Paul Hennessy: “An Adventurous Life”

Paul Hennessy: “An Adventurous Life”

‘Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it; boldness has genius, power and magic in it’. (Goethe).

Featured Image: Paul Hennessy at Kingmaker Park, Scone with ‘Higante’. The latter was by ‘Pride of Karioi’ out of ‘Farsala’ by ‘Aurealis’. Trained by Paul ‘Higante’ had 3 wins and 3 placings from 22 starts for AUD $13,760 prizemoney. (I freely admit to nepotism! I bred the dam ‘Farsala’). ‘Higante’ was 17 hands 2″ in height.

This panegyric is about my very good friend Paul Hennessy. As far as I’m aware Paul has never been officially recognised for his dedicated lifetime of service to the thoroughbred industry? What an omission. An eminent racing journalist and respected author has justifiably stated “the TB industry does not always look after its loyal servants”. How right she is! Read on.

Paul is a true-born natural optimist. He might even rival Albert Facey of ‘A Fortunate Life’ fame. I first met Paul when he was working as a teenager at Clarrie Messiter’s ‘Sylvania Lodge Stud’ in the Bylong Valley in 1967. I’d already made the acquaintance of his ‘famous’ elder brother Noel Hennessy at ‘Baramul Stud’ in the Widden Valley; the same year Star Kingdom died. Baramul’s owner, Sydney Solicitor Mr A O Ellison’ was very kind to Paul in supporting him through his early school education in Cessnock. The product of a large and close family Paul’s many relations included local jockey Carl Deamer plus John and Jason Deamer. Thoroughbreds were quite literally ‘in-the-blood’. Following his regular sojourns at ‘Baramul’ during school holidays (helping with ‘Star Kingdom’ and ‘Todman’) Mr Ellison was able to arrange a 6 month ‘strapper sabbatical’ for Paul at AJC No. 1 Trainer Neville Begg’s Randwick Stables. This was fabulous fundamental early education supervised by a true gentleman and an ornament to the game.



The redoubtable Scot Syd Anderson was his mentor and manager at Bylong. Former Household Cavalryman (Buckingham Palace Horse Guards) Syd was a man of few words. ‘Brusque’ would define Syd in garrulous mode. Apprentice Paul shared basic accommodation with Rod and Brian Messiter, Clarrie’s two sons.  Syd & Marie Anderson had an expanding family. Craig and Judy were joined by baby Mark at this time. It was a busy household! There was a close association with both Baramul Stud and Star Kingdom. Todman and Noholme’s full brother ‘Faringdon’ stood there. Unlike his illustrious siblings, he failed to make a significant impact on the thoroughbred racing and breeding scene.


Following his ‘mildly’ ascetic apprenticeship at Bylong, Paul ventured closer to the ‘big smoke’ to expand his informal education and pander his developing adolescent proclivities. What red-blooded male wouldn’t? Opportunities were in short supply at the remote Bylong Valley location. Available eager ‘fillies’ were few and far between. Further ‘hands on’ education transferred to Fred Peisah’s Lomar Park Stud at Werombi. Western Sydney beckoned seductively. Paul learned a lot at Lomar Park and won the heart of the love of his life and soulmate Angela. Marriage to Angela proved to be the seminal decision of his existence.

Having made an epochal capture, the psychological drag back to the Upper Hunter and the Widden Valley was irresistible for Paul, Angela and their emerging young family. First port of call was to the Harris Family’s ‘Holbrook Stud’ at the head of the Valley. It was back to tradition and first principles at ‘Holbrook’. Paul was a natural fit and very quickly acclimatised to the secluded isolation.

Just one pit-stop down Widden Creek, Ross Flynn at Oakleigh Stud soon secured the services of the soundly experienced stud groom. The Flynn family had returned to the thoroughbred breeding scene following a much-vaunted Oakleigh Stud dispersal sale in the early 1970s. The sale had been an enormous surprise to all aficionados of the informed racing cadre.

‘Mount Hagen’ was one of the very first imported ‘Shuttle Sires’ to make an audacious journey half-way around the world to strut his stuff in both hemispheres. Global industry giant ‘Coolmore Stud’ from County Tipperary, Ireland made the momentous decision and selected Oakleigh Stud as the preferred destination in Australia for season 1977. Unfortunately, an emerging venereal disease in horses known as Contagious Equine Metritis (CEM) was uncovered at the National Stud in England during QE II’s 25th Coronation anniversary year. Shorn of all due respect it was unceremoniously named ‘Jubilee Clap’! CEM made its definitively diagnosed Southern Hemisphere debut at Oakleigh early in the 1977 season. Although it (CEM) was later discovered to have been present in Australia in 1976 it brought about a sudden end to the breeding season at Oakleigh. Through no fault of his own Paul’s brief sojourn ended abruptly.

Next stop was Yarraman Park Stud near Scone owned by the emigrant (UK) Mitchell family. The latter were later to achieve exceptional success with ‘Hinchinbrook’, ‘I Am Invincible’ and ‘Hellbent’ but after 10 years stewardship since 1968 the stud was still in the building process. I used to teach the acronym OPIA in competency based adult education & training. This stands for OBSERVATION, PERCEPTION, INTERPRETATION and APPLICATION. Although he wouldn’t have known it Paul embodied all these attributes. In his unique vernacular he’d have called then something else! Paul has a way with words unlike any other. He favours an especially louche adjective liberally dispensed. It has seven letters, begins with “f” and ends with “g” if that’s any help?

Paul established an off-duty farriery business which provided some extra ready cash to support the escalating needs of his growing family of three. Tod, Shane and Kylie were rapidly expanding their own horizons. Farriery then was an acquired skill based on experience. Opportunities for the latter abounded in the sphere of opportunity in which Paul operated. He developed an association with Muswellbrook Trainer Pat Farrell. The latter recommended Paul for a management position at Kingmaker Park, Cliftlands Road, near Scone. Although owned by the fabulously wealthy Cojuangco family of the Philippines, Master Farrier Albert O’Cass was the ‘kingmaker’ and godfather. While at the stud Paul obtained a thoroughbred trainer’s licence which was a sideline ideally suited to his situation. It also expanded Paul’s already ‘bursting-at-the-seems’ portfolio.

Apart from his successful training exploits Paul served in several official positions at local race meetings, mainly Muswellbrook and Scone. These included barrier attendant and official starter. His experience and general horsemanship were greatly appreciated by the Stewards of the Newcastle, Hunter & Central Coast Racing Association. There were several iterations. Some could be authentically described as ‘colourful racing identities’. Those were indeed the days!

Tragically the inchoate early signals of morbid mortality descended on the Hennessy family. “Time’s winged chariot hurrying near”. Beloved spouse Angela developed the ‘ladies curse’ of breast cancer. It was eventually to claim her life despite the heroic and protracted battle to ‘slay the beast’.

As if that wasn’t enough calamity for one family bravura younger son Shane was incapacitated during an unfortunate fracas following a disco at Scone Golf Club. Gladiatorial contest between aspiring young contestants for a young lady’s attention may have been the root cause leading to tragedy. Suffice it to say Shane suffered a brain injury when felled by his assailant(s). I don’t believe the latter were ever arraigned. Heroically, he fought the injury sustained ‘at all hours’ by his dedicated father. Paul appointed himself Chief Carer having abandoned everything else to the cause. There can be no greater love and commitment than that! Fortuitously Paul was roundly supported by an ‘Angel of Mercy’ in Sue Scott and the ‘Good Samaritan’ reincarnate, Norm Turner. Harry Mitchell also pitched in. Truly an ‘Adventurous Life’ laced by more tragic circumstances than is fair in any one family. Despite a few threatening ageing ailments, optimism still rules OK.


Paul Hennessy

Nomination: HTBA ‘Murray Bain Service to Industry Award’

Record of Service

Thoroughbred Studs (7):

  1. Baramul Stud, Widden Valley with brother Noel Hennessy (Star Kingdom, Todman etc.)
  2. Sylvania Lodge Stud, Bylong Valley (Faringdon)
  3. Lomar Park Stud, Werombi (Le Cordonnier)
  4. Holbrook Stud, Widden Valley (Harris Family)
  5. Oakleigh Stud, Widden Valley (Flynn Family)
  6. Yarraman Park Stud, Scone (Mitchell Family)
  7. Kingmaker Stud, Scone (Cojuangco Family) Manager

Newcastle, Hunter & Central Coast Racing Association (NHCCRA) Muswellbrook & Scone

  • Trainers Licence
  • Barrier Attendant
  • Farrier
  • Official Starter

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