Back in the late 1920s early 1930s, Garryowen was a horse—a horse who won numerous prizes and titles including many of the big show titles at the Royal Melbourne Show. He was owned and ridden by Violet Murrell, who was considered one of the top show riders of her day. One night in 1934, the stables at Violet’s home in Mentone, Melbourne, went up in flames and in a desperate attempt to save her beloved Garryowen and other animals, Violet ran into the stables.
Tragically, at the age of 29, she died in the fire and in a second tragedy her husband, Bill, who had tried to help his wife, died a few days later from the injuries he sustained. It was a story that touched the hearts of the Melbourne people, whether they had an interest in horses or not, and the story has lived on in the show class that was named after Violet’s horse. Such is the memory of the tragedy that while other horse sports struggle to get a few lines in the papers, the Garryowen is covered every year in all the mainstream Melbourne papers.
Today at the Royal Melbourne Show we had our own piece of Standardbred history created when MF Hollywood (aka James) ridden by Kathleen Mullan graced the horse arena. In the 79 years that the event has been running in honor of Violet and her horse there has never been a Standardbred in the event. The effort that Kath has put in to get to this day has been nothing short of amazing.
Although not finishing in the final placings James and Kath gave a near faultless display and were cheered in every move by a legion of Standardbred fans plus plenty of others who were aware of the significance of the day. There might not have been a ribbon but both James and Kath are the true winners for the breed.
In terms of coverage the Melbourne Age also ran a double page spread today on Kath and James which truly highlights the significance.
For any comment or for additional details please contact Gary Kairn, Operations Manager, Harness Racing Australia on (03) 9227 3003.
Harness Racing Victoria