Mick the Miller - Killeigh Parish

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Mick the Miller

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The following was written by Fr Prendergast
in the 'Emigrant Newsletter' in JUNE 1980

Dear Reader:
As a variation to the usual topic I would like to write to you on this occasion about the famous greyhound that came from Killeigh. It may be of no interest whatever to some people, but for those who have heard of this great dog I would like to write a final record:
Very Rev. Martin Brophy, the Irish priest who owned the famous racing grey­hound, MICK THE MILLER, was born in Shankill, near Paulstown, Co. Kilkenny, on 4th May 1874. He was ordained to the priesthood of his native diocese, Kildare & Leighlin, in 19O1. As a Curate, he did the usual round of in that area, serving in Portarlington, Leix; Baltinglass, Co. Wicklow; Killeigh, Offaly; Daingean, Offaly, and, finally, he served as Pastor of Suncroft, Co. Kildare, until his death in 1949. Fr. Brophy's interest in greyhounds showed itself at first in Baltinglass, Co. Wicklow, where he owned and coursed a dog named Crom Abu. He had fair success in open coursing with this dog. In 1922 Fr. Brophy was transferred to Killeigh, and it was there that the famous MICK THE MILLER was bred and reared. At that time Fr. Brophy had in his employment a Mr. Michael Greene who became one of the most famous trainer of greyhounds.
MICK THE MILLER was one of a litter of nine pups out of a bitch named Na bac Leis (in Irish it means "Ignore it - it doesn't matter"). The greyhound sire was named Glorious Event, the property of Mr. P.J. Meehan, Solicitor, Portlaoise. The nine pups were born on 29th June 1926. For whatever reason, Michael Greene decided to rear the wonder dog himself. He fed it with milk out of a mineral water bottle, like a pet lamb, left it with its mother at night, but took it into the Curate's house by day. He was fed three times a day from the bottle. The other 8 pups were disposed of as follows: One was reared on a foster mother owned by Pat Brady of Killeigh; two were reared in the house of a Miss Nevins at Ballymooney, Geashill, and another at Yarr's of Ballylevin. Another was reared at Corbett's of Killeigh and two were given to P.J. Meehan, the Solicitor who owned the father of the dogs - Glorious Event. Lastly, Michael Greene reared one brindle and white dog. It stood 27 / inches high and his running weight was 72 Ibs. He named it MACOMA.
It is interesting to recall how MICK THE MILLER got his name: A group of priests were gathered outside Fr. Brophy's house and they debated what name they should call this dog. Several names were suggested, but none was accepted. Just at a critical moment in the discussion a man came on the scene, called Mick Dunne, who owned the mill at Killeigh. Someone said "Here is Mick the Miller" and there and then they decided to call the dog by that name.
In August 1927 Michael Greene took MICK THE MILLER and MACOMA to the new Shelbourne Park Greyhound racing track. He studied well what the track was like and, after some trials, he took the two dogs home and began to train them. He devised a half-moon shaped track with netting wire in the field opposite the Curate's house. After a fortnight of such training the dogs were again taken to Shelbourne. It was on that night that MICK THE MILLER'S prowess became known to the astonished crowd. In his first race he came home four lengths in front of his five opponents and clocked 28.4/5th seconds for 525 yards. MACOMA ran in the next flat race and clocked the same time of 28.4/5th seconds for the same distance. Another bitch, named Matilda, was also trained by Michael Greene and at Shelbourne in the same year won a race over the same distance in similar time.
At this stage, Fr. Brophy and Mr. Greene were prepared to train all the other greyhounds which had been farmed out to people in the area when a telegram arrived from a Mr.& Mrs. Addie from England who were prepared to pay practically anything for good greyhound stock. They came, in due time, to what had now become known as The Millbrook Kennels. They stayed overnight and we know that they bought two of the pups from Miss Nevins for 60 Guineas each - a fantastic price for a puppy in 1927! They refused to leave until they had bought the mother of the pups - old Na bac Lei herself. It is said that only the same price was paid for her.
Fr. Brophy and Michael Greene continued to train MICK THE MILLER and MACOMA. The following year they were both entered for the Lady Abercorn Cup at Celtic Park, Belfast. Each of them won through to the semi-final in which, alas, MACOMA broke his leg and had to be withdrawn. MICK THE MILLER went into the final, but finished second for the only time in his life - behind a dog called Odd Blade, owned by a Mr. O'Brien from Cork. Fr. Brophy always blamed himself for that defeat. While watching the race from the Judge's box he saw the dogs were neck and neck. In dismay, he blurted out "He is beaten" and the judge concurred! Many good people who were there maintained that he really won that race. There were no cameras to tell the story in those days. That was in the summer of 1928.
In 1929 MICK THE MILLER won the Easter Cup in Shelbourne Park and a £50 stake Next he won the Harold's Cross Sweepstake Cup by a runaway victory - and another £50. Next came his greatest moment when he was entered for the London Derby at the White City Track. Fr. Brophy and Michael Greene travelled to London; and amidst scenes of wildest enthusiasm were acclaimed by the waiting crowds. By this time, MICK THE MILLER had become so accust­omed to the whole business that he would now only beat the nearest dog to him by a short length - he somehow had become aware that that was all he had to do.
About this time the Clergy of the Church of England had come out strongly in opposition to all forms of gambling, and especially this new form of greyhound racing. This made the Irish priest a real hero for the crowds at White City, and when MICK THE MILLER streaked to victory they nearly went wild. Fr. Brophy had to mount a sort of elevated platform, which was mobile, and he was driven around the track several times to satisfy their hero worship. A large section of the crowd was undoubtedly Irish, and this added to their appreciation. The Derby Stake was £500.
After the race, it was thought best to let the dog be sold and remain in England. To a Curate in an Irish parish at that time 800 Guineas was very welcome money and Fr. Brophy reluctantly accepted it from a Miss Williams of London. MICK won the same London Derby in the two succeeding years for this lady, after which she again sold him to the Manager of the White City Track - but for 2,000 Guineas. The new purchaser was a Mrs. Kempton (whose husband was the Manager of the White City) . Mrs. Kempton entered him yet again for the London Derby of 1932 and yet again he won easily. By this time the dog had become a real hero, arid if it was even suspected that he might be let run around the track, enormous crowds turned up to see him.
The Blue Ribbon of greyhound racing - the Gold Collar - was his next trophy. After this, a Bacon King from New York - to whom money meant nothing - came over and offered Mrs. Kempton £4,000, but she turned it down. She said no money could buy him. When this famous dog died, Mrs. Kempton had him preserved and placed in the Natural History section of the Victoria & Albert Museum, where it can still be seen.
The card explaining the exhibit reads as follows: "Mick the Miller (1926-1939) . Mick the Miller was a famous racing greyhound and during the active years of his career, 1928 to 1931, he was the winner of very considerable stakes and also of twenty-four gold and silver cups and trophies. He established time records in England, Wales and Ireland, and was the winner of the Greyhound Derby on two occasions. This dog set up a sequence of 19 consecutive victories, and after winning the first International Derby, the Greyhound Caesarwith and the Welsh Derby, concluded his career by winning the Greyhound St. Leger. The ancestry of Mick the Miller can be traced back to the famous dog, Master McGrath (winner of the Waterloo Cup in 1868, 1869 and 1871) and the final stages of his pedigree are as follows, etc. etc.....
This explanatory card in London makes no mention of Fr. Brophy or Michael Greene, but neither had the least interest in it. Fr. Brophy took on the cares of a parish near The Curragh, called Suncroft, and he told a nephew of his, some years before his death, that if there was a coursing meeting on the other side of the road he wouldn't cross over to see it.
Michael Greene trained many other dogs in kennels, especially in the West of Ireland, before he too retired. Towards the end of his life, Fr. Brophy packed away all the cups and trophies which had so long adorned his sideboard At the end, his only request to his three priest nephews was - "Don't let the cups go for a song at the auction; get them valued and give the proceeds to charity." This was duly done, but with disappointing results as to value.
Michael Greene, the trainer, died last year in Tullamore. Fr. Brophy's three nephews who served as priests in the diocese of Kildare & Leighlin -the late Fr. Tom Kennedy, Parish Priest of Rosenallis at the time of his death, was his closest friend; his brother, Fr. Dan Kennedy, has retired after ministering for over 25 years in Killeigh where Fr. Brophy had served; his third nephew is Very Rev. Thomas Brophy, Pastor of Baltinglass, Co. Wicklow, where Fr. Brophy had also ministered. Fr. Brophy died on 29th JUNE 1949.
Records: Price paid:£2,000. Record crowd at White City - 50,000.
51 wins in 68 races. Prize money estimate £9,017 + £20,000 at Stud Times at White City: 29.76 seconds for 525 yards. At Wembley 30.04 seconds for same distance.
His real time could never be ascertained, as he just came to beat the others and never really tried to make records! He was the first dog to receive fan-mail! He was the first about which a film was made, woven around his life story.

W. J Prendergast. PP Killeigh June 1980.

I draw your attention to this interesting website called www.mickthemiller.com which though not fully finished yet is up and running successfully. It has been created by Brendan Berry, Secretary Mick The Miller Commemoration Committee

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