Irish showjumping great Billy Ringrose dies at 89

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Queen Elizabeth II presents the Romulus & Remus trophy to Captain Billy Ringrose on winning the Grand Prix at the Piazza di Siena, Rome with Loch an Easpaig, on May 3, 1961. Ringrose also came second on his back-up horse, Cloyne.
Queen Elizabeth II presents the Romulus & Remus trophy to Captain Billy Ringrose on winning the Grand Prix at the Piazza di Siena, Rome with Loch an Easpaig, on May 3, 1961. Ringrose also came second on his back-up horse, Cloyne. (Photo from ‘Billy Ringrose – A memoir of my Father’ published 2017)

Col Billy Ringrose, one of Ireland’s most successful showjumping riders of the 1950s and 1960s, has died at the age of 89.

Ringrose died in Dublin on April 30, just under two months shy of his 90th birthday.

Col Billy Ringrose. (Image from from ‘Billy Ringrose – A memoir of my Father’).
Col Billy Ringrose. (Image from from ‘Billy Ringrose – A memoir of my Father’).

Within the space of one month in 1961, the Army rider, then Captain Billy Ringrose, won the Grand Prix in Nice, presented by Princess Grace, and then the Grand Prix in Rome, presented by Queen Elizabeth II who was on a State visit to Italy. In his riding career, Ringrose won six individual international Show Jumping Grand Prix and seven Nations Cup team events – including being part of the first mixed Army-civilian Irish team to win the Aga Khan Cup in 1963, along with Diana Conolly-Carew, Seamus Hayes and Tommy Wade.

Later Ringrose became Commanding Officer of the Army Equitation School at the McKee Barracks in Dublin and Chef d’Equipe of the Irish team. Following victory for the Irish team of Paul Darragh, James Kernan, Eddie Macken and Captain Con Power in 1977 when managed by Sean Daly, Billy Ringrose took over as Chef d’Equipe in 1978 and helped complete their famous three-in-a-row of Aga Khan victories in 1979.

Along with winning the Aga Khan trophy as a rider and as Chef d’Equipe of the Irish team, Ringrose later presented the trophy to the winning Irish team Chef d’Equipe in his role as President of the RDS. He is also the only rider to have won the Grand Prix event at all four shows on the American tour; Washington DC, Harrisburg Pennsylvania, Madison Square Garden in New York and the Toronto Winter Fair.

Horse Sport Ireland CEO Ronan Murphy sent condolences on behalf of the organisation to Ringrose’s family and friends, saying he was “one of the greats of Irish Show Jumping”.

“His career as a rider and later as Chef d’Equipe was outstanding and he gained the respect of everyone he met not just for his sporting excellence but as a true gentleman.”

Princess Grace presents the Grand Prix de Monaco to Billy Ringrose in Nice, April 1961.
Princess Grace presents the Grand Prix de Monaco to Billy Ringrose in Nice, April 1961. Photo: Army Equitation School

In 2017, Ringrose’s son Fergal published a 280-page memoir of his father’s life and equestrian career, Billy Ringrose – A memoir of my Father including nearly 80 images from his days as a rider on the international circuit. Ringrose’s Dublin Nations Cup successes came on the very same RDS turf that his grand-nephew Garry Ringrose has now become a major star with Leinster Rugby.

Over the course of over a year Fergal Ringrose sat down with his parents and recorded a series of conversations about his father’s career. He also spoke to other equestrians – Ned Campion, Dermot Forde, Sneezy Foster, John Ledingham, Brian MacSweeney and Des Ringrose – to help complete the story.

 

 

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