PhD life in the second year: an update from Declan Monaghan

Declan Monaghan, PhD student at Maynooth University’s Department of History

My name is Declan Monaghan, a second year PhD student at Maynooth University. My research began in 2017 under the supervision of Professor Terence Dooley. The focus of the research concentrates on the history of the Irish National Stud in Ireland and its political links with the United Kingdom. Moreover, the study contemplates the political and social aspect to events in Ireland from the turn of the twentieth century until the end of the 1940s when the stud finally became solely under the control of the Irish Government 

The research questions which will be addressed will be aimed at establishing the motivation behind the establishment of the National Stud in Ireland and the connections it had with the United Kingdom. ​The stud was established at Tully, County Kildare in Ireland in 1899 by Colonel William Hall-Walker, a British businessman and member of Parliament.

Colonel William Hall-Walker (1856-1933)

Source: The British Newspaper Archive available at (27 Dec. 2018)

 It was operated as a private development with another stud created in the early 1900s at Wiltshire in England linking both enterprises. In 1916, Hall-Walker ‘gifted’ both studs bloodstock to the British Government which sparked controversy. In 1922, following the creation of the Irish Free State, a battle ensued between the Irish and British Government over the ownership of the stud. This standoff lasted until the late-1940s and events will be traced to their conclusion. It is anticipated that my research will explore questions such as who were the people involved and what previous stakes did, they have in the horse breeding industry? What were their socio-economic, cultural and political backgrounds? Strikingly, there was a noticeable mix of Nationalists and Unionists within the horse breeding industry and serving in prominent positions within the first Irish Free State Senate. For instance, the Director of the National Stud at Tully was Sir Joseph Henry Greer, an individual loyal to the British Crown but in the 1920s also a member of Seanad Eireann.

Sir Joseph Henry Greer (1855-1934)

Source: John Welcome, Irish Horse-Racing, An Illustrated History (London, 1982).

 Obviously, in the build-up to the creation of the Irish Free State, there was tension leading to violence which created widespread divisions in Ireland and strained relations with the United Kingdom, yet, horse breeding and racing thrived during this period. The reasons for this will be examined in further detail. Questions will be addressed such as why the newly established Irish Free State Government embraced an industry so closely associated with the former ruling elite and what levels of continuity, if any, were there between the racing fraternities of pre-and post-independent Ireland? Finally, what form did the structures, ethos and regulations take which moulded the Stud as a symbol of Irish independence?

 The bulk of primary source material is located at the National Archives in Kew, London and the National Archives, Dublin. The archives in Kew have provided a considerable amount of material, and it has been intriguing to compare it to the material held in the Irish archives. From this, one can gain a fascinating insight into the contrasting opinions which shaped the political and social climate during this period. As there has been a sparse amount of academic attention on this subject, it is anticipated at the end of the research, there will be a comprehensive research study which will cast the Irish National Stud in new light and provide a fascinating insight into an important aspect of Irish history.

Tully Stud Dec. 1908

Source: The British Newspaper Archive available at (27 Mar. 2019)

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