The founder of Moyglare stud, Walter Haefner, passed away recently in his native Switzerland. Aged 101 years old, he was widely recognised as one of the most innovative and forward thinking figures to loom large over the equine industry in Kildare for more than 30 years.
He bought the 440 acre Maynooth stud farm after a chance meeting in Dublin. The gifted businessman and philanthropist quickly fell in love with the country and fostered a deep and abiding love for the breeding of racehorses.
A great character he married no fewer than four times and had two children, including Eva Maria, who now runs the stud farm. His son, meanwhile, Martin Walter, succeeded him as chairman of the family business which includes the Amag car dealership in Switzerland.
He enthusiastically embraced the sport of horse racing and his time spent in Ireland and at Moyglare in particular, proved to be a great release for him. His first love had been sport horses or show jumpers and it was to purchase one that he first came to Dublin in the 1960s.
However a delayed flight, a chance meeting in a Dublin hotel, a few Irish whiskeys and there dawned a new era for the famed Kildare stud in 1962.
He was born into a middle class Swiss family and after completing university worked in the motor industry before going on to own one of the biggest VW dealership in the country. His life took a decisive turn towards the end of the 1950s however when he realised the role that computers would play in the future of the motor tade.
In a relatively short period of time he was heading up some of the most formidable suppliers of computers and equipment to the motor trade and at one point was the biggest importer of VW, Audi, Seat and Porsche cars into Switzerland.
His time in Ireland saw him forge a number of life long and enduring friendships and these included local vet, Stan Cosgrove, who oversaw the development of Moyglare, and Dermot Weld, who was his trainer of choice for more than 40 years.
Over the years his horses enjoyed multiple successes here and overseas and he was also one of the three part owners of the famed Secretariat - arguably the most famous horse of all time.
A memorial service for the late Walter Haefner will be held at the chapel in Maynooth NUI on Friday, July 20 at 12noon.