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Wednesday 16 February 2022

Barney Curley

The late Bernard Joseph 'Barney' Curley, who died in May, 2021 at the age of 81, was, at various points in his career, a bookmaker, professional gambler, racehorse owner and trainer and philanthropist. However, he freely admitted to never having held an ordinary job in his life and his unorthodox approach to horse racing made him one of the most colourful characters in the history of the sport.

Born in Irvinestown, Co. Fermanagh in 1939, Curley survived a life-threatening bout of tuberculosis as a young man and, having abandoned plans to become a Jesuit priest, embarked upon a largely unsuccessful career as a bookmaker in Belfast. The chastening experience was not lost on Curley who, on June 25, 1975, masterminded the in infamous Yellow Sam coup at Bellewstown Racecourse, Co.Meath, which netted him and his associates over £2 million by modern standards. In 1986, Curley became a licensed trainer in his own right, keeping a small string of his own horses in his yard in Newmarket and financing the operation, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds a year, by gambling heavily on them. No stranger to controversy, Curley repeatedly fell foul of the stewards because of his no-nonsense, maverick attitude and outspoken views.

In his later years, following the death of his teenage son, Charlie, in a car accident in 1995, Curley turned his attention to charitable work, founding the charity Direct Aid for Africa (DAFA), in 1996. DAFA is a non-political, non-sectarian organisation dedicated to supporting underprivileged people in Zambia, in south-central Africa.


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