THE Northern Region of Eventing Ireland has lost another great stalwart following the death of Len Caskey.
Len was a much loved and widely revered character, who was exceptionally entrepreneurial and enthusiastic about everything he was ever involved in.
He had an illustrious career in Harland and Wolff, Belfast. He went to work there on leaving school, but took a few years out to go to sea in the Merchant Navy, travelling the world and using the busy Suez Canal on a regular basis. On his return, he went to work in the building dock of Harland and Wolff, moving up through the ranks and was very happy to make it to the private dining room and have his lunch served on a regular basis. He was a man who really did enjoy the finer things in life. He also loved to talk about the occasions when he was presented to Royalty at ship naming ceremonies.
Len was a keen business man and entrepreneur alongside his career in Harland and Wolff. He designed and created the ‘Cas-SKI’ belt, a patented belt to carry skis from slope to après-ski, aptly named after the man himself, who enjoyed this journey many times whilst on ski holidays with his ‘Club Sound’ friends.
Another business venture was making horse boxes called Irelander Trailers – later moving on to open yet another company called Mourne Rosettes, which is still operating today with the Stewart family.
As well as being a dedicated career man, Len always enjoyed sport, notably his great passion for football. He probably started kicking a ball against a wall or with friends in the streets of Belfast when he was a very young boy, but his real football career started at Cliftonville FC followed by a move to Glentoran FC, times he thoroughly enjoyed reminiscing about.
Living on Station Road, Bangor, with the 10th fairway of Carnalea Golf Club almost as an extension of his back garden, Len couldn’t resist the urge to take up golf. Although this was supposedly his retirement sport from football, he quickly developed the bug and attained a 9 or 10 handicap, representing Carnalea at Ulster Cup Level. Len enjoyed nothing more than a sing song and playing the guitar with friends, many of whom he met at the golf club. He always said that he was better at playing the back of it, flipping it over and using it as a drum.
No matter what Len did, he took hold of the reins. Indeed, he went from being Seve Ballesteros to Harvey Smith overnight.
A visit to Tennessee introduced him to horse riding and he was adamant that he wanted to learn to ride. He had a chance meeting with Drexel Gillespie in the early nineties when they each bought a horse, which led to a long relationship and many, many happy memories filled with parties and sing songs, following competitions from Glaslough to Millbridge.
He became involved in eventing in the early 90s and spent many years, along with his good friend, Stuart Stirling, helping Lewis Lowry with the organisation and running of events there. He campaigned his beloved ‘Bruce the King B’ for a number of years and was delighted to have attained the pinnacle of his equestrian career when he won a class at Maddybenny in the mid-90s. He was always keen to be involved in helping out and contributing to the sport he loved. He became a Society Steward for Eventing Ireland and went on to become Chairman of the Northern Region, a position he held for four years.
He frequently brought all five grandchildren to the events with him, using them to carry out a wide range of duties, including slip collections for dressage, show jumping and cross-country. He was presented by Eventing Ireland with the Board of Directors Award for Outstanding Contribution to Eventing Ireland, an award he was particularly proud of.
Len made many friends throughout his life and was passionate about everything with which he was involved. He was truly a character with a very enigmatic smile, who put the ‘gentle’ into gentleman and encouraged everyone, young and old, along the way.
At heart, he was a very committed family man, who is survived by his daughters, Karen (Chris) and Barbara (Peter) and grandchildren, Abbie, Zoe, Phillip, Tess and Heidi.
Len’s funeral service was held at Carnalea Methodist Church on Thursday, April 22 for a small number of family and friends, followed by cremation at Roselawn.
Sweet Caroline was Len’s favourite song and, if circumstances were different, we could have had ‘Hands touching Hands’ and ‘Reaching Out’ to join together to remember all that Len was. His legacy will live on.