The Duffy Family for 3 Generations in Showjumping
Paul Snr. & Bríd Duffy
Paul Duffy Snr, a true Galway man, originated from Knocknacarra in West Galway and always had a love of horses from their work pony, Peggy, who pulled the trap into town to bring his mother, Mary, in to shop. He often said, he was a farmer at heart, just without the land. He met and married Bríd Murphy from Turloughmore, just outside the city and while they initially lived in the UK, after the birth of their first child, Paul, they decided to return to Galway to raise their family, having 3 more children, Audrey, Brendan and Mark.
Before the age of 2, Paul Jnr. had his first pony, a Connemara from Maam and within a few years, both father and son had a love for horses which grew strong. They were enthusiastic members of the pony club and hunting with the Blazers as well as Showjumping.
Paul Snr. went on to be one of the greatest course builders of his time, both nationally and internationally, with a natural flare for course design which can still be seen today in the RDS main arena in the ‘Clock Towers’, ‘Georgian Doors’, ‘Harps’, ‘Merrion Railway Gates’ plus others, all designed by Paul. He always wanted to make Showjumping attractive and have a visual impact for the general public, not just for the horse world. He had an uncanny ability to always get that 10-12 in the jump off and produce some of the best Showjumping you could ever see, filled with options which meant it was never over until the last horse crossed the finish line. He knew the riders, and their horses and could build to get the best and really showcase the sport. His incredible foresight creating the National Championships in Salthill in the early 90s which was broadcast nationally by RTÉ would compete with any show run today, anywhere in the world. All the big names of the time in Showjumping took part, Eddie Macken, Paul Darragh, Con Power, Robert Splaine, Lt John Leddingham, Comdt. Gerry Mullins, Jack Doyle, Vina Lyons along with more locals including Marie White from Clare and Owen Horan from Claregalway. For those of us who got to experience it, will unanimously agree, it was something very special, where the crowds could get right up close to some of the Showjumping legends and made Showjumping a mainstream sport at the time.
Some of Paul’s International highlights included, the International shows at home like the Millstreet Derby, World Championships at the RDS and the National Showjumping Championships along with foreign shows including the Sydney Royal Show, Olympia, Tripoli, Spruce Meadows, West Palm Beach and one of his favourites, Pavarotti International, Modena, Italy. Paul truly loved everything that made a horseshow work and always aimed to make Showjumping appealing to everyone.
As a result of this, it isn’t surprising that the rest of the family got involved too. Bríd and her daughter Audrey are both Senior National Judges, and in Audrey’s case, from a very young age, as young as 10yrs, she started helping out at the local shows with the Galway Riding club and Friday Nights. Audrey recalls getting a phone call to get on the next train to Dublin when she was around 18, to join Pamela Carruthers, course designer of the Hickstead Derby and Spruce Meadows, as a technical delegate in the main arena in the RDS. As Bríd always went to the shows with Paul, she became involved on the judging side too. During Paul & Bríd’s trip to Pavarotti’s show, they were short a judge in the judges’ box, and in order to keep the show on the road, Paul nominated Bríd to join them. Just a couple of the many fond memories of being part of the Showjumping scene that will always be remembered.
Brendan followed in his father’s footsteps as a course builder and both Paul Jnr. and Mark opted for the competing end of things although both are course builders, carrying on their father’s tradition. It was a family with a love for horses and no one was going to get left out or at home. It certainly was a lifetime of great memories, we can still talk about today. Sadly, Paul passed away in 2014 but as he would do himself, the shows go on and there are regular shows at the centre and many a moment when we all stop and remember the man who started it all.
Mark, the youngest of their children, now runs Duffy’s Equestrian Centre and his brother Paul, has his stables in Turloughmore, the homestead of his mother. The tradition lives on to the next generation too with Paul’s son Michael has several successful wins on the European circuit and Mark’s daughter, Isabelle has big plans for the future.
Mark & Kate Duffy
Mark is the youngest of the Duffy's children and now runs the yard and centre. He developed the livery yard and loyal clientele over the years and build the large outdoor sand arena to have an all-weather surface as Irish weather, especially in the West, tends to just be a little bit on the wet side.
Mark was more into rugby in his teens than horses. He was 17 before he competed at his first show in Corrandulla. He met Kate Flaherty from Oranmore and later married. They have 2 children, Isabelle who is a complete pony addict while Charlie, like his Grandad and Dad, opts more for the building side of things and loves to help Mark with the course building and of course, spins the tractor and bike.
The love of horses continues to the next generation and his daughter Isabelle has big plans on showjumping already. In 2017, aged just 9, she jumped in her first Millstreet on her beloved pony Stormy. Charlie is cut out of his Grandad Paul at times and there definitely is a budding course builder in the making. He still plenty of time to get in the saddle too. For the Duffys, it has always been a family passion and continues the same way as it started.
This type of bond is very evident throughout the yard, both with horses and liveries, some who have been there nearly 30yrs with their own horses. Great friendships, fun and laughter with a true love for horses is what Duffys are well-known for and may it continue for generations to come.