspections, and at Clifden Show you will spot breeders of the era – some no longer with us, showing their ponies, as well as some well-known judges of the day. As a Connemara pony fan you will want to view this film over and over so you can contact   to secure a copy. Or contact David Shaw Smith at “Hands”, Ballyglass, Claremorris, Co. Mayo. To brouse the website visit

Gratitude is due to Joan Hawkins, Kevin Bolger and Padraig Hynes who helped with identities.

p.s. If you know the name of the rearing stallion with Mikey King, please tell!!

The 2011 issue of An Capaillín will hopefully carry an extended version of this piece with some different pictures. Due out before the Connemara Pony Spring Festival in March 2012.

13 thoughts on “Connemara and its Ponies 1969

  1. Fabulous! Do you think there will be any for sale during the Spring Weekend in Clifden? I think many people would be interested to buy… And what about a screening for the spring visitors?!


    1. Hello Satu,
      I could hardly believe that there were 919 viewings of the Blog, mainly the Connemara and its Ponies Documentary piece, yesterday !!. Why don’t you make your suggestions to the Society about the Spring weekend.? They would probably need to contact the Shaw Smiths, but I like your ideas. I hope we meet again in March.
      Best wishes, Niamh


    2. Hello Satu
      Did you get any response from the CPBS ? the filmakers are ready to provide film and personal commentary during the Spring Festival.
      Regards, Niamh


  2. The stallion with Mikie ”Whitehead” King is a very young Tunderbolt.That show is a very special one for all at Kingstown Ponies as Dad got first and second in the filly foal class.We have the Catalogue for the show at home in Clifden so if you need any more help let me know.Regards John Gorham


    1. Good to hear from you John. Was there more than one Thunderbolt ? I saw that name in a borrowed 1969 Catalogue but thought Thunderbolt was a light dun colour, and the Catalogue was mistaken. I then read in Pat Lyne’s book that he was registered as dark chestnut, in later life he became mottled, then white with a black mane and tail. He was foaled in 1963 so would have been 6 at this show. I you are sure he is Thunderbolt I will of course add that to the caption Could that have been his son Thundercloud?


  3. Not 100% Niamh but my two sources are the catalougue from 1969 and Mrs Petchs book history of the CPBS 1923-1998 .This too lists Thunderbolt with Mickie King in 1969.Hope this helps. Regards John


  4. To my opinion the rearing stallion in Clifden is not THUNDERBOLT. He was much darker at the time, his mane and tail were dark brownish. If you know the man is Mikey King the stallion may be DOON PADDY (the head reminds me about him) and the photo from 1970..?


  5. PS. Please click on my name leading to our website (Carnaby Connemaras), in our stallion’s pedigree you will find a photo from 1975 of Thunderbolt “at home” in Claddaghduff. /Madeleine


    1. Hello Madeleine
      Thank you for your very helpful information re. Thunderbolt. If you would rather I had not published the very good clear photo I found in your site, I can delete it. Thank you for caring enough to send the information. Best wishes, Niamh


    2. I think you are right Madeleine about it not being Tunderbolt.(too white). Also if the show in question was 1970 Mikie King did have Doon Paddy so you may be right there also.I should remember this as I was at that show(but I was only 4 at the time so its a little fuzzie) John Gorham


  6. We have a stunning gelding called Lady’s Comet his dad is Crusheen Comet and his mum is Lafy Avril. I can’t find any photos at all for Lady Avril we would love to have a picture of her Xx We would be ever so grateful best wishes Linda


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