The Day we Went to Kempton

By Alex McDonnell

We had a great day out at the races in Kempton on Wednesday 16 August. Back in June we were approached by Sarah Finucane, single handed publisher of Irish in Britain what’s-on guide ‘The Craic is Back’ with an idea to raise money for Aisling. The idea was simple and, as it turned out, very effective. We would hire a hospitality suite at Kempton race courses on their annual Irish night and invite along Irish businesses to attend at a cost which would cover the expenses and a bit more.

How much more would depend on how many businesses we could interest in the idea and the more businesses that came the more money would then go to Aisling to help us in our work. Our old friend Tom Corkery from Gallagher Group got involved and Gallagher’s put up the initial costs, then Gerry Keaney came along. Gerry runs Cara Stationary and is also Aisling’s auditor and finally Dermot O’Grady from Ardent Tide construction services company joined the working group. In Aisling’s case we attended the planning meetings and the others used their contacts to bring in the business. If everything was to go according to plan Aisling stood to make about £20,000, an incredible amount of money for a fun night out at the races.

On the day we took a group of our volunteers and clients with us in our minibus and were issued with VIP passes which entitled us to attend the Desert Orchid suite. Corkman Barney Clifford , the Clerk of the Course welcomed us to Kempton, Tommo from Channel 4 racing and Richard Hughes the famous jockey and trainer were there to give us tips and commentary on the racing for the day. One of our first Aisling clients and Chair of Aisling for a number of years Joe McGarry turned up from Australia shortly before the event and came along and Chris Kelly, another long-time Aisling client came along too.

Chris and Joe lived in Arlington House together for years and shared many similar experiences. Chris had been a jockey in his younger days on the Curragh near where he grew up and later after he came to England, he worked in Newmarket where he trained with Kieran Fallon and at many other race courses all around the country, including Kempton. It was alcohol that had blighted his later life but like Joe Chris has had a remarkable recovery and is now running marathons, half marathons and 10k runs enjoying the athleticism he has somehow managed to maintain since his horse riding days.

Joe had moved to Australia after falling in love with an Australian woman he met on holiday. They married in Camden Town Hall which was the culmination for Joe of a recovery from years of alcohol abuse which included him not only becoming the chair of Aisling but the chair of Arlington Housing Association, his name was put on the deeds of the building which he had a good laugh about because he was refused entry to Arlington plenty of times in the old days. Before leaving for a new life down under Joe also went to Ireland to set up homeless hostels in Limerick and Tralee. Now he is back after 7 years working in the rehab of St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney hoping to resettle back in Ireland.

Joe is not a gambler and although he doesn’t bet these days Chris keeps an interest in the racing game but on the night 5 out of 6 races were won by favourites which was good for the majority of punters who got more back from the bookies but less interesting for racing aficionados like Chris. There was a great atmosphere at the track in the summer sunshine and we met a lot of old friends there out for the evening and made new friends with so many Irish business people who had paid so generously to support Aisling.

Aisling would like to thank the following businesses for their generous contributions to the Aisling Project on our night at the races: Tamdown Group, Cappagh Group, Careys Foundation, O’Halloran & O’Brien, Mick Moss Motors, Dixon (BKD), Cara stationary, Michael McCormick, Ardent-Tide, McDonagh Investments, Buckley Leisure, O’Donovan Waste Management, J. French Lemite, Doyle Machines, Rift Ltd, Sitema Recruitment, George Killoughrey Ltd, Quattro (UK), Higgins Travel, Mairead Liston Recruitment, Cathal Vaughan, Thames Materials, as well as the aforementioned Tom Corkery, Gerry Keaney, Dermot O’Grady and especially Sarah Finucane who worked to so hard to make the Kempton Irish Night a wonderful success and a very profitable evening for Aisling.

Photo: John Glynn, Mary Leyne, Joe McGary by Malcolm McNally, The Irish Post