Cheltenham painting a racing certainty to attract lively bidding
A future queen of England, Irish film stars, Sir Winston Churchill, the duchess who owned Arkle, the sheepskin brigade, and Tipperary’s best-bred are among the cast in a captivating racecourse scene
On parade at Cheltenham: (left to right) Peter Payne-Gallwey, trainer and steward; Phil Bull, racehorse owner and founder of the Timeform system of handicapping horses; Sir Winston Churchill, British prime minister; his wife, Lady Spencer- Churchill; Harry Wragg, racehorse owner and famous jockey; Keith Piggott, jockey, trainer and father of jockey Lester Piggott; Anne, Duchess of Westminster, owner of racehorses including Arkle; ‘Frenchie’ Nicholson, trainer and founder of a jockey school; Princess Elizabeth, now Queen Elizabeth; Sir Cecil Boyd-Rochfort, Trainer of horses for British royal family; Ian Balding, trainer; Dorothy Paget, racehorse owner; Sir Noel Murless, trainer; Charlie Smirke, jockey; his wife, Ann Smirke; Dan O’Brien, trainer and father of Vincent O’Brien; Barry Fitzgerald, Irish film actor, whose real name was William Joseph Shields, best known for his role as Michaleen in ‘The Quiet Man’; Arthur Shields, Irish film actor, brother of Barry Fitzgerald, best known for his role as Rev Playfair in ‘The Quiet Man’; JP Donleavy, Irish-American author – or, possibly, his father, Pat Donleavy; Prince and Princess Monolulu, A famous, turban-wearing racing tipster and his partner; Pat Gray and Annie Hickman, Tipperary farmer racegoer and his wife; Grania Cazenove, owner of a Tipperary stud farm; Waldron West, the artist disguised as a policeman; Herbert and Mrs Blagrave; trainer and his wife
The Cashel Palace hotel, where the painting hung until the business was sold in 2014
Some Characters Seen at Cheltenham on Gold Cup Day, is the title of one of the most interesting and desirable paintings to appear at auction in Ireland in many years. It will go under the hammer at the Lynes & Lynes Auction Rooms in Carrigtwohill, Co Cork next Saturday morning with a modest estimate of €5,000-€10,000.
The painting is virtually unknown in the art world but it has been on public view for decades – in a hotel in Co Tipperary – and has been widely admired by a surprisingly international clientele.
The artist was Waldron West, a little-known English painter, from Worcester, who died in 1994. The painting, which is almost 7ft wide, depicts 27 recognisable people assembled at the famous racecourse in the Cotswolds in 1950.
All are characters with a keen interest in racing and all are real people. Some are famous public figures; others are well-known in the racing world, and the artist imagines them all together in a fascinating line-up.
Great and goodCheltenham Festival
Among those depicted are Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth) wearing a white hat and blue coat; a cigar-smoking Sir Winston Churchill and his head-scarfed wife, Lady Spencer-Churchill; Keith Piggott, the renowned trainer and father of jockey Lester Piggott; Dan O‘Brien, the Tipperary trainer and father of Vincent O’Brien; a fur-coated Anne, Duchess of Westminster, the owner of Arkle; Barry Fitzgerald, the Irish film actor who starred in The Quiet Man; the exotic, turban-wearing Prince Monolulu, a famous racing tipster; and the artist, Waldron West, himself, disguised as a policeman.
The oil-on-canvas painting, measuring approximately 6ft 10in by 2ft 5in, hung for many years in the Guinness Bar in the cellar of the Cashel Palace Hotel in the centre of Cashel, Co Tipperary. The hotel, at the foot of the Rock of Cashel, closed at the end of 2014 with the loss of 32 jobs.
It is located in the heart of Co Tipperary’s bloodstock industry and is close to both Coolmore Stud and Ballydoyle stables.
The Cashel Palace Hotel is one of Ireland’s most architecturally important hotels and is housed in a distinctive, red-brick Queen Anne-style building dating from 1730. It was built for the early 18th-century Protestant archbishop of Cashel, Theophilus Bolton.
The walled garden contains descendants of the original hop plants reputedly used by Richard Guinis, an agent for the archbishop in the 1740s, to brew the very first “Guinness”.
The hotel changed hands a few times over the years and was owned, for a time, in the 1970s by the late Vincent O’Brien, who founded the Ballydoyle Stables and is widely regarded as the greatest racehorse trainer of the 20th century.
Mr O’Brien died in 2009, aged 92. His daughter Susan is the wife of John Magnier, owner of Coolmore Stud.
Grandfather clockDenis Lynes
The Cashel Palace Hotel’s former barman Denis Heffernan (72), recalls serving customers including a 10-year-old Lady Diana Spencer (later the Princess of Wales), the California governor Ronald Reagan (who became US president) and Hollywood stars Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
He said the much-admired painting, which was acquired for the hotel in England in 1978, arrived from London, but an accompanying brass plate inscribed with a list of the people in the painting was lost. However, he has assisted in compiling a list of the people in Some Characters Seen at Cheltenham on Gold Cup Day.