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Earliest meeting: Monday 22nd June 1761
Final meeting: Monday 30th April 1906
The County Offaly town of Parsonstown, later to be named Birr, is located at the point where the Rivers Camcor and Little Brosna meet. The earliest record of racing in Parsonstown was in 1761 when results from the three day meeting, stretching from Monday 22nd to Wednesday 24th June, were included in the Racing Calendar. On the opening day the 4 year old Stakes went to Mr Lambert’s mare, while Promise won the 5 year old Stakes the next day, but the most competitive race was on Wednesday 24th June when the 6 year old Stakes saw Mr French’s Humbug beat Prince Edward and Titus. The next year the meeting had extended to a full week from Monday 23rd to Friday 27th August, with the Open Handicap falling to Mr Lambert’s Freemason. The meetings were still being billed as Parsonstown in the 1770s, but by 1780s they had been relabelled as Birr races. By 1812, in a bid to ease the fixture congestion that was causing all Irish courses a problem, the Irish Turf Club assigned days or weeks to particular courses. Birr/Parsonstown was assigned the final week in September, the week after Maryborough races, but in 1813 an incident happened at the meeting epitomising some of the unruliness occurring in Irish racing at the time. At the September 1813 meeting Chanter, owned by Mr Rolleston, was brought down by a spectator on horseback after winning the first heat and was unable to contest further heats. Despite these serious incidents the meetings remained popular and well supported for almost another century. On Thursday 18th April 1839 a 3 mile steeplechase was held on the Clonbeg course near Birr for a 100 Guineas Gold Cup which was presented by Ormond and Kings County Hunt via its Master Colonel Westenra. The three mile all grass course consisted of seven walls mostly five feet high and two feet thick, a 15 foot drain and several ditches. The race was keenly fought but tragedy happened at a wall when Mr Lawler’s Mad Cap fell and killed his rider. The race was won quite comfortably by The Treasurer. The final meeting took place on Monday 30th April 1906.

This racecourse is covered in Volume 4 of Racecourses Here Today and Gone Tomorrow. Ordering details shown below.

Local Patrons

Lord Mount Eagle, Colonel Lumm, Colonel Archdale, Colonel Westenra

Principal Races Birr 100 Guineas Gold Cup, Birr Open Handicap

Thursday 18th April 1839
Birr 100 Guineas Gold Cup over 3 miles
1. The Treasurer, aged horse owned by Mr Spunner
2. Sir Stiff, aged horse owned by Mr Thomas Dancer
3. Lady Jane, aged horse owned by Mr Drought

The final meeting took place on Monday 30th April 1906.
Course today The Clonbeg Course near to Birr.
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.
Download an order form
  Quantity Cost
Volume 1 North of Hatfield £19.99 + £4 postage    
Volume 2 South of Hatfield £14.99 + £3 postage    
Volume 3 Wales & Scotland £9.99 + £3 postage    
Volume 4 Ireland £9.99 + £3 postage    
Volumes 1 - 4 £54.96 + £5 postage    
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