Humphrey And Paddy Den’s Donkey

One of the last if not the last donkey derby to be held in the Town park in Millstreet
In the late fifties when young bare back jockeys for glory on their mounts did compete
When donkey racing was popular in Ireland at Autumn carnivals in every country town
Back then to ride the winner of a Donkey Derby transcended one to above local renown

Hopes of a Millstreet win depended on a young teenager who at gaelic football would know of greater fame
From the nearby Tanyard tall and sturdy Humphrey Kelleher his was to become a very famous name
Riding Paddy Den’s black stallion donkey a powerful beast with a mind of his own
One who often kicked and bucked and threw his rider for such behaviour he had become known

The stallion donkey at the starting line was bucking but Humphrey proved too hard for him to throw
He must have realized that he had met his master donkeys can be quite clever as we know
At the starting gun he was the back marker he did seem slow to get into full stride
The champion gray mare with her young jockey from East Kerry of the early lead refused to be denied

But the Kerry gray did not have things her own way with Humphrey riding him hard on his back
Paddy Den’s stallion his ears flattened was racing in hot pursuit of her ahead of the main pack
Ten metres from the winning post he hit the front the cheering could be heard for miles away
On that sunday evening from the Millstreet Town park in September a great moment from a memorable day

Since that carnival day in the Town park in Millstreet more than fifty years in the way of time has gone
Paddy Den’s donkey is now a faded memory but the legend of Humphrey Kelleher does live on
In seventy three at full back for Cork against Galway at Croke Park the hero of All Ireland Final Day
His first taste of fame was at the Millstreet Donkey Derby and far greater glory was to come his way.

by Francis Duggan

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