High Society


Harry McCalmont

Harry McCalmont

HARROW-EDUCATED horse breeder and well-known Turf Club personality Harry McCalmont found himself in the headlines last week when a legal action against him resulted in a High Court settlement for over €2m. The case, which concerned the death of stud groom George Williams while he was working at Norelands Stud in Co Kilkenny, had been in the pipeline for over a decade.

The lawsuit was actually initiated back in March 2013, when the filings were lodged by Louise Williams, the widow of George Williams, against McCalmont personally.

There were numerous outings in the High Court, starting in 2016, as well as a diversion to the Court of Appeal, before the settlement was announced last week. It looks like the legal bills incurred here will be truly substantial.

Judge Paul Coffey heard that in 2010 George Williams had been asked to fell some trees on the 400-acre Norelands property. In the end three different chainsaws were used for the job, as a result of the first two breaking down or becoming jammed in a tree.

While carrying out the work, however, a bough broke off and fell on Williams, who died at the scene due to multiple injuries.

The proceedings lodged by Louise Williams claimed there had been a failure to provide her husband with a safe system of work, including training, and that he had been asked to fell trees despite having no experience of forestry work.

As liability had been admitted in the case, the outstanding legal issue related only to the assessment of damages.

The action was taken against McCalmont personally, although there are a couple of companies associated with the stud farm business. In 2020, some Norelands property was transferred to a newly incorporated entity called Norelands Stud Ltd, which is owned equally by Harry and his wife, Elizabeth McCalmont, and another company called Norelands Bloodstock Ltd.

Incorporated in 1999, Norelands Bloodstock is a more substantial operation and boasted accumulated profits of over €3m at the end of last year, with bloodstock valued at just on €1.8m. A dividend of €52,000 was paid out to the two shareholders, Harry and Elizabeth McCalmont.

In all, there are five farms in the Norelands Bloodstock operation, which has expanded significantly in recent years, with clients from the US, Australia, China, France and England keeping their horses there.

Another property on the estate is currently leased on a long-term basis by McCalmont to the Kilkenny Hounds hunt.

Last week’s €2m settlement represents a rare occasion when Harry finds himself in the news for controversial reasons. Usually when his name has appeared, it has been relation to his senior overseeing roles in Irish horseracing.

McCalmont is a former chairman and senior steward of the Turf Club (now the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Body), where he became a member back in 1985. That was utterly unsurprising, given that both his father, Victor, and grandfather, Dermot, had also been members and each had also been elected as chairman and senior steward in their time.

Plummy Harry landed in the saddle at the start of 2020, having previously also been chairman of the European Breeders Fund and Gowran Park racecourse. He has also served on the board of the state agency, Horse Racing Ireland, and is currently a director of The Curragh racecourse.

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