Tully Grey, a family tale

Tully Grey 1957 – 1988  

Tully Grey and Evelyn Harold, RDS Dublin 1963
Tully Grey and Evelyn Harold, RDS Dublin 1963

Tully Grey was by Tully Lad X Cait Ni Guidhir and was bred by Paraic O’Cathain of Carna.  Mountain Lad and Connemara Boy were both in his pedigree, as were Droighnean Donn and  Winnie Nee.   The  13.2 stallion was a major star of the Irish pony show-jumping scene in the 1960’s and ’70’swith the Longford daughters of Tom Harold.  The  picture of Evelyn Harold jumping Tully Grey to victory at the RDS in 1963  features on the booklet cover  of the 2013 Bartley O’Sullivan Lecture, titled “Performance and the Connemara Pony”.   This  Presentation was given at the Spring Connemara Pony Festival in Clifden – fifty years later by myself – and I had no hesitation in selecting this photo to illustrate the booklet.  Tully Grey was perfect for the job.  So I was absolutely delighted when Bernie Harold agreed just this week to pen a moving profile of their family and Tully Grey.     P.S.  Tully Grey, through his son Dale Haze (ex Abbeyleix Bluebird) and grandson Hazy Dawn, has led to the spread of a powerful European and  Irish extended family with the numerous Fredericksminde stallions and mares, the Laerkens and Skousbou ponies, and including Moy Hazy Cove.  This branch of the Green line, extending from Mountain Lad, has in recent times become a formidable family in the Showing rings of Europe.
Over to Bernie:

Tully Grey with Thomas Harold & Tommy McDonagh, c.1960
Tully Grey with Thomas Harold & Tommy McDonagh, c.1960

  In the summer of 1958 my parents Tom & Kathleen Harold travelled from our home in Rathcline, Lanesborough, Co Longford to Connemara in search of a pony for my older sister Irene. This is Irene’s account of that time. “When I was young, Daddy used to sit on what we called ‘Daddy’s stool’. He’d put me on his knee and tell me “I am going to go to Connemara and buy a Connemara pony for you and you will jump him in Ballsbridge. At that time I did not know where Ballsbridge was.”

They met up with Tommy McDonagh from Roundstone at his home and he told them he had just the pony but he wouldn’t have him down from the mountain until the following weekend for the Show in Clifden. True to his word Tommy had this year and half old ‘wild thing’ at the show and entered him into the 2 year old class where I believe he came 2nd.  My father bought him after the class for IR.£27.   And so began a relationship between this amazing pony and a family – that would endure for over thirty years.

Tully Grey  RDS win May 1964
Tully Grey RDS win May 1964
The famous Conn pony Tully Grey with 10 yr. old Bernadette Harold, 1966
The famous Conn pony Tully Grey with 10 yr. old Bernadette Harold, 1966
Loughrea Show,'67.Evelyn Harold receives Priority Cup
Loughrea Show,’67.Evelyn Harold receives Priority Cup
Tully Grey,14, RDS '69, Bernie Harold age 13
Tully Grey,14, RDS ’69, Bernie Harold age 13

Irene continues “Daddy trained Tully and I started to hunt him with the South Westmeaths’ and The Longford Harriers. The following Spring Show 12 months I won in the R.D.S. with him and Evelyn won the following 2 years with him (3 years in succession). At that time there were great gymkhanas every Sunday around Dublin and Dad took me to one every week. One was in Tallaght and at that time it was a small village outside Dublin. It had a pub, a grocery shop and a Post Office. It was way outside Dublin – in the country. Other shows I remember were Finglas and Galloping Green.

Evelyn Harold, Mountbellew Show 1967
Evelyn Harold, Mountbellew Show 1967

My first indoor show with Tully was Burton Hall (the first indoor arena in Ireland owned by Ian Dugeon). My first night there I was last to go and all ponies had been eliminated except one which was called Patsy 2nd­(14.2hh) who had numerous faults. Tully went round with 4 faults and won the class. Everyone agreed the fences were much too high for ponies. Soon after I remember Iris Kellett arriving at our house at 8.30am to buy Tully but Dad would not sell.”

One of my sisters Nuala particularly remembers one of Tully’s earliest outings at the RDS Spring Show. Tully with my sister Evelyn was 1st, Eddie Macken was 4th on Granard Boy and another Longford neighbour Michael Kenny was 5th with Miss Mole. At this time stallions were not allowed to compete at the RDS Horse Show and my father wrote to the Show Secretary requesting that stallions be allowed to compete and this was agreed. Throughout his career Tully Grey won every competition worth winning throughout the Country. Although he was 13.2hh at most shows he won both the 13.2hh and 14.2hh competitions. On one occasion in 1960 he beat the great Irish Army horse Sliabh gCrot in a ‘high jump’ competition. He was always superbly fit and strong. During the summer he was road walked for about four miles before school. He would be jumped in the evening and then walked to cool off. Tully got pneumonia once and after that Daddy was fixated on cooling off our ponies properly before putting them in their stables. Coming up to big shows like the RDS Spring Show or Horse Show some hill exercise and swimming would be introduced into Tully’s training programme.

 Still showing-off at 29 in 1986
Still showing-off at 29 in 1986

I believe Tully Grey lived to the ripe old age of 31 years because from the day he arrived in our yard in Rathcline he was always very well fed, wormed and got supplements such as Electrolytes and linseed oil. I think my father was way ahead of his time when it came to training and nuitrition. Our house stank of boiling barley all through the winter and when we complained Daddy would say “don’t you like a warm feed in cold weather? Well the ponies do too”.

Tully pulled a cart, raced, show-jumped, hunter-trialled (Pony Club) and hunted until he was 23 years old. He was very strong and gentle. I remember people being astonished when we groomed him we changed sides by going under his belly. It was very rare to see stallions at Shows so Tully was always the centre of attention. I have one very clear memory of coming out of the arena after jumping at Athenry Show and I was surrounded by Americans. They were really excited and saying “is this the real Tully Grey? They kept taking photos and finally Daddy came over and told me to walk him around or he’d catch cold. I think that is the first time I realised Tully was known throughout the world.

The iconic photograph of Tully taken over fence 7, winning at the RDS Spring Show in 1963 preceded an event that could have ended his career at a six year old. When on the lap of honour in the main arena another pony overtook him and of course Tully thought it was a race. My sister Evelyn was a small eleven year old and instead of circling she just kept fighting to stop Tully. He had other ideas though and jumped the gate into the ‘pocket’. The photo took the front, half page of the Daily Mail (8th may 1964) newspaper the following day.

Over the years Tully Grey was ridden by Tom Harold’s daughters Irene, Evelyn and Bernadette, his niece Maeve Harold (Larkin)RIP and Grandson Colin Carberry. Maxie Scully RIP from Gort, Co Galway and Tony Davis, Kilteevan, Roscommon also rode him on a couple of occasions. On Tully Grey’s final public appearance at Ballinalee Connemara Show in 1986 he was ridden by Comdt. Gerry Flynn another pupil of Tom Harold’s. 

With Florence, non-rider in 1979
With Florence, non-rider in 1979

During the summer of 1988 Tully was finding it increasingly difficult to chew his food and began to lose condition. One day my father called to my sister Nuala’s house and said they should bring her son Colin’s 12.2hh pony Woodview Cash to our Vet Humphrey Murphy in Athlone.  Nuala was surprised  because she was not aware of there being anything wrong with ‘Cash’ except for a slight cough. When Nuala arrived at our yard in Rathcline Daddy said “I think I’ll bring the old stallion and let Humphrey have a look at him”. Nuala says she had a bad feeling but was afraid to ask the question. When they arrived in Athlone the small pony was dealt with very quickly and Daddy and the Vet took Tully out to another yard and Nuala was told to stay in the car.  Daddy came back with tears in his eyes and Tully’s headcollar in his hand. He hardly spoke for about three weeks and it was clear he was heartbroken.    One by one the eight other daughters were told and we all cried bitter tears – even the non-riders in the family were devastated at the loss of Tully. The whole family was in mourning – our lifelong friend was gone. It was like a human bereavement and people called to the house and rang to sympathise.
Bernadette Harold March 2014.    

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23 thoughts on “Tully Grey, a family tale

  1. I have known bernie her mum and sisters for over twenty years. .tully was a household name. I knew her dad for years and enjoyed his quirky sense of humour … I learned so much from Tommy bernie and other great horse people in lanesboro ugh. The Harold’s live beside the Flemings . Another family who have forgotten more than they know about horses,who kept my beloved horse on livery for many many years. It was an education that came from a deep love and understanding of everything equestrian. Tully was part of the framework as are these wonderful families.


  2. Very well put Bernie,it was a real trip down memory lane,i have nothing only happy memories of my time in Rathcline with Tommy and Mrs Harold, i learned to ride on Tully Grey as did dozens of kids,Tully was a legend and we were lucky to have known him and indeed Tom Harold as well.


    1. Tony, thanks for your comment. There were over 600 viewings on the 15th March, the majority of Tully Grey, so Bernie Harold’s well written piece touched a lot of people. Niamh


      1. Hello! Very interesting reading. I have a mare, here in Sweden(that I bought from Ireland)whos sire is Grey Dawn, son of Tully Grey. Grey Dawn also has Tully Grey on his mothers side! So my Cloonolia Emma has alot of Tully Grey… I would be so Happy If someone could tell me more about Grey Dawn, since info about hon is hard to find. Thank you!


      2. Hello! Very interesting reading. I have a mare, here in Sweden(that I bought from Ireland)whos sire is Grey Dawn, son of Tully Grey. Grey Dawn also has Tully Grey on his mothers side! So my Cloonolia Emma has alot of Tully Grey… I would be so Happy If someone could tell me more about Grey Dawn, since info about hon is hard to find. Thank you! (Please answer here as only this post is connected to my e-mail.)


  3. In the green fields in the middle of France I have a great-grand-daughter of this stallion and her two offsprings. Despite the dilution of blood after 4 generations (Connemara and Arab all the line down) their main characteristic is incredible gentleness and closeness to us, walkers-on-two-legs !!! After reading your entry, I guess They own it to Tully Grey. So thanks a million, gentle stallion !


    1. Hello Dominique,
      Thank you for your lovely comments.I am very happy to hear you have two Great Granddaughters of Tully’s grazing on the green fields of France.It is fitting that such an amazing pony should be spread all over Europe as I know he is. My father would be so proud. Please send me some pictures of your ponies. I would love to show them to my mother who is 93 years old.

      Thank you

      Bernie Harold


  4. Hi, we have spent the past few years working on a dedicated social network for the equine works. http://www.horsepip.com.
    We want people to share their horses with the rest of the world, not just when they are for sale and appear on some sales site, but for every horse to have a dedicated profile page online.
    We are inviting various individuals, companies and content providers round the world onto the site as we continue testing it. We have a special section for content providers like yourself and we would be delighted if you would set up a page and bring your positive message to HorsePIP

    Thank you.

    Oliver Durkin, CEO


  5. What a beautiful story. I remember Tully well from my time growing up in Rathcline and am luck enough to be able to say that I, too, have ridden him, though only in the field at the Harolds house before having an icecream from the shop.
    He was a wonderful pony who understood nervous riders as well as the experienced ones and he is one of the lasting memories from my childhood.
    And Tommy Harold was a true gentleman, occasionally gruff, but with a knowledge of horses, and of riding, that was rare for a man of his time. I fondly remember him once telling me to turn left after a fence I’d jumped. When I turned right, he rolled his eyes and said “your other left”.
    This is a wonderful tribute to an amazing pony and to a wonderful family, both of whom are missed, not only by the Harold family, but by everyone who’s lives they touched.


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