Saturday, January 12, 2013

CIA Director Nominee John O. Brennan Has Ties to Farrier World

One of the remaining forges in Kilkenny, Ireland. This one is in Kilfane. It has
three bays; the center one has a horseshoe-arch doorway. It was built from local limestone
around 1875 and, according to records, it is empty and in disrepair.
The pubs are buzzing in Ireland tonight. And the forge fires are flaring just a little higher, knowing that half a world away, a son of one of their own may soon take on one of the most important jobs in the world.

When you read about the man chosen by President Obama to replace General Petraeus as director of the CIA, you won't hear much that makes you think about horses. But back in Ireland, an elderly man has come forward to connect the dots between John O. Brennan and a farrier's forge on a lavish estate and stud farm in Kilkenny.

It seems that last fall, John Brennan--then a security advisor to the White House--was in Dublin for a meeting and he mentioned that his 92-year-old father was formerly employed in the forge at what is now known as Mount Juliet.

He certainly was. "A hell of a worker and a great friend" is how retired farrier Charlie Behan, of Cloghabrody, Thomastown in Kilkenny remembers his old friend, Owen Brennan. They worked side by side at Mount Juliet, home of the Ballylinch Stud and birthplace of the legendary Thoroughbred classic winner and stallion Tetrarch.

Mount Juliet
Mount Juliet is an impressive estate; John Brennan's father worked in the forge shoeing the hunters and
bloodstock. (Mark Heard photo)
All in all, eleven classic winners were bred at Ballylinch, and they would have been shod by Charlie and Owen (or "Eoin" as he would have been known back home) Brennan for the resident laird, the Earl of Carrick and, later, the McCalmont family. Now the estate has been converted into a gracious hotel/spa/resort, complete with equestrian center and lots of golf.

Ballylinch continues to breed fine Thoroughbreds, including Breeders Cup Turf winner Red Rocks, who also defeated the great US racehorse Curlin in the Man o' War Stakes.

According to Behan, Brennan left Mount Juliet to emigrate to the United States in 1950. Brennan's bio indicates that his father married and settled in North Bergen, New Jersey, but so far it is not clear if he continued his work as a farrier or not.

Brennan the younger seems to have a sense of humor. From the prelude to his speech last year in Dublin:

"For any policymaker visiting Dublin, the Institute of International and European Affairs is a required stop — along with the Guinness Storehouse. And you will be relieved to know that in the interest of a serious and sober presentation, I have come to you first."

A broodmare daughter of Tetrarch at Mount Juliet, Mumtaz Mahal was one of the
most important Thoroughbred broodmares of the 20th century and may have been
shod by John O. Brennan's father. (Ballylinch Stud archive)
Charlie Behan recalled that he and Eoin "worked a ten hour day and loved every minute of it." Sadly, Charlie is now living his life in a wheelchair. He hopes to make contact with his old friend again.

--written by Fran Jurga

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