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Legendary horseman died from skull fracture after part of tree fell on him

Story by Tom Kelly

Wednesday, 10th June, 2009 9:21am

The late racing personality John Fowler, who died in a tree-felling accident on his estate near Summerhill last December, was described at an inquest into his death in Navan last Thursday as 'one of the finest amateur jockeys this country has ever produced'.

Meath County Coroner John Lacy said he had known Mr Fowler and that he was 'a most personable and nice man'.

The inquest, held at Our Lady"s Hospital, Navan, was told that Mr Fowler had been engaged in tree-felling with an employee on his estate at Rahinstown on Monday 15th December last year.

Garda Heeney gave evidence that he had gone to the scene at Rahinstown on that date and found the body of Mr Fowler, which was pinned to the ground by a fallen tree. He said that Lady Jennifer Fowler had later carried out identification of the body in his presence.

Kevin McEnroe, an employee at Mr Fowler"s estate, gave evidence that the two of them had been working on a tree that had fallen three years ago. They had been cutting lengths of tree. Mr Fowler was loading parts of the tree onto a trailer when part of the tree dropped and pinned Mr Fowler to the ground.

Lady Jennifer Fowler gave evidence that she had been at home when Kevin McEnroe had come to the back door saying that there had been a terrible accident. She had gone to the scene and found her husband pinned to the ground by the trunk of a tree. She looked for signs of life and carried out resuscitation on her husband.

Pathologist Dr Munah Sabah who carried out a post mortem examination on the body of Mr Fowler at Our Lady"s Hospital described his injuries. She said that the cause of death was a fracture of the skull and haemorrhage.

Both Mr Lacy and Garda Inspector Kieran McEneaney, on bahalf of the Gardai, extended their condolences to the family of the deceased.

Mr Fowler, who was 62, was a former amateur jockey who trained the winner of a Fairyhouse Grand National and was a member of the Fairyhouse board at the time of his death. He was one of the leading amateur jockeys of his generation and won the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham in 1978 on Gay Trip for Mick O"Toole and in 1979 for Dan Moore on Arctic Ale. Between 1962 and 1989, he rode 260 winners under rules and 200 point-to-point winners.

In the 1990s, he experienced his biggest success as a trainer when Maid of Money won the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse, ridden by the late Anthony Powell. The horse, owned by Sam and Ada McCormick of Culmullen, had won the Black and White Chase a Leopardstown the previous Christmas. He had two of the main fancied runners in that National, with Banker"s Benefit and Niall 'Boots" Madden finishing fifth.

His many successes with Banker"s Benefit, a good distance hurdler before going chasing, led him to receive a Meath Chronicle Sports Star of the Month Award in the 1980s. Opera Hat was another of his successful runners, which won at Liverpool and recorded successes in the 1990s.

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