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Osborne of Ballkyknockan, Craddockstown and Tipper

The Gaffer and his family, Ballyknockan, c. 1903-4
Back: Patrick, Lil, John, Nan, Bob.
Middle: William, Bride, William (The Gaffer), Mary (née Brady), Marcella, Mary
Sitting: Joe, Jim, Kitty.


An abbreviated version of this account appears in ‘The Centenary of Naas Racecourse (1924-2024) – Nursery of Champions’ by Turtle Bunbury.


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The early history of the Osbornes is a cloudy area. They are believed to have hailed from Bonawe, near Oban, in the West Highlands of Scotland, while the first of the family to come to Ireland is said to have been a stonemason who served as a sapper / military engineer in Oliver Cromwell’s army. [1]


Ballyknockan Granite


By the early 19th century, a branch of the family had settled in Ballyknockan, County Wicklow, a townland celebrated for its granite quarries. [2] Located within view of what is now the Poulaphouca Reservoir, the Ballyknockan quarries provided much of the granite used in the wave of church-building that followed Catholic Emancipation in 1829. [3] This included the Jesuit Church of St Francis Xavier (1829-1832) on Gardiner Street and the fine columns in front of St Paul’s Church (1835-1837) on Dublin’s Arran Quay. [4] The Jesuits provided a stone cart to haul the stone from Ballyknockan to Dublin; the cart was nicknamed ‘the Francis Xavier.’ The horses would be exhausted by the time they reached Tallaght, where they would be rested and a new set of horses would take the stone on into the city.

William Osborne (1845-1931), known as ‘The Gaffer,’ was the son of Robert Osborne (1801-1887) of Rath na Bo, County Wicklow, and his wife, Bridget, née Hanlon (1821-1914). [5] He acquired Ballyknockan quarry where almost half of the area’s population of 400 were employed by 1838. [6] Traditionally, quarries tended to cut large slabs of stone and haul them to the building site to be carved and ‘dressed’.  The Gaffer’s genius was to dress the stone in the quarry and deliver it to the site in the form of huge blocks of dressed granite, sometimes weighing eight tons and often carved into ornamental fashion. [7] As well as churches, the Ballyknockan stone can be seen in the Guinness Storehouse (including its oriel windows), Trinity College Dublin, and Heuston Station. [8] By 1899, William had nearly a hundred employees working in what was regarded as ‘amongst the finest [quarries] in the three kingdoms’. [9] Following the 1916 Easter Rising, Ballyknockan supplied much of the granite that helped to rebuild Dublin.

Away from the stone, William was a Peace Commissioner, an elected member of Wicklow County Council, and a prominent member of the Gaelic Athletic Association from its creation in 1887, serving as treasurer of the local Michael Dwyer branch. [10]

In 1881, William was married in Valleymount church to Mary Brady (1862-1917), daughter of John Brady (1821-95), a Ballyknockan stonemason with whom William went into partnership. William and Mary had fifteen children, fourteen of whom were still living at the time of the 1911 census. [11]


The Move to Craddockstown


With his fortune made, William was keen to establish his sons either as country gentlemen farmers or in a profession. In pursuit of good farmland, he purchased a series of farms in County Kildare. In 1888, for instance, he purchased 157 acres at Craddockstown from the executors of the late John Doyle. [12] (This included the Punchestown monolith which was vested in the Commissioners of Public Works in about 1932.[13] )  In 1903, he purchased the Tipper farm just south of Naas, where he built Tipper House for his son William Joseph Osborne (1887-1977). [14]

William was appointed a magistrate and Justice of the Peace for County Wicklow in 1906. Family papers include original hand-written correspondence from the Earl of Carysfort  (William Proby) concerning his appointment which the earl, as Lord Lieutenant of County Wicklow, had to approve.

In 1909, William commissioned McGloughin & Harvey to build five new out-houses for his home, Ballyknockan House, in the village of Ballyknockan. [15] These were designed by George Luke O’Connor, a Dublin architect closely associated with many Catholic church buildings from that era. [16]

William would have been familiar with horses from his earliest memory, not least because the only way to get the granite from Ballyknocken to Dublin was a lengthy and difficult cart journey. He was also a successful horse breeder. In 1910, his grey mare Rose won the first ever Wills Challenge Cup for the best hunter or brood mare, with foal at foot, at the Kildare Hunt Show. [17] The following year, he won a first prize at the same show for a bay filly by name of Miss Oriolus, bred from Oriolus. [18]

Mary died at Craddockstown Lodge on 7 December 1917. [19] The couple had eight sons and seven daughters. The children were close and enjoyed a shared love of horses.

In 1918, William bought Craddockstown House, formerly home to the Eustace family.

William died in 1931 and was buried at Baltyboys. His last job was to supply the granite for Butt Bridge, completed in 1932.


William & Mary Osborne’s Children


Lady Chantilly winning at Drogheda, 1916, under P.J. Osborne, aka Dr Paddy Osborne.

Their eldest son John Anthony Osborne (1883-1948) took on Craddockstown Lodge, Naas. An extensive farmer and horse breeder, he rode with both the Kildare Hunt and the Naas Harriers.

The second son William Joseph Osborne, aka Bill, took on Tipper House, see below.

The third son Robert (1892-1977) was a solicitor in Athy.

The fourth son Dr Paddy Osborne (1895-1959), Joe’s older brother, also had runners at Naas from at least 1925.  A bachelor, he lived and practised medicine at Maynooth.  A superb horseman, he competed in show-jumping contests at the Royal Dublin Society (R.D.S).

The fifth son Joseph (1896-1982) took on Craddockstown House, see below.

The sixth son Peter (1899-1900) died young.

The seventh son James (1900-60) ran Ballyknockan Quarries after his father’s death and lived at Ballynockan House, Blessington.

The eight and youngest son Thomas (1902-59) joined the Royal Navy in 1927 as a Surgeon Commander.  He visited Ireland regularly and stabled some horses in Tipper.

William and Mary’s seven daughters were Bridget McCarroll (1882-1942); Marcella (Mars) McCarroll (1885-1975); Mary O’Connor (1888-1944); Annie (Nan) Holland (b. 1889); Elizabeth (Lilly) Hanlon (b. 1891); Kathleen (Kitty) Purcell (b. 1898); Eileen (b. 1905), aka the Rev. Mother M Kevin. [20]


The wedding of Old Joe Osborne and Helen Cunningham, 1921.




William Joseph Osborne (1887-1977), known as Bill, was born at Ballyknockan House on 11 May 1887. On 22 February 1922, he was married at University Church, Dublin, to Margaret O’Connor (1896-1981), known as Peg, daughter of Joseph and Margaret O’Connor (1853-1941) of Mylerstown House, Naas, County Kildare. [21]


The O’Connor Link


Senator Joseph O’Connor.

William (Bill) and Margaret (Peg) Osborne at Tipper House early 1970s

A farmer and livestock salesman with Bergin, O’Connor and Co. Ltd., Dublin, Joseph O’Connor was born in Roscrea, County Tipperary. He became a prominent member of the Irish Cattle Traders and Stock Owners Association and was on the Consultative Council of the Ministry for Lands and Agriculture. He turned the first sod of the famous Cistercian Abbey, Mount St Joseph’s, Roscrea, and presented the monks with their first cow. A pioneer in improving cattle breeding in Ireland, he was hailed for being ‘mainly responsible for having the Livestock Breeding Act [Scrub Bull] so successfully passed.’ [22] He was also on the Council of the Department of Agriculture and Food Prices Commissions, and an umpire at the R.D.S. shows for many years. In September 1925, he was elected as a Cumann na nGaedheal senator for the Irish Free State, serving until 1936. There was tragedy in the family in 1928 when the senator’s youngest son Eddie (1900-28) succumbed to polio. Senator Joseph O’Connor died on 6 April 1941 at the age of 88.

Mary O’Connor (1887-1961), Peg’s older sister, married firstly, Senator J. J. Parkinson and had issue, and as her second husband, Patrick Joseph Brophy (1870-1941) of Jigginstown, Naas, who served as acting chair of the Naas Race Company in 1931. He was a brother of Edward Brophy, former chairman of Naas Racecourse, father of Billy Brophy. [23]

In 1936, Peg helped to establish St Mary’s School (Coláiste Naomh Mhuire), a secondary school for girls, in Naas. Her daughter Sinead designed the school badge in 1947. [24] Meanwhile, Bill and his brothers were closely involved in founding Naas Rugby Club in 1922.


Senator Joseph O’Connor with his prize winning bullock at the Dublin Christmas Fat Stock Show and Sale, 1927.


Naas Shareholders


W. J. Osborne’s bay mare, The Muse, jumping Champion Poles at Landsdowne Road, Red Cross, c. 1917.

Bill and his brother Joe were among the earliest shareholders of Naas Racecourse in 1922. As a young man, Bill was never happier than when he was in the saddle.

As well as the Naas races, the Punchestown Races were also a great event in Tipper where, during the early decades of the 20th century, many horses were walked to the racecourse by the gates of Tipper. Sometimes they were stabled there overnight while their owners enjoyed food, drink and a hearty welcome during race days, and the long nights that followed.

That said, he disapproved of gambling and his children were discouraged from doing so. [25] (Peg confessed to her granddaughter Gaye that she did once have a bet – ‘very quietly and surreptitiously as it was not something one did!’)


Bill and Peg Osborne’s Children


  1. Margaret Mary Antoinette (Meta) Osborne (13 June 1923 – 17 November 1985) married William Burke, publican, of Baltinglass, had no issue.
  2. Tony Osborne (1924 – 10 July 2016), see below.
  3. Mary Rita Osborne (11 Dec1925 – 11 May 2023) married Kevin Pelin (1920-59) of Moate Lodge, Ardscull, Athy, and has issue.
  4. Joseph (Joe) Dominick Osborne (6 Mar 1927 – 2 June 1975) of Tipper House, Naas, was married in 1973 to Breda Cullen (1931-2002) of Naas, had no issue. He died in 1975, aged 49. Gaye recalls that Pat Taaffe was a regular visitor to Tipper to see Joe, her uncle. ‘The two would sit for hours in the kitchen talking about horses and racing.’
  5. Peter Oliver Gerard Osborne (1 Aug 1928 – 23 Aug 2018), engineer, married Nuala Hogan (b. 1931) of Dublin, and has issue: Anne, Gaye (who very much helped with this piece), William (Tony) and Peter. The older Peter was much involved with Sligo Racecourse, and may have been a board member.
  6. Jane Mary Magdalene (Sinead) Osborne (24 April 1930 – 22 Sep 1978), nurse, did not marry.
  7. Anne Patricia Osborne (21 Oct 1931 – 23 March 1994) married James Flynn (1912-1981) of Skerries House, Athy, has issue.
  8. Eileen Osborne (5 April 1933) married Donal Corry of Palmerstown, county Dublin and has issue. [26]
  9. Michael Osborne (1934 -2005), see below.
  10. Theresa Mary Osborne (21 April 1936 – 25 June 2015) married Colum Forde, Waterford, and has issue.
  11. Philomena Osborne (18 July 1938) married Ted Coonan (1937-2013) of Clane, Kildare and has issue.


‘OLD JOE’ OSBORNE (1896-1982)


Tom Osborne walking behind Helen Cunningham Osborne who is leading Joe Osborne’s (right) horse, Alice Maythorn, into the winner’s enclosure following her Grand National win in 1936.

William’s fifth son Joseph W. Osborne, known as Joe, was born in 1896 and educated at Clongowes Wood College. He appears to have taken to show jumping from a young age, winning a number of prizes on a chestnut cob mare by name of Lady Chantilly between 1916 and 1918. [27]  By 1921, the young man was honourable secretary of the Naas Harriers’ Hunt Club, and the ‘owner of Beggar’s End and other useful horses.’

In June 1921, he was married in Dublin to Helen Cunningham of Monread House, Naas. [28] Her brother John Francis Cunningham (1895–1982) was a well-known obstetrician and gynaecologist who had assisted Dr O’Donel Browne of Naas during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919. A fabulous photograph of the bridal party was taken outside the Royal Hibernian Hotel.

Joe was one of the early shareholders in the Naas Racecourse, helping to fund ongoing improvements to the racetrack. Harry Farrell and Redmond Murphy’s father may also have come in at this time. On 2 September 1924, Joe’s chaser Tantidderry competed on the flat at Naas for the 100 sovereign Corinthian Cup. [29] Six weeks later, the same mare raced for the Steward’s Plate. [30] Joe was a steward by the time the track hosted its second meeting of 1926 on 6 March. It was an inauspicious start as Tantidderry broke her fetlock that very day. [31]

In 1931, Joe was on the Naas Race Company deputation that met with Patrick Hogan, the Minister for Agriculture, to pressure him to remove the betting tax on the basis that it would seriously hinder the future of horse-breeding and racing.  The Minister promised to give the matter every consideration. [32]

Joe rode many winners during the 1920s and 1930s, including the Kildare Hunt Cup several times, and bounced back from ‘a very bad shaking’ after a fall in 1933. [33]

The trainer Joe Osborne with Alice Maythorn, winner of the 1936 Irish Grand National. The horse was owned by his brother, Dr Paddy Osborne, another Naas regular. (Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 17 April 1936).

He was also a formidable trainer during that time and would become renowned as a Naas specialist. [34] The late Major John de Burgh often rode out to Joe’s stables at Craddockstown when he was a teenager in order to gain some experience at schooling horses.

Joe’s best known horses were known as ‘The Thorn’ breed and carried names such as Alice Maythorn, Alice Rockthorn, Alice Baythorn and Prince Blackthorn. Alice Maythorn was owned by his brother, Dr Paddy Osborne. At the opening meeting of 1936, Joe ran her in the Press Plate at Naas with Paddy Powell in the saddle.  [35] The mare and jockey were given ‘a deafening ovation’ as they passed the post four lengths ahead of their nearest rival. Seven weeks later, Alice Maythorn ran again at Naas in the Stand Plate and came third. [36] She went on to win that year’s Irish Grand National by six lengths.

On 1 April 1938, Joe sailed back from Aintree to train and ride ‘a very popular double’ at Naas with Baybush and Baythorn. [37] On 4 March 1939, he enjoyed another fine day at Naas when he saddled three winners, all ridden by ‘Red Mick’ Prendergast, a brother of the trainer, Paddy Prendergast. [38]

By 1945, Joe had Martin Molony riding for him. In November 1945, Martin won the Leopardstown Chase at Naas for Joe on National Lad.

The most successful horse Joe bred was Brown Lad, a familiar name for Naas racegoers with the annual Brown Lad Handicap Hurdle having been run since at least 1986. [Was it run before 1986?] Brown Lad is the only horse to have won three Irish Grand Nationals (1975, 1976 and 1978). Brown Lad did not have his first race until he was eight years old. Asked why, ‘Old Joe’ maintained that they had been unable to catch him in the fields.  The horse also won the Royal & Sun Alliance Hurdle (1974) and the Stayers’ Hurdle in 1975. [39]


Joe and Helen Osborne’s Children


Vera Osborne (left) and Frances Osborne at the Curragh Races, 1947.

Joe and Helen had three sons and four daughters:

  1. Mai Osborne (d.1992) married Joseph Kavanagh, Eadestown, Naas, and had issue.
  2. Frances (Frankie) Osborne (b. 1923) who became Sr Teresa Avila of the Irish Sisters of Charity.
  3. Helen Osborne (b. 1924) married Patrick ‘Paddy’ Cox, Newbridge. Paddy was chairman of Naas Racecourse. His grandson David currently serves on the board.
  4. Vera Osborne (1926-2016) who married Liam Cosgrave on 16 April 1952 at Eadestown, Naas. Liam, a former government minister, was a son of W. T. Cosgrave. Mrs Helen Cox, her sister, was maid of honour, while her sister Hilda Osborne and Joan Lalor (who subsequently married Tony Osborne) were bridesmaids. [40] Liam went on to become Leader of Fine Gael and served as Taoiseach from 1973 to 1977. Vera accompanied him to the United States for a state visit in 1976, during the American Bicentennial. Liam would become a frequent visitor to the Naas races thereafter. Liam and Vera had a daughter Mary, who chairs the Naas Racecourse stewards’ panel, and two sons, Liam, who married Joan Bourke, and Ciarán. [41]
  5. Joseph Osborne (b. 1928) – a great horseman, who scored his first win was on his pony Little Sparkler. A very gentle man, he joined the Jesuit Order.
  6. Hilda Osborne (b. 1930) married Gerard Cullen, Ballsbridge, Dublin.
  7. Paddy Osborne

    Patrick (Paddy) Osborne (1934-2013), a jockey-turned-trainer who enjoyed success with Brown Lad (three-time Irish Grand National champion and winner of the Sun Alliance Chase) and Deep Idol (winner of the 1957 Irish Champion Hurdle). Paddy emigrated to the States in December 1956. According to the Leinster Leader of 21 June 1958 (here):

“He enlisted for a four year tour of Air Force duty in January 1957, and after receiving his basic training at Lackland Air Base in Texas he was shipped to Scott Air Base in Illinois for radio maintenance fundementals school. Upon his successful completion of the radio course he was assigned to Ent Air base in Colorado Springs for his apprenticeship. Airman Osborne received his overseas orders almost a year after arriving in the United States.
In 1958, he was assigned duty as a radio maintenance technician with 1230th Airways and Air Communications service squadron, R. A. F. Station Croughton, in the English Midlands … he will share in the responsibility of insuring constant radio communication to all NATO aircraft flying over the North Atlantic. Croughton Airways operated by the men of the 1230th AACS Squadron is the UK link in the globe-encircling network of the United States Air Force’s Strategic Communications System.”

When his father died in 1982, Paddy took his place on the board of the Naas Race Company. Paddy married Joan Fogarty, Tipperary, daughter of  William Fogarty was assistant trainer to Vincent O’Brien at Ballydole. They and have three sons, including Robbie (a former trainer and director of Naas Racecourse) and Joseph Osborne (b. 1970), father of Andrew and Jamie Osborne, the Ireland international and Leinster player. On New Year’s Day 2000, 22-year-old Robbie became the third generation of his family to take on the trainer’s mantle at Craddockstown. He has his first runner at Naas that same afternoon.


Tony Osborne (1924-20016)

Tony Osborne

Born on 17 September 1924 , William Anthony Osborne, known as Tony, was Bill and Peg’s eldest son. He was apprenticed and qualified as a solicitor in his uncle Bob’s practice (Robert A. Osborne) in Athy in 1947.  He subsequently practiced as a solicitor in Naas for over sixty years and was actively involved in the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland where he served on the Council for many years and was President of the Society in 1974 – 1975.

He was involved in the racecourse as a lifelong Naas resident who enjoyed attending race meetings there. From the mid-1990s until his death, he was an active, long-time director of the racecourse. He was also chairman of the development committee that implemented the major renovations and rebuilding works that took place in the late 1990s, including the construction of the new Grandstand in 1998. He was instrumental in getting the finance act amended in the 1990s to allow Capital Gains Tax to be written off against Capital works. This significantly reduced the tax that the Naas Race Company paid when it sold development land as it used the proceeds to fund the Grandstand. Tony also provided legal advice to the company for little or no payment.

Tony was predeceased by his wife Joan Osborne (1927-2001), formerly of Maudlins, Naas. Joan’s father, James Lalor (1893-1962), ran a drapery shop at 6 South Main Street Naas and he was also a part-time bookmaker, horse breeder and a keen sportsman and one of the initial shareholders in Naas Racecourse.  He enjoyed a few successes over the sprint course at Naas with a filly Minden Lass (Essexford – Minden Maid), who won two races on the flat there in 1933 and 1934.

Tony Osborne died on 10 July 2016 and is survived by his sons Michael and Paul, and daughters Catherine and Mary.

Michael Osborne (1934-2005)


Michael Osborne

Born in Naas on 14 July 1934, Michael was probably the most successful veterinary surgeon in the Naas district during the 1960s. In October 1970, the 36 year old was appointed manager of the Irish National Stud, remaining at Tully for the next twelve years. [42]  His veterinary practice was taken over to the vet Jimmy Kelly, who played rugby for Ireland and was a champion of the reverse pass. Michael’s daughter Meta, who is also a vet, would later work alongside Jimmy at the practice.

In 1982, he moved to the USA to manage North Ridge Farm in Lexington, Kentucky, which city he then had twinned with County Kildare. Three years later, he was headhunted by General Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Minister of Defence, to build up his stud farm operations in Ireland. He duly helped Sheikh Mohammed buy Kildangan Stud and later became chief executive of the Emirates Racing Association. In that role, he helped to establish international racing in Dubai, supervised the construction of the first Nad Al Sheba grandstand and managed the launch of the world’s richest race, the Dubai World Cup in 1996.

A former senior steward of the Turf Club, Michael was the first Irishman to be made an honorary member of the Jockey Club. He was conferred with an honorary science doctorate by the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. He was also made a Freeman of Naas, which he considered an immense tribute. He was very proud of Naas, although his first love was the Curragh, where he was chairman of the Curragh Committee.

He is also credited with wooing legendary Kerry football player-manager Mick O’Dwyer to manage Kildare in the 1990s, securing two Leinster titles, and giving the Lilywhites their first All-Ireland final appearance in seventy years.

In 2004, Michael Osborne was unanimously elected chairman of the World Racing Championships. Following his death on 21 December 2005, aged 71, after a short illness, Sheikh Mohammed described him as ‘a wonderful man’ and ‘a hugely influential figure in world racing.’  [43]

Michael married Ann Duffy of Hacketstown, County Carlow, a daughter of John Duffy, a well-known merchant and businessman. Mr Duffy had an interest in Naas, perhaps through the Whelan family, which is how the Cantillon family acquired shares in the racecourse.

Michael and Ann had two sons, Joe and John, and three daughters Meta, Liz and Jenny. [44]

Joe Osborne, born in 1962, has had a senior role in Sheikh Mohammed’s Irish operation since 1994. He became managing director of Godolphin Ireland in 1998, and is, by extension, managing director of Kildangan Stud. He also served as chairman of the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association. [45]

John, a veterinary surgeon, was chief executive of the Irish National Stud for seven years. In 2017, he moved to Horse Racing Ireland where he is now Director of Bloodstock and Welfare.

Meta, the oldest daughter, likewise practiced as a vet. Elected as the Turf Club representative to Horse Racing Ireland in 2014, she was also the first female to be appointed Senior Steward of the Irish Turf Club. She married Dermot Cantillon, a doctor’s son from West Waterford, who was then managing Forenaghts Stud for the Smurfit family. [46] In 2002, Media Puzzle won the Melbourne Cup, giving trainer Dermot Weld and owner Michael Smurfit their second victory in Australia’s staying classic. [47] As the Smurfit’s racing manager, it was Dermot Cantillon who gave the victory speech to the assembled media.  Nominated onto the Naas Racecourse Board in 1995, he has been chairman of Naas Racecourse since 2006.




With much thanks to Gaye Osborne, Meta Osborne, Paul Osborne and Joe Osborne.




[1] Family lore holds that another Osborne was killed by a shot that was fired at William of Conqueror just as the Norman to his knees to pray. There seems to be ne veracity to this, although William did have a valued counsellor by name of William FitzOsbern, 1st Earl of Hereford, Lord of Breteuil, who was killed at the battle of Cassell in 1071. FitzOsbern’s father Osbern the Steward, served under two Dukes of Normandy, and had his throat slit in the winter of 1040-1041, while protecting the future Conqueror in the child’s bedroom at Le Vaudreuil.

Gaye Osborne says the family name crops up consistently from the 18th century in the same areas as the Darley family, who had quarries and who designed many buildings using Ballyknockan stone in the 19th century.

See the film here at and the ‘Hands’ episode on the quarry, available here.

Paul Osborne, who lived at Lisnavagh from circa 2011-2014, says his Osborne family also worked as stonemasons on the local large houses. He found a record in Tullow library that one of them was subcontracted to work on Lisnavagh House when it was built in the 1840s. In the late 1800s, this branch moved away from stonemasonry to farming, or perhaps engaged in both. Notably, two of Paul’s Osborne cousins are architects.

[2] In 1940 the village of Ballinahown was completely flooded and parts of the surrounding towns of Valleymount and Lacken were also flooded to make way for the Poulaphouca Reservoir which spans out over 20 km2 across the land.

[3] Gaye Osborne writes: ‘The first quarry in the Blessington area was run by the Olligan / Halligan family and the Brady’s at Golden Hill.  The façade of TCD towards College Green was built in 1752-60 using granite from Golden Hill, as was the Provost’s House (1759), the Customs House (1781-91) and The Four Courts (1785-82) which used a mixture of Golden Hill and Kilbride granite.  The chapels at Valleymount (1803) and Lacken (1811) are reputed locally to have been built using Ballyknockan granite.  According to local tradition (the Brady and Halligan family), one Sunday Patrick Olligan and Paul Duffy came from Golden Hill on a sidecar pulled by a thirteen hands pony to survey for stone in Ballyknockan. Patrick Olligan is reputed to have brought 400 men with him from the Golden Hill quarries to Ballyknockan to supply stone for the building of Kingsbridge Railway Station in 1846-47.  Of note is the fact that the quarry lands at Golden Hill and Ballyknockan were owned by the one family, the Joys; the lands in-between were owned by other people.’

[4] ‘About 60 years ago a man by the name of William Osborne had some men employed cutting stone in a field owned and lent by my grandfather for the purpose of cleaning the field because at that time he had no quarry in Ballyknocken. When he was cutting this particular rock as he came to the middle he saw what he thought was the lid of a crock shining. In order to see what was in it himself, first he gave his men a sovereign between them and sent them to the public house to Valleymount that time known as Butlers. When he had the place silent, he opened the crock and saw the gold. He brought this home and with some of it he bought the present quarry known as Messrs Osborne and Brady from Thomas O’Reilly. Since then a very prosperous business has been carried on there.’ [Treasure in Ballyknockan, The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0917, Page 010 © National Folklore Collection, UCD. Collector: Myles Cullen. Informant: Laurence Cullen.

[5] William Osborne died in June 1931. His obituary appeared in the Leinster Leader, 20 June 1931, p. 7.

[6] Gaye Osborne writes: ‘When I finished my cataloguing of the family tree, I found that apart from one family, the Healy’s, everyone in Ballyknockan in the 1901 Census were related on some level to each other, the Osborne’s!  I looked for a tree and found a village!’

[7] Wicklow People, 15 July 1899, p. 7.

[8] ‘The “Irish Daily Independent,” in its description, on Tuesday, of the new Guinness Brewery, pays a high tribute to the workmanship and the quality of the granite from the famous Ballyknockan quarries, Co Wicklow, contained in that magnificent and marvellous structure which is built on the American style. Too much credit cannot be possibly given to Mr. William Osborne, the contractor, and his staff, for the splendid accuracy and precision with which one of the most difficult works ever executed in Dublin was carried to a successful completion.

The oriel windows alone are masterpieces, and must have taken a considerable outlay of skill and time to bring about the beautiful aspect they display. To the ordinary observer the building stones used in the construction of the brewery appear of ordinary dimensions, those alone who saw them either placed in position or in course of manufacture being able to estimate the magnitude of their dimensions. The contract was a time limit one, and one that might make most people pause to encounter, but Mr. Osborne trusting to the co-operation of his fellow quarry owners, Messrs. Brady, M‘Evoy, and Freeman, and the grit and energy of the local employees, undertook the contract with the happiest results, and with added honour and credit Ballyknockan, which has now added another noble pile to the numerous already standing in the metropolis from its quarries. Not alone in Dublin has the fame of the quarries gone forth, but throughout Ireland, and even England, not to say as far as Newfoundland, where in St. John’s Cathedral the beauty of the granite of Ballyknockan and the skill and efficiency of its artisans attract admiration.’

Kildare Observer and Eastern Counties Advertiser, 12 November 1904, p. 5.

[9] Stone, Volume 24, D. H. Rauck, 1902, p. 324. The work was not without its strife, including a strike in 1891, as per Leinster Leader, 18 April 1891, p. 6.

[10] Leinster Leader, 12 November 1887, p. 5.

[11] They are buried in Baltyboys Cemetrey, 323a Sacred | To The Memory Of | MARY F. OSBORNE | Ballyknocken House | Who Died 7th Dec 1917, Aged 55 Years | PETER A. OSBORNE | Who Died Young | WILLIAM OSBORNE | Who Died 13th June 1931, Aged 86 Years | MARGORIE OSBORNE | Died 16th Dec 1934 | MAURA OSBORNE | Died 27th Oct 1939 | JAMES A OSBORNE Died 25th Sept 1960 | Aged 60 Years R.I.P. See image of gravestone here.

[12] Kildare Observer and Eastern Counties Advertiser, 24 March 1888, p. 5.

[13] Leask, H. G. “The Long Stone, Punchestown, Co. Kildare.” The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, vol. 7, no. 2, 1937, pp. 250–52. JSTOR.

[14] ‘We understand that Miss Walsh, of Tipper (near Naas), has disposed of her dwelling house and farm to Mr W. Osborne, Ballyknocken, the price being stated at £2,400.’ Kildare Observer and Eastern Counties Advertiser, 5 December 1903, p. 5.

[15] William Osborne’s residence in 1901 was already named Ballyknockan House and the differences between his house in 1901 and 1911 were 5 extra out-houses plus one window (possibly another room, though it may be that only 11 were used in the 1901 census and 12 were used in 1911). There is another house called Ballyknockan in County Wicklow where Catherine Fulvio runs her cookery school.  The Gaffer’s was in Ballyknockan village and became a pub, but is believed to be back in private ownership as of 2023.

[16] O’Connor was especially linked to buildings for the Sisters of Mercy and the Christian Brothers, as well as building hospitals, libraries, commercial premises, cinemas, public and private housing.

[17] Weekly Irish Times, 6 August 1910, p. 21; Kildare Observer and Eastern Counties Advertiser, 7 August 1915, p. 10.

[18] Kildare Observer and Eastern Counties Advertiser, 12 August 1911, p. 3. Oriolus was a son of Melton who won the second two legs of the English Triple Crown in 1885, namely the Derby at Epsom and the St Leger at Doncaster.

[19] Kildare Observer and Eastern Counties Advertiser, 15 December 1917, p. 7.

[20] Nan lived in Dalkey. Kitty lived in London. Bridget died at her residence, 8 Garville Road, Rathgar, in 1948.

Eileen became Sister M Kevin of the Holy Rosary Missions of Killeshandra, County Cavan, and later of the Holy Rosary Convent on Edenmore Road, Raheny. She spent a lot of time in Africa.

Irish Independent, 25 May 1948, p. 6; Wicklow People, 3 January 1975, p. 4.

‘The funeral of Dr Patrick J. Osborne. Maynooth, took place to St. Corban’s cemetery, following Mass in Eadstown Parish Church. celebrated by Very Rev. J. Dillon. PP. Eadstown Chief mourners were: Messrs. Joseph, Robert, William and James Osborne, brothers; Mrs. M. McCarroll, Mrs. N. Holland. Mrs. L. Hanlon. Mrs. K. Purcell and Rev. Mother M. Kevin (sisters).’ Sunday Independent (Dublin) – Sunday 18 October 1959, p. 6.

[21] Margaret was born on October 2 1896, in Mylerstown House, Naas, Co Kildare.  Joseph O’Connor was born in Mount Heaton, Roscrea, County Tipperary. He turned the first sod of the famous Cistercian Abbey, Mount St. Joseph’s, Roscrea, with the late Father Hilary and the late Father Benedict, and incidentally purchased the first cow for this renowned religious establishment. The Wikipedia entry for Senator Joseph O’Connor confuses him with Commandant Joseph O’Connor who died on 23 Feb 1959. The commandant certainly has a colourful CV.

My Naas archives file has fuller details of his family and career.

[22] Meath Chronicle, 5 Sept 1925.

[23] Senator Joseph O’Connor and his wife Margaret were also parents of the Rev. C. O’Connor, C.C., Kiltegan, and Rev. M. O’Connor, C.C., Ballyroan. Margaret died at Mylerstown, Naas, in 1942. Irish Independent – Monday 22 June 1942.

[24] St Mary’s College – History of the School (1936–2012), here.

[25] Peter Osborne told his daughter Gaye that the family were not allowed to gamble.

[26] Donal’s father, Daniel Corry (1902–90), was one of four army officers chosen to form the Irish army equitation school, which was established after discussions involving President W. T. Cosgrave (qv), Judge William Wylie of the RDS and army representatives.  A successful showjumper, he was later chef d’équipe of the Irish equestrian team and a consultant with the Irish Bloodstock Agency.

[27] He won the stone wall event at the Kilkenny Agricultural Show in 1916. Kildare Observer and Eastern Counties Advertiser, 30 September 1916, p. 5. Two years ago, he and Lady Chantilly came second in a show-jumping competition at the Kildare Hunt Horse Show at Oldtown, Naas. (He also came second on board his father’s bay mare, The Nurse, at the same event, as per this article:


The thirteenth annual Kildare Hunt Horse Show was bet don Saturday at the usual location, the beautiful demesne of Colonel de Burgh. Oldtown, Naas. The weather was fine, and the crowd of about normal proportions. The classes were of war-time dimensions—that is to say, they were small,—but the important thing is to keep them going st now, when there is so little inducement held out to breeders of hunters and thoroughbred stock. Saturday’s show proved that, if there be a diminution in breeding owing to economic causes, there is yet no falling off in the quality of the horses in the hunt district. What were shown were well up to standard, and, speaking generally, the show was an improvement on last year. The quality all round was good, especially in the four-year-olds. In this class the first prize and Major Talbot-Ponsonby’s champion cup went to Mrs. W. Hall, Ballytore, Athy, while Major Ponsonby was second, and Mr. A. Hanlon, Sallins, third. In the sections for mares, Capt. Ponsonby was first, and Col. Blacker second, Mr. Frank M’Donagh being third. Capt. H. Dixon won both first for thoroughbred yearlings; while in the classes for brood mares the winners were Messrs. Stephen Hayden,. Naas; H. D. Boothman, Blessington; E. H. Barton, and R. F. Kearney. Mr. Boothmaa also won the Will’s challenge cup for the best hunter brood mare in the show. Mr. R. F. Kearney, Capt. Dixon, Mr. B. N. Barton, and Mr. C. J. Wilson were very successful in the classes for yearlings; and in two and three-year-olds Mr. Joe. O’Neill, Bodenstown, Sallins, got a first for his colt foal. Jumping— The following were winners—Competition A —Mr. Lyde’s Satan (Owner),  J. – Osborne’s b.m. The Nurse (Mr Joe. Osborne), 2; Capt. Lockett’s Irish Priest, 3. Competition B (open)—Major Rotheram’s bl.g. Nigger (Owner), I; Miss O’Connor’s My Destiny (Owner), 2; ‘Mr. J. Osborne’s cb.m. Lady Chantilly (Owner), 3. There were 52 entries.

[28] OSBORNE—CUNNINGHAM. The pretty midsummer wedding of Mr. Joseph W. Osborne and Miss Helen Mary Cunningham at University Church, St. Stephen’s Green, had for celebrants the Revd. I. N. Cunningham, Knocklong College, Carlow, brother of the bride; Revd. N. J. Brennan, C.S.Sp., Blackrock College, and Revd. P. J. Meagher, C.S.Sp., Rockwell College (Grand-Uncle and Uncle of the bride), and the Revd. Fathers Sherwin, Clinton, Creigh, Hipwell, Foynes, and O’Connor. The bridegroom is fifth son Mr. William Osborne, Ballyknocken House, Blessington, Co. Wicklow, while the bride daughter of Mrs. and the late Mr. P. Cunningham, Monreade House, Naas, Co. Kildare. She was given away by her brother, and wore ivory crepe de Chine simply fashioned, and carried a sheaf of lilies. Miss Kitty Cunningham (sister) and Miss Eileen Osborne (the bridegroom’s sister) were ill attendance, wearing pretty salmonpink crepe de Chine dresses and hats, and jewelled pendants and brooches given them by the bridegroom, whose best man was his brother, Dr. P. J. Osborne. A reception the Royal Hibernian Hotel, Dawson St., preceded the departure of the newly-wedded. Irish Society (Dublin) – Saturday 09 July 1921, p. 4.  See also Kildare Observer and Eastern Counties Advertiser, 11 June 1921.

[29] Kildare Observer and Eastern Counties Advertiser – Saturday 23 August 1924, p. 7.

[30] Kildare Observer and Eastern Counties Advertiser – Saturday 11 October 1924, p. 7.

[31] Kildare Observer and Eastern Counties Advertiser, 13 March 1926, p. 7.

[32] On Sunday, 8 February 1931, Kildare native, Mr. Patrick James Hogan, FG, Minister for Agriculture, received a deputation for those interested in the horse-breeding industry and in racing. He was asked to use his influence to have the Betting Tax removed. It was pointed out that the tax was having a most injurious effect on racing, and that the Naas Race Co., had lost £1,400 (€120k) the first year it was imposed in spite of the fact they had reduced their stakes that year by £1,000 (€86K). The Minister promised to give the matter every consideration. The deputation consisted of: – Naas Race Company – Messrs. P. J. Brophy (acting Chairman), E. Brophy, E. S. Dowling, C. Farrell, J. W. Osborne, and M. N. Conway (Manager). Reps. Of Horsebreeders – Senator J. J. Parkinson, Messrs. C. Burke, F. Burke, and T. Waters.

[33] He fell at the first while riding the favourite Bushy Belle in the Farmers Race at the Naas Harriers’ annual point-to-point at Two Mile House in March 1933. Kildare Observer and Eastern Counties Advertiser – Saturday 01 April 1933, p. 5.

[34] Sport (Dublin), 8 May 1926, p. 8; Sport (Dublin), 7 May 1927, p.2; Kildare Observer and Eastern Counties Advertiser, 20 April 1929, p.4.

[35] Northern Whig, 6 January 1936, p. 2.

[36] Ireland’s Saturday Night, 28 March 1936, p. 4.

[37] Leinster Leader, 2 April 1938, p. 3.

[38] Leinster Leader – Saturday 11 March 1939, p. 11. Donohill took the £250 Chase, Jack’s the Boy took the Osbertown Chase and Baybush shared in a dead-heat in the opening event

[39] Joe also bred Ten Up, winner of the 1975 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

[40] Leinster Leader – Saturday 19 April 1952, p. 1.

[41] Mary Cosgrave was born on 12 May 1953. Liam T. Cosgrave was born on 30 April 1956, married Joan Bourke and has a son, Ciaran, born 13 September 1958. Mary would have great stories!

[42] See also Michael Osborne’s obituary in The Irish Field here.

‘IN October 1970, Michael Osborne arrived at Tully to take over as manager of the Irish National Stud. In six months time, and exactly 12 year later, he moves on to the North Ridge Stud, Kentucky. Why, at the age of 47, is Michael Osborne leaving? Quite simply, he is the boss of a semi-state company, and frustration has driven him out.
When he was appointed manager 12 years ago he had little to lose. He had become a successful veterinary surgeon in the Naas area, and looked for the post almost as an optimistic afterthought. Therefore, he was amazed when he was selected from literally hundreds of applicants.
He was given a contract and knew little of the red-tape world of civil servants that would eventually strangle him. In 1978 the Irish National Stud was the first company to be the subject of the report of the joint-committee on state-sponsored bodies, and issued a memorandum of activities from 1970-78 to help the committee.
Faceless people
As Osborne put it this week: “Not one recommendation was carried out, although the Irish National Stud board did everything in its power. The trouble is one is dealing with faceless people who do not have bias, but worse still, have no interest. You’d expect a reasonable hearing, but it ain’t so.”
If 1978 held a glimmer of hope following the November meeting with the joint-committee, then 1979 was soul destroying, and probably did more than anything to force Osborne to leave. For some time the stud’s board has been lobbying for Osborne, now managing director, to be paid a reasonable salary.
The opposite happened. The infamous Devlin Report actually had him downgraded from III to IV of the five grades for semi-state managers, with an insulting salary by commercial values of between £13,500 and £15,000 per annum. Also, to make matters worse, the stud, although the property of the Minister for Agriculture, was rented to the Minister for Finance. Therefore applications for funds had to wind its way through two departments.”
The Irish Field.

[43] RTE filmed a documentary on his contribution to racing – Arabian Nights and Lilywhites [Documentary 60; Year: 2002; This documentary follows two men’s passion for racehorses – one is a fabulously wealthy Arab Prince, the other is a one-time country vet from Ireland.]

[44] Joe married Carol ____. John married Valerie ____. Meta married Dermot Cantillon. Liz married Jody ____. I don’t know if Jenny married.

[45] See Leo Powell’s interview with Joe Osborne from The Irish Field, 3 Sept 2021, here.

Joe was appointed interim chief executive of Godolphin’s global operation in 2017, has been part of Sheikh Mohammed’s worldwide racing and breeding operation since 1994. He is Godolphin’s managing director in Ireland, is also MD of Kildangan Stud, the headquarters of Darley’s Irish operation. He is a director of Darley Flying Start, the management training programme launched in 2003, and he has also served as chairman of the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association.

[46] Dermot introduced the “outside blood” being a Waterford man!

[47] In 1993, the champion stayer Vintage Crop won the 3200m Melbourne Cup, and so became the first Northern Hemisphere-trained horse to take Australia’s most famous cup home. Media Puzzle was co-owned by Don Keough (1926-2015), the Irish-American businessman and a former president of Coca-Cola.