The 100th anniversary of a unique moment in the history of the Parish Walk will be celebrated next year when a team of riders will complete the 85 miles distance on horseback.
A relay team of riders and horses will cover the route in about 14 hours to commemorate the amazing achievement of a Douglas chemist who rode his horse over the entire route during the first ever Parish Walk in 1913.
The little known story, described in Dermot O’Toole’s book on the Parish Walk, saw John Young, 62, ride his horse at a steady pace to take the lead in the event ahead of 12 walkers, only for the horse to lose a shoe half way round, leading to a long delay. He eventually finished in 23 hours.
Young, great grandfather of former Parish Walk winner Graham Young, joined the walkers shortly after the start of the 1913 race, making his own start from nearby stables on a February evening at 9.30pm.
He encountered lots of support around the route and is reported to have stopped many times to speak with farmers and spectators all around the Island. Young also found many sections of the course very uncomfortable for riding, travelling over roads which were then basically rough tracks, especially in places like The Sloc and Dalby.
The unique event will happen next year one week before the 2013 Parish Walk. It will be staged on a Sunday, starting very early - at 6am - to cause minimal traffic congestion, particularly in Douglas.
Each horse and rider will cover approximately ten miles, with an estimated finishing time of 8pm to 9pm on Douglas promenade, outside the original site of the Palace Opera where the first Parish Walk started and finished.
The 2013 event is being organised by the Isle of Man branch committee of the British Horse Society. Spokesman Walter Gilbey said that riders would be passing a baton along the route and that talented local horse riders and hopefully some equestrian personalities from the UK would be involved.
Road safety has been a key factor in the organisation of the event with the protection of the riders, their horses, motorists and pedestrians being given high priority.
“We will be using vehicles with flashing lights in front of the horses,” said Walter Gilbey. “It is absolutely crucial that the event is perfectly safe for everyone involved. We have spoken with the police and they are happy with the idea.”
He added, “The Parish Ride has already attracted a lot of interest, both on and off the Island. The achievement of John Young and his horse a century ago was remarkable and we wanted to mark the occasion with a special event to commemorate such a fantastic feat of endurance.
“We are hoping that it will attract a lot of publicity and we believe this is a good opportunity to promote positive road safety issues for horse riders and motorists.”