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Earliest meeting: Wednesday 31st August 1768
Final meeting: Wednesday 9th August 1905
The County Donegal town of Ballyshannon, on the River Erne, lays claim to being the oldest town in Ireland. Certainly archaeologists have found evidence of settlements from the Neolithic period in the vicinity of the town. Much more recently the town held race meetings as early as 1768 when a four day meeting was staged from Wednesday 31st August to Saturday 3rd September 1768, opening with a Plate won by Mr Harrison’s North Country Lass, who defeated Basheba and Justice. The next day a race for 5 year olds was claimed by Clericus for Mr Lambert, while Brown Jack overcame sole rival Lofty to win the 6 year old Plate. Racing continued to be popular and well supported for almost a century and a half. On Monday 1st October 1825 a steeplechase for the Finnar Cup was constested over a 4 mile course in a valley on the edge of the town, with the surrounding hills crowded with anxious spectators who witnessed Mr C C Cullen’s Foxhunter defeat Honest Ned and Othello. The 4 mile course contained 64 leaps, including six five foot high walls, and the winner completed the race in 13 minutes. The final meeting took place on Wednesday 9th August 1905, although even after this date races were still held in the town but were of minor significance and did not always involve thoroughbreds.

This racecourse is covered in Volume 4 of Racecourses Here Today and Gone Tomorrow. Ordering details shown below.
Local Patrons Lord Westport, Captain Savage, Mr F N Cullen, Mr Kirwan
Principal Races Gentlemen of County Leitrim Plate, Ballyshannon Handicap, Hunters Stakes, Seaside Handicap Plate, Camp Handicap Plate

Saturday 3rd September 1768
Ballyshannon Weight for Age Stakes
1. Black Joke, black mare owned by Mr Gillden
2. Northumberland Lady, bay mare owned by Mr Mulholm
3. Liberty, bay horse owned by Mr Irwin

In 1794 The Irish Racing Calendar was published by its proprietor P. Sharkey. It contained an Account of the Plates, Matches and Sweepstakes run for in Ireland from the April Meeting 1794. An extract of this is shown below.

Monday 18th to Saturday 23rd August 1794

Gentlemen of County Leitrim 2 mile Plate
1. Flahentagh owned by Mr Caldwell
2. Unnamed filly by Delphini owned by Mr F N Cullen
3. Unnamed filly by Adamant owned by Mr Kirwan

Ballyshannon Hunters Stakes over 4 miles
1. Grog owned by Mr Vandelune
2. Unnamed mare owned by Mr Morris
3. Aged mare owned by Mr Collins

Ballyshannon 3 mile Handicap
1. Junius owned by Mr Kirwan
2. Susanna owned by Mr Harris
3. Daphnae owned by Mr Bateman

Ballyshannon Handicap Sweepstakes over 2 miles
1. Ballyshannon owned by Mr Caldwell
2. Unnamed filly by Porto owned by Mr Fewry
3. Daphnae owned by Mr Jones

Tuesday 10th July 1900

The Seaside Handicap Plate over 2 miles
1. Portroyal owned by Mr W McHugh
2. Bal Austa owned by Mr P W Connolly
3. Five of Hearts owned by Mr A Doyle

The Camp Handicap Plate over 1 ¼ miles
1. Ballyhaunis owned by Mr P J Egan
2. Avonbeg owned by Mr R Mooney
3. Rathkenney owned by Mr W Martin

The final meeting took place on Wednesday 9th August 1905
Course today

The 4 mile steeplechase course was located in a valley on the edge of the town with the surrounding helds providing a spectacular view.

If you have photos, postcards, racecards. badges, newspaper cuttings or book references about the old course, or can provide a photo of how the ground on which the old racecourse stood looks today, then email

Much of the information about this course has been found using internet research and is in the public domain. However, useful research sources have been:-

London Illustrated News

Racing Illustrated 1895-1899

The Sporting & Dramatic Illustrated

Northern Turf History Volumes 1-4 by J.Fairfax-Blakeborough

The Sporting Magazine

A Long Time Gone by Chris Pitt first published in 1996 ISBN 0 900599 89 8

Racing Calendars which were first published in 1727

ISBN 978-0-9957632-0-3

652 pages

774 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-1-0

352 pages

400 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-2-7

180 pages

140 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-3-4

264 pages

235 former courses

Copies of the above books are only available by emailing stating your requirements, method of payment (cheque payable to W.Slusar) or Bank transfer, and the address where the book(s) should be sent.
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