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Jack de Bromhead

“Jack you are the best brother ever.  I got so lucky when you were born with me.  I will miss your cheeky smile that made all my friends fall in love with you.”

Mia de Bromhead

“Jack was the kindest, bravest, most caring big brother I could ever ask for.  He was never scared to stand up for people and was always there for you no matter what.  He had such a bright future ahead of him, but sadly it was all taken away from him so early.  Life will never be the same without Jack.”

Georgia de Bromhead


Henry and Heather de Bromhead stood at the lectern in the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Butlerstown on Wednesday, and they talked about their son Jack.  Heartbroken, devastated beyond words, yet somehow they found the strength to tell Jack’s story, every minute of his 13 years lived to the full.

Henry thanked everybody for their support.

“Every person you meet gives you a little bit more strength.”

Jack’s strengths were many.  Surfing, football, hunting, hurling, rugby, showjumping.  Just one of those talented kids; anything he tried, he was immediately good at it.

“He did brilliantly at showjumping,” said Henry.  “He won so many competitions on his beloved Flash.  I suppose his greatest thing was qualifying for the Dublin Horse Show and getting to ride in the main arena, with his twin sister Mia.  That was an incredible day for us.”

And he was as popular as he was talented and busy.  The most important aspect of school was the social aspect.  “Darling,” Henry’s mother said to her son a few months ago, “Jack just doesn’t really have time for school.”

Friends gathered from every walk of his short life.  Friends from school, friends from football, friends from pony racing, friends from showjumping.  And they were all there, guards of honour, some of them fighting back tears, the others not able to.

“Jacksie had such good friends.  He was so lucky with his friends.  They had such craic.  I think our fellow was mainly the ringleader, but there were a couple of others close behind him.  And the stories that are filtering through, I don’t know if they should be told here, but we’ll tell them some time!”

Henry wore a red and white striped tie, Jack’s pony racing colours.  Heather wore a red dress.  No dark clothes or black veils.  At the house on Tuesday afternoon, they had a marquee with upbeat music.  And yet, you choked back the tears.

People came to the house from all corners, from all walks.  The queue to see them snaked out the front door, around the corner and all the way down the driveway.  People waited for an hour and a half, but they didn’t mind.  It rained, but nobody cared.  The people waited patiently to give a handshake, to share a hug, a word. 

A little bit more strength.

“And then he discovered his real, real, passion,” said Henry.  “All summer, last summer, he was like, Dad, can I ride in a pony race?  He liked the show jumping, he loved the hunting, he was starting to ride out at home.  And I was thinking, wherever, these places, they’re nearer New York than Waterford!”

His first day as a pony racing rider was at Thomastown last year, his second ride was on a pony named Silent Star.  They didn’t go a great gallop early on in the race and, having dropped in early on, at the mid point of the race Jack allowed his pony make ground, moved from last place to first place and went on.

“In my little knowledge,” said Henry, “in my mind, it was exactly the right thing to do.  Which was, for a fellow who had never ridden in a race before, it was uncanny.”

It was just another thing that Jack de Bromhead was good at.  A few weeks later, at Taghmon, he rode his first winner.

“That was the most amazing day,” said Henry.  “Mum and Dad were there, we were there.  It was incredible.  We had a photo, as you’ve seen.  He just loved it guys.  He loved it.  You know, you reflect on things, ask yourself questions, but he just loved it.”

Jack’s talents were quickly in much demand on the pony racing circuit.  He had 18 rides last month at Dingle, the Cheltenham Festival of pony racing.  He rode a winner and he finished second in the Derby. 

“Dingle was incredible.  We had three of the most glorious days.  We all got such a buzz out of it.  And everyone in it was so brilliant.”

Jack seemed to have a way with people.  His friends, his peers, his elders.  A nickname for some (his dad is Henboy, his grandad Grandyboy), an encouraging word when it was needed, a quip when it was appropriate.

“This is his cheekiness,” said Henry, “and it was in no way meant in the wrong way, and the man who he said it to knows that, and he loved it.  But, Larry, who worked with my father and works with me, he turned to Jacksie, they were riding out one day, and he said to him: “So Jack, what are you going to be when you’re older?”

“Your boss, Larry!”

And yet, Jack seemed to know when a word of encouragement was needed.

“Whenever Heather would be getting a bit stressed,” said Henry, “or maybe a little bit wound up, Jacksie would turn to her and he’d just go …”

Henry turned to Heather.

“Would you like to say it?”

Heather smiled.  “It’s all right Heath,” she said, “you’ve got this.”

As the laughter in the church died down, Henry took a deep breath.

“One of the greatest comforts Heather and I have in his passing,” he said, “is, he knows how much we loved him.  Heather would say it to him, to all our kids, they just know how much we love them, and we know how much he loved us.  But I’d just ask, any of you, whoever you love, make sure you tell them.”

“And then the last line we’re going to say,” said Henry, “that he used to say to us every night.”

They said it together.

“Night Mum, night Dad.  Love you.”

© The Sunday Times, 10th September 2022