This page is dedicated to William J. Diamond 1920 – 2010
“ A precious Tradition in Connemara“
Talks to Ruth Rogers
There are few Connemara Pony breeders in Ireland with more knowledge of this native bred than Willie Diamond from Tully, Renvyle Co Galway. Willy recalls one of his first ponies Parkmore Bobby was sold to his friend John Luskin who did so much for the Society. It was here in Renvyle that many famous names were foaled tracing back to Fanny Bunty in 1938 and later great grand dam of Abbeyleix Owen.
Over the decades the Diamond Prefix was evident at shows in many parts of the World, and included winning the Killanin Cup at Clifden and at the R.D.S in 1952 for Willie and his own Five of Diamonds. Willie bred Queen of Diamonds dam of that great Stallion Abbeyleix Owen but he also owned “Owen’s sire “ ” Kimble” who gave Willie a day he describes as” the best few hours of my life” in 1971 at Clifden. Queen of Diamonds won the Killanin Cup ”and a little later with “Kimble” “we took the Supreme Championship” and in doing so he became one of the first stallions to claim such an accolade. He was then exported and Sweden to commence stud duties.
Willie retains his original bloodlines to the present day; 17 year-old “Bibi D “is a grand old mare by Cuchullian out of “Diamonds Fancy” by Kimble. He also has a 5 year old by Bodenpark Finnard. Willie says ” in years gone by money was in short supply in Connemara “ “with no subsidies, people had little choice but to sell ponies because grass was limited” “The cow got most because she was the provider of food for the household” “the pony was the worker” and at times the only bonus for the owner was perhaps selling a foal.
He has strong views on the present day breeding policy, and has the opinion that people “must stop and look at the stallions and mares they are producing from. “Now there is a tendency to breed “quantity rather than quality” and the absence of a studbook each year is not good”.
The old mares in south Connemara, Spiddal and Carraroe were small with great bone and sustenance which they passed on to their offspring. No one should breed from a Bue-Eyed cream pony because there is a deficiency in the gene and a sad sight to see. It was a bad day for the West when Toureen Laddie was sold to America, he was the last son of Innishgoill Laddie and if her were around to-day things might be different.
Thanks to Eamon Hannon we now have blood-typing, but “I was always more comfortable breeding bay to bay because you are safe” Loobeen Larry was put in South Connemara to strengthen the breed; he was bay and produced some lovely ponies “We have almost got rid of the Dun and that must not happen even if grey is the dominant colour in Connemara”. “The old lines must be respected rather than replaced by greed.”
I asked Willie what he looks for in his ideal pony? He likes 14-1 h.h. Because the foundation breeds were usually 13-2, so there can be a problem when a Judge is faced with a 14-2 pony against a 13-2.
Willie Diamond served on the Council for almost 25 years and as Vice President with the late Donal Kenny but he would like to see changes. “It is not possible to run any society if there are splinter groups whom at times “cause more concern than they are concerned about” “ policy becomes priority” “In my day it was always the pony that came first”. “The council is too big, twelve people and unity might be a lot better” ” The Council must at all costs appoint experienced Inspection teams” “ owners have to pay society fees, vet, and travel to have their pony inspected but unfortunately some feel that “a lovely head and a nice rein is the ultimate” “others forget to look down at the legs which are the bread and butter that carry this pony through life either jumping or showing” “You don’t want bone like a Clydesdale but you do need balanced conformation”. “ A coffin head is not the choice of everybody but it is better than bad bone and a pretty head, in the past there were some superb mares that produced lovely stock but in the second generation the progeny were very short of timber”
“Over the years there were more good ponies turned down at inspections than were passed and those who turned them down should have known better. It has happened that a Reserve champion failed an inspection and Willie would love to know why,” if a pony was good enough to be a Reserve Champion then why was it not good enough to pass an inspection “ “ without unity and experience at all inspections they are a useless exercise”.
Willie has strong views about introducing other breeds into the Connemara and he thinks that at times it was a disaster probably owing to the infusion of outside blood which failed to retain the conformation of the true Connemara, The pedigrees that contain Irish Draught may be better because the pure Irish Draught was after all another native breed.
“If the traditional Connemara is to remain we must look at ways to keep them intact” “ this can only be done by mixing the genes of the old lines back in again” “The society should place a good stallion to run with mares in the National Park which would also benefit visitors.
Willie is especially concerned at the cost of entry to the R.D.S. because “It was always the ultimate to win there” “ now good breeders are forced to stay at home to the determent of the breed.”
Of the changes in Clifden over the decades Willie has seen many. “ The Mart is good and it is run fairly” long ago we had no money and few buyers but now everything is better. Willie would favour a two -day show at Clifden dividing the classes over both days. “Having two rings puts a lot of pressure on the Judges, “if classes were split up it would give them a chance to see everything together rather than in separate rings” “the comment people on the sidelines will always find fault when it comes to a championship”. Judges have different opinions and their decisions must be respected.
As somebody who never misses Clifden I asked Willie if he could pick out a special pony? “Gloves Misty was absolutely outstanding”, she had it every way and was Champion three times which was the proof of the pudding, “I have to say that Belle of the Ball owned by Joe Gorham was one of the most perfect mares I ever saw” “ she had such quality”.
And whom does Willie admire as a showman in the ring to day? “All young exhibitors should watch Packie Whelan from Ardrahan” “if the pony is half good enough Packie will succeed” “ he is gifted and few could match his ring craft”.
As an “In-Hand” Judge for many years Willie gave me his thoughts on the present day judges. I judged with Mrs Petch a few times and she was excellent. “Lady Hemphill and Padraic Hynes are sound and they know their ponies”. “If you want to know about a judge you look at their ponies,” good judges keep good ponies” and “bad judges have bad ponies”.
Willie’s son Liam retains the Diamond tradition in Renvyle at the “Diamonds of Renvyle Equestrian Centre” They ride their ponies far into the mountains that hold so many memories exclusive to Connemara and living legends like Willie Diamond.