Athlone Show Hall of fame awards 2012
Born in 1924 in Scarrif, Co Clare, John Allen grew up surrounded by two of his great interests in life: Irish Draughts and forests. His work with the Department of Forestry and Lands has led to an encyclopaedic knowledge of Irish woodlands throughout the 32 counties.
His first love though, is the Irish Draught horse and that interest has not only seen him judge at shows and on inspection tours within Ireland but also in England and America.
Like many Irish farms, horses were an essential part of the Allen farm and John’s interest in our native horse breed began while growing up around the Irish Draughts kept by his father.
Even as a ten-year-old schoolboy, John would “absent” himself from school to cut timber in a nearby wood which was sold for firewood so it was only appropriate that he combined his two interests with his forestry work.
His great eye for a horse led to him buying timber horses – and usually Irish Draughts – for the forestry service. At the height of the horsepower era in the local timber mill in Scariff, up to 80 horses were in use. The men employed clearing the forests earned up to 25 shillings for each tonne extracted from the forest and often cleared 50-60 tonnes per week.
John’s reputation for selecting sound, tough horses with the right temperament soon spread and he was soon in demand as a judge at agricultural shows and on Irish Draught inspection panels. Regarded as one of the fairest of judges and a stickler for correct conformation and movement, one of the few shows he hasn’t judged at is Dublin which he had to turn down as several horses he had bred were entered by their owners. That sense of integrity and honesty is yet another of his hallmarks.
John also has the honour of breeding several Dublin and All Ireland champions, including the much-admired Shannon Stepper, owned by the Houston Brothers and later sold to America after he won the Laidlaw Cup for the champion young horse at Dublin Horse Show.
Many of these All Ireland and Dublin winners were out of his prolific mare, Shannon Sally, a daughter of Jab, and several were by John’s favourite thoroughbred stallion: Smooth Stepper, who stood with the late Philip Heenan. Philip and John were great friends and one of the little-known facts about this Hall of Fame recipient was how he and his son, Tom, travelled around Lough Derg each evening for several weeks to help out the injured Ringroe Stud owner who was on crutches after getting kicked by a mare.
John also devoted a lot of his time to the Irish Shows association and represented the Southern Region for many years before his retirement in 2010. John still continues to play an active role in his local show Scariff where he holds the position of President where his wisdom and no nonsense approach are highly valued