The Arkle monument in Ashbourne

Meathman's Diary -You never know who you’re talking to...

"We're all related," somebody said to me recently - and, I think, he was only half-joking but he has a point. We can make all sorts of connections in life - in all sorts of ways.

Take the phone call I received the other week. It was from a clearly well-read, well-informed woman we will call Yvonne (not her real name) who wanted to talk in relation to a column I had written recently about the one and only Lady Margaret Nelson.

The caller outlined an intriguing connection between a horse (Ally Sloper) owned by Lady Nelson that won the Antree Grand National in 1915 and the great Arkle himself who of course has very strong associations with this part of the world.

Let me explain. Lady Nelson was married to Sir William Nelson who was something of a business tycoon; his wealth gained from a shipping company - the Nelson Shipping Line. The Nelsons loved horses and somewhere along the line they decided to settle in Clonbarron House in Kildalkey and look after their collection of horses, one of which - Ally Sloper - went on to win the 1915 National - and ensuring Lady Nelson wrote herself in the history books by becoming the first lady owner of a National winner.

That victory must have sparked unbridled celebrations in Clonbarron House because then, as now, winning the Aintree National was a mighty achievement indeed. Anyway, Lady Margaret Nelson's daughter - Violet Mary Nelson - certainly could never be accused of marrying below her station because she walked up the isle with Hugh Richard Arthur Grosvenor a.k.a the 2nd Duke of Westminister who, as they say around these parts, was some man for one man.

The Duke - who lived from 1879 to 1953 - had an eye for the ladies and was one of the richest men in the world. He was married four times and it was said he was someone who "enjoyed hiding diamonds under the pillow of his mistresses." One of the women he married was, as outlined, Violet Mary but their union only lasted six years, 1920 until '26, ending in divorce.

The Duke of Westminster's fourth, and final, marriage was to Anne (Nancy) Winifred Sullivan. She was coincidently, born in 1915 and spent much of her youth in Co Cork. She married the Duke in February 1947 when he was 68, a still looking for love.

Nancy was passionately into horses and one of her most prized possessions was the great Arkle who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup three times in 1964, '65 and '66. She also had the pleasure of seeing her horse, Last Suspect, win the Aintree Grand National in 1985. She died in 2003 when she was 88 but the link is there between Ally Sloper and the great Arkle.

The woman who had rang me also told me she was a distant relative to Lady Nelson, a revelation that reminded me of another line someone else said to me recently: “You just never know who you are talking to.”

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