Legendary Longford horse dealer, the late Bill Joe Clancy fondly remembered

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Legendary Longford horse dealer, the late Bill Joe Clancy fondly remembered

A great photo of the late Bill Joe Clancy pictured with his four children Mel, Andy, John and Catherine at Longford Show.

The curtain came down on the end of an era recently with the passing of 89 year old, William Joseph Clancy from Edgworthstown.

Better known near and far as Bill Joe, he belonged to another era.

One was one of the last great ‘dealing men’ he was known near and far as the dapper  man who was always smartly dressed and rarely without a trademark hat.  Over the years he would have dealt in cattle and sheep but was perhaps happiest buying and selling horses and ponies.

A native of  Rathaspic on the other side of the Longford-Westmeath border, he first arrived in Ardbohill, Edgeworthstown in 1959, when he married local girl, Kitty Duffy. The couple meet at a dance in Legan and Bill Joe was determined that she wouldn’t get away.

He was the youngest in a family of six and was predeceased by the eldest, Mike; Tom, Jenny Keegan and Kathleen Cunningham, whilst their brother Stephen, who still lives back in Rathapsic is now the sole surviving Clancy sibling of that era.

The Clancys of Rathaspic  grew up with horses  and Bill Joe often talked about his own showjumping  days when he competed with considerable  success on a little mare called An Tostal. The mare was later sold to one of the top lady riders of  that era,  Morna, Wilson, who went onto compete with her in the RDS.

Bill Joe had  a great sense of humour and a quick turn of phrase. He loved to regal all who would listen with daring tales of old. Obviously horse boxes were rare when he was a young fella and he remembered once walking to a show in Mullingar with his prize mare  trotting along behind him. He duly won the class and afterwards a  Hugh Tynan joked that: “Clancy is going to fold the mare up now and put it in the boot.”

A feature of all the big shows back then was stone wall jumping and An Tostal excelled here.  She won the class seven years in a  row at Granard Show and on the last occasion Bill Joe wasn’t even aware that she was  in foal at the time.

Like so much with Bill Joe there was a story and a twist to every sale and deed. He liked to tell how he came up their prized horse Phantom. He’d been down the country at a sale in Blessington  and bought several horses that had been sent down by the Christian Brothers in Artane, Dublin – those of the Artane Boys Band fame.

That collection of stock included a mare that later foaled  Phantom and that was the horse that  went on to  establish  his sons John and Mel as leading showjumpers.  Both were  lucky enough  to win major classes at Dublin and Milstreet with the horse. On one occasion after a success in Dublin, there were several English enthusiasts  gathered around the horse.  They seemed knowledgeable  enough and were giving chapter and verse on the horse’s pedigree. Bill Joe though couldn’t  resist and interjected: “Well I know more than all of ye because I bred them both – the horse and the jockey.”

Over the years Bill Joe sourced  and produced some of the country’s best known showjumping  stock. These of course included Phantom which was  jumped  at a high level by two of his teenage sons, John and Mel, before being sold on to James Kernan under a Kerrygold sponsorship deal that was reputedly worth £10,000  in the eighties. Kernan went on to have huge success with the horse on the international stage and it also famously jumped in Libya when Colonel Gaddafi became interested in the sport and was keen to open up his country to the rest of the world.

  Another top horse was Ardbohill Maiden which the family qualified to jump at the Dublin Horse Show and having come second  there, it was later sold to Nick  Skelton, the British rider who won gold at the Olympics in Rio last year.

Music  and song was a constant in the Clancy household  as their four children, Andy,  Catherine, John and Mel  were growing  up. Both Bill Joe and Kitty  were musicians  in their own right  and they encouraged their young family to play at every opportunity.  They performed at local concerts and functions and were famously wheeled out as the ‘Clancy family’ for the huge ‘Opportunity  Knocks’ competition that was held in Ardagh in the late seventies, and which was  compered by Gay Byrne of RTE fame.

Whilst horses were a big part of Bill Joe’s life, he was also a successful cattle and sheep dealer and in fact on his day could probably have bought and sold anything. Were  he born thirty years ago,  there’s no doubt that Bill Joe  would have emerged as one of the country’s foremost entrepreneurs because he had a unique  ability to identify an opportunity and close a sale.  No doubt there were ones that didn’t go to plan but in the best tradition of rural  Ireland and  horse talk, we rarely heard about those ones.

Bill Joe was a wonderfully engaging man and  himself and Kitty enjoyed almost sixty years of marriage together. They delighted in their grandchildren and were no doubt brimming with pride the arrival of their first great grandson, John Tomas Clancy, only a  few weeks before his death. 

The late Bill Joe Clancy died peacefully on February 11, 2017 at  Thomond Lodge Nursing Home, Ballymahon. And his passing is deeply regretted by his loving wife, Kitty; daughter, Catherine Greene; his sons, Andy, John and Mel;  grandchildren, great grandson; his  brother, Stephen (Rathaspic);  son in law, daughters in law, sisters in law, nieces, nephews, relatives and friends. His remains reposed at  Thomond Lodge and were removed to  St Brigid's Church, Ardagh for  Mass of the Resurrection  with burial afterwards in adjoining cemetery.