ALTHOUGH Queen Elizabeth didn’t visit Clare during her visit to Ireland this week, a West Clare man worked closely with the British monarch for 21 years.
In fact, during his more than two decades working as an assistant farrier to the Queen’s horses in Hammersmith, London, Michael Curtin shod the Queen’s own horse, Burmese. He was also responsible for the hoof welfare of other royal mounts including Bachelor Guy and Duke’s.
Mr Curtin was born in Shragh, Doonbeg, shortly after Ireland achieved Independence in 1922. As a child, he showed a keen interest in the trade of the farrier and blacksmith. On leaving school, he was apprenticed to Patrick McNamara who operated a forge in Moveen, Carrigaholt. During his apprenticeship, Michael learned how to repair all types of farm machinery and how to shoe horses.
In the 1950s, he emigrated to London where he made and repaired construction tools for McAlpine’s as well as fabricating ornamental ironwork gates and railings.
A chance meeting with a friend in 1959 led Michael to apply for the vacant post of assistant farrier to the Queen’s horses. In an RTÉ radio documentary, entitled All the Queen’s Horses, in 1980, Michael told of his empathy with horses and how they communicated with people.
He also recalled the trooping of the royal colours for the horses of the Royal Metropolitan Police on days of celebration and remembrance.
Meanwhile, there was also a Clare connection to King George V who was the last British royal to visit Ireland. The then newly-crowned king visited Ireland in 1911. Five years before, he stayed in Doolough Lodge in the Kilmurry-Ibrickane parish, as a guest of Thomas Kelly-Kenny, who was a British Army general who served in the second Boer War. King George V was Queen Elizabeth II’s grandfather.