Printer Friendly

Rural Life: Saddling up for a trot down memory lane.

EIGHTY-two-year-old Roly Millar, a retired farmer of Ardmore, Co Waterford, tells a story to and for all with a love of horses and history in his just published book Sarafand.

Born at Buttevant, Co Cork in 1916 he grew up seeing the great Cahermee Horse Fairs, held in the town each 12th July, and attended by buyers, civilian and military, from all across Europe.

In a lively fashion the author draws on vivid memories and a lifelong habit of diary keeping to paint a wonderful word picture of this once great trade in Irish horses.

From the Moy, Co Tyrone, to Buttevant, Co Cork, horse fairs provided an outlet for stock bred by farmers from Irish Draught type working mares. Animals as useful on the farm as on the city street or cavalry parade ground.

Roly Millar recalls how different buyers had different needs with, for example, the Swiss army purchasing team always seeking a handy horse with big feet.

"As a small boy I loved escaping to Buttevant railway station during the fair to watch horse specials leaving every few hours," Roly explained.

"The noise, smells, sites and excitement as horses were carefully loaded, eight at a time, into railway wagons remains a vivid memory. In 1935 I saw 12 wagons of matched grey horses set off to join that famous cavalry regiment the Scots Greys.

"As a young lad with a love of animals I walked past, patting their noses in farewell. A dozen years later, working with the horse transport unit in Palestine, I had charge of many ex-cavalry horses from the Scots Greys. Had we met before as they left Co Cork by train?"

In graphic detail the book reveals how, despite the arrival of armour on the battlefield, huge numbers of horses were used in World War Two - especially by German and Russian forces.

The son of a Royal Dublin Fusiliers officer killed during the Great War, Roly Millar enlisted in the British Army on leaving Mungret College, Limerick.

In a very down-to-earth manner, the author describes playing a part in some of the more dramatic battles against the Nazis.

Serving as a glider pilot at Arnhem and in the Rhine crossings he witnessed casualty levels the equal of those suffered a generation earlier in the trenches of Flanders.

Yet his love of horses was not lost and when war ended Roly Millar joined a horse transport unit attached to British and Australian forces in the Middle East.

Palestine was then in turmoil as Jewish refugees from the Holocaust established the state of Israel against the wishes of most Palestinians.

Based at Sarafand camp, the title for this illustrated 270 page hard backed book, Roly Millar greatly enjoyed working with horses and with riders from throughout these islands and Australia.

"Today it is hard to imagine the sheer numbers of horses bred in Ireland for export right up to the 1940s. One ship alone transported 37,000 animals from Ireland in less than five years.

Roly Millar closes his book with a moving description of the last parade by a mounted unit in Palestine. That parademarked the end of an era for European armies and for those thousands of Irish farmers who bred horses for military use.

Sarafand by Roly Millar, price pounds 15 plus pounds 2 postage and packing is available direct from R Millar, Ardo, Ardmore, Co Waterford, or from Easons & Waterstones shops.

A book for all.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 3, 1999
Previous Article:Out of Africa for adventure.
Next Article:Cinema Hotseat: Family fun at the double.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters