JT McNamara’s funeral was held in Limerick on Friday
PICTURE: Lorraine O’ Sullivan
CAROLINE MCNAMARA received a standing ovation from the large attendance when she spoke movingly at the end of the funeral mass for her husband John Thomas in St Michael’s Church in Manister parish County Limerick on Friday morning.
Manister is in the middle of County Limerick’s horse and hunting country with many stud farms, training yards and stables in the surrounding area and the small church was packed to capacity.
Many hundreds more gathered outside, as family and friends, including a strong representation from across the racing community, gathered to say a final farewell to the heroic and hugely popular amateur rider, who died at his home outside the village of Croom on Monday at the age of 41.
McNamara, an outstanding rider and natural horseman, was paralysed from the neck down in a fall at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival and his wife’s devotion and outstanding strength of character in caring for him over the last few years did so much to help him adjust to his vastly changed circumstances.
Speaking warmly of her husband, Caroline said: “To me he was John. To people in racing he was JT and to his parents he was John Thomas. He could be quite grumpy at home but he was very well liked by everyone.
“He could be very direct and I remember when I was in labour having our second son, Harry, he was worried by how long it might take as he needed to be at Punchestown the same day. I’m not sure which made him more delighted – the winner he rode at Punchestown or Harry’s arrival.
“I only recently learned that the one person he was afraid of was me. It’s a pity I wasn’t aware of that as I could have used it to advantage and had a few more wins myself!”
Close and successful association
She paid special thanks to the Irish Injured Jockeys, the Turf Club and the Injured Jockeys Fund (UK). “Without them we wouldn’t have been able to bring John back from England after his fall,” she said.
The many riders, past and present, in attendance included Sir Anthony McCoy, Ruby Walsh, Barry Geraghty, Davy Russell, Robbie Power, Jonathan Burke, Derek O’Connor and Mick Kinane.
Also present were JP McManus, Enda Bolger and Jonjo O’Neill – the owner and trainers with whom McNamara had a close and successful association – and Ian Renton, managing director of Cheltenham racecourse.
Members of the Turf Club and Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee present included John Powell, John Moloney, Michael Hickey and John Power, while the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association was represented by its chief executive Michael Grassick.
The president of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, was represented by Colonel Michael Kiernan, while Commandant Kieran Carey represented the Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
The mass was celebrated by Canon Garry Bluett, a friend of the McNamara family and a former parish priest of Manister. He was assisted by the present parish priest Fr Damian Ryan.
Canon Bluett said JT led a life “which should be inspirational to all of us”.
He added: “Racing was his passion and the tributes paid to him in recent days are testimony to how highly he was regarded. As Ruby [Walsh] said, if we had more like him the world would be a better place.”
Before the coffin was taken on the short journey for burial in a thronged cemetery behind the church, Canon Bluett quoted Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “Good night sweet prince and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest,” before adding, “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, John, Prince of Manister.”
McNamara is survived by Caroline, two sons, Dylan and Harry, daughter Olivia, his parents John and Kathleen, and a brother, Aonghus.
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