Documenting the successes of the horse ‘Knight of Troy’

by Ailbhe McGann, BA History Student

The archival items explored here relate to the racing successes of a horse named ‘Knight of Troy’ in the 1930s. These items are part of the Armstrong Collection (P6) at the Glucksman Library’s Special Collections and Archives Department, a donation of 133 boxes of Armstrong papers dating from the years 1662–1999, from the Armstrong family. The first item of interest is a letter written to Winona Rosalie Armstrong, also known as ‘Jess’, about a horse.



The letter, dated 19 December 1937, is still in good condition. It is a handwritten in ink on typewriter paper and sent from Senaghan Enniskillen. The letter addressed to ‘Jessy’ is from her uncle Chris and is stored among items created by the Armstrong and Kemmis family while they owned Moyaliffe Castle and Stud in County Tipperary. Jess Armstrong is married to Captain William Daryl Olphert Kemmis (1892-1965) who, together, held possession of Moyaliffe Castle in the 20th century.


Moyaliffe Castle Stud

Along with the letter there are many documents pertaining to the operation of the Moyaliffe Stud that was founded at Moyaliffe castle in the 1930s by Captain Kemmis and Jess Armstrong. The stud was a significant component of the Armstrong estate in Tipperary because it served as the breeding ground for several renowned racing champions. The letter recounts the success of one horse, The Knight of Troy, who was bred by a mare ‘Troy Girl’, owned by Captain Kemmis. The Knight of Troy was later sold from the Moyaliffe stud and went on to achieve tremendous success in the racing industry.

This letter is crucial for examining how the Armstrong family valued their stud and their racehorses. Jess’ love for animals is prominent throughout the Armstrong collection. However this letter validates how important this legacy was for the other members of the Armstrong family, with her uncle Chris requesting updates about Jessy’s successful horse and future races 1).


A splendid horse!

The letter gives us enough information and evidence to build up a ‘picture’ of this horse. In the letter Chris speaks highly of this superb animal, as he states that he is a ‘Splendid horse’ 2. Chris also refers to the success of this racehorse, when he mentions the details of two races that the horse had convincingly won. Chris writes in his letter that the horse not only won in Sandown but also mentions the horse’s second win when he writes that the ‘Knight of Troy ‘won again yesterday at Sandown after winning at Newbury’. In further highlighting the accomplishments of the horse in his letter, Chris expresses his pride by mentioning an article he sent to the Armstrong family written about the horse in the Irish Times. The paper ran a story about ‘The Knight of Troy’ and his convincing race victory. Consequently, the dignity and social importance experienced by the Armstrong Family as evidenced from the letter shows how important the victories were to the family and stud.



This legendary horse’s victories mentioned in the letter can be further studied through notes left by the noted horse breeder, Captain Kemmis. In the collection, documents show that Captain Kemmis kept note of all of the details of races where his home-bred horse had won. The race victory of 18 December at Sandown Park, where he prevailed by a margin of three lengths, which Chris had written about in his letter, was also reported by Captain Kemmis’ note. Specified on the same note and on numerous newspaper cuttings in the Armstrong collection was the second race win. Captain Kemmis also notes a victory in the Red Rose Chase in Surrey in 1939. This race is regarded as the last triumph Knight of Troy recorded and a photograph of the horse post-victory is found in the collection. (P6A/743)


Photograph of Jack Fawcus on The Knight of Troy after his win of the Red Rose Chase at Hurst Park, Surrey. P6A/743


In the reports of Knight of Troy’s win in the Kingsclere steeplechase at Newbury on 1 December 1937, the winning horse is described in detail. The Armstrong family and Moyaliffe stud are commended for their breeding and involvement of such a fine animal. The following day, The Sporting Life newspaper in London headlined its sporting notes with the caption: ‘Fawcus makes fine recovery to win on Knight of Troy’. The report published on 2 December 1937, gives the details of the horse, his age when competing and highlights his pedigree.


A proud Jess

In the collection is a photograph (P6A/741) taken after this significant race victory in 1937. The 202 x 243mm photograph captures the horse and his rider Jack Fawcus after their win. Leading Knight of Troy, is his owner Jess Armstrong.

The photograph demonstrates how significant Knight of Troy was to the family. It is noteworthy in that, in addition to the horse surprising everyone by winning and defeating other recent Grand National winners, Jess Armstrong and Captain Kemmis, who were both resident in Ireland, travelled there to watch their own home-bred horse compete and triumph. In the Armstrong collection today, there are several receipts for the purchase of photographs. This photograph however was purchased by Captain Kemmis. Kemmis requested the photos and bought them once seen in the papers as memories of the victorious occasions.


Photograph of Jack Fawcus on The Knight of Troy after his win of the two-mile Kingsclere Chase at Newbury, Berkshire. P6A/741


It is clear from examination of the letter written by uncle Chris, the photographs and from newspaper articles, that Knight of Troy had a special and esteemed role in the family life of the Kemmis/Armstrong family and in the reputation of the Moyaliffe Stud in Tipperary in the 1930s.


  1. It’s a long way to Tipperary, Winona Rosalie ‘Jess’ Armstrong | It’s a Long Way To Tipperary ([]
  2. P6/1590(10) page 1[]