End of a great day spent in WestMeath and Offaly …
Horseleap (Irish: Baile ?tha an Urchair) is a town situated upon the Offaly, Westmeath county border in Ireland, along the R446, formerly the main Dublin to Galway road. The village itself possesses a church, primary school, a garden centre, a pub, and a petrol station. Horseleap dates back to the 12th century steeped in Ui Neill, Geoghegan history.
The village’s Irish name (Baile ?tha an Urchair or ?th an Urchair) was historically anglicised as Ballanurcher, Athnurcher and Ardnurcher. The name probably derives from the legend that Conchobar mac Nessa was killed here.
Horseleap’s present name dates back to 1192. The Norman lord Brian Fitzgerald had been riding through the lands neighbouring his castle in Donore when he came across members of the Mac Geoghegan clan who had long disputed De Lacy’s claim to the lands. Following a dispute, De Lacy was forced to flee on horseback from the Mac Geoghans. On approaching his castle he discovered that the drawbridge was raised forcing De Lacy’s horse to jump the castle’s moat. De Lacey survived the jump and escaped almost certain death at the hands of the Mac Geoghegan clan.
The battle of Ardnocher took place here in 1329 between the forces of Thomas Butler and William Mac Geoghegan. Mac Geoghegan won and Butler and many of his soldiers were killed.
Apart from the story of how it got its name Horseleap also has a new story of modern day interest. The 12 foot high bronze statue of the prancing horse that stands on the village green was actually made in Italy by Ferrari. In the nineties the Ferrari formula one racing team made a present of one of these statues of its famous logo to each of their F1 drivers. This one was shipped to Ireland in 1999 to be given to Eddie Irvine who had finished as runner up in the World championship for Ferrari that year. It was stored in a barn in County Tyrone and was to be a surprise to Irvine. However just before this was to take place Irvine told Ferrari he was leaving them to join the Jaguar team. Ferrari never told Irvine about the statue and it stayed in the barn for a year until a local farmer from Horseleap was up in Tyrone buying cattle and was told about it. A delegation from the village was then dispatched to make the case that they had the ideal home for this statue and that they wished to purchase it. They bought the statue for a fee less than it cost to make and it was erected in 2000.