Master McGrath (Pronounced McGraw) was a greyhound born in Ireland in 1866.
One of a litter of seven he was an undersized, delicate pup but despite his unpromising beginnings, he went on to become the most celebrated and successful racing dog of his time.
In the beginning McGrath showed none of the outstanding qualities which were later to make him famous. At his first race his performance was so bad that his trainer ordered him to be given away but, fortunately, his handler, having greater faith in him, retained the dog and entered him in several races which he won.
Having established himself, he went on to win the prestigious Waterloo Cup on no less than three occasions: the first greyhound to do so and became something of a celebrity and the subject of numerous tales and ballads.
His owner, Lord Lurgan, was requested to bring him to visit Queen Victoria and the Royal Family.
Master McGrath died early in 1873. An autopsy showed that his heart was twice the size of that of a normal dog.
He was buried in Lurgan, County Armagh, where, today, a magnificent bronze statue of him can be found.
My paternal grandfather, William Fleming Snr, bequeathed me his treasured walking stick, whose handle was sculpted from photographs of the great McGrath, so I'll dedicate this poem to him.
Canine perfection, symmetry,
embodied in an agile frame,
sleek body like a comet’s flame
ablaze with pride and majesty.
Those elements that made you fast,
heart, muscle, sinew, blood and bone,
ensured a legend set in stone,
all rivals beaten and outclassed.