Joe McCormack, ‘one of the last true stable lads’ and a well-known character in Lewes’ pubs, has died aged 81.
Mr McCormack was born on the Curragh - the home of Irish horse racing - on December 19, 1934. Having taught himself to ride in Ireland, he came to Lewes aged 19 to work for well-known trainer John “Towser” Gosden. Mr McCormack also taught John’s son to ride, who then went on to train more than 2,500 winners, including the winner of last year’s Derby.
Mr McCormack went on to work for many trainers in Lewes, including Miss Sinclair and Gordon Smyth, as well as Mr Bedell, a farmer in Cranleigh who trained horses for a hobby. Joe rode for him for two seasons, at many courses including Plumpton and Ascot.
Mr McCormack met his wife on his way to work, near Anne of Cleves House in Southover High Street. The couple were married 18 months later at St Pancras Church and went on to have three children; Belinda, Teresa and Joseph.
Alongside his racing, Mr McCormack began working in The Pelham Arms and then, when it became a free house, he left and started work as a postman. He carried on the job for around 20 years before retiring in his early 50s following two hip replacements due to the many falls he endured.
Even then, Mr McCormack wasn’t one to sit back and have a relaxing retirement; he returned to the pub trade, spending 11 years in The Rainbow at Cooksbridge and 15 years at The Swan in Southover. Those who knew him said his job as a barman was one ‘well-suited to an Irishman who had such a knowledge of jokes and story telling’.
In 2000, Mr McCormack officially retired, only for his wife to die suddenly on October 9 that year, just days before the devastating floods.
Mr McCormack stayed living in the family home, in Valence Road, until moving into St Thomas’s Court, on Cliffe High Street. Two of his children, Joseph and Belinda, live nearby in Newhaven and Lewes respectively. His other daughter, Teresa, now lives in Bideford, North Devon.
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