Bernard Dillon was born at Caherina, Strand Road, Tralee in 1887 to Patrick Dillon and Mary Flynn. Bernard, who lost his mother at the age of six was brought up with his elder brother Joseph (1885) and younger brother George (1893.) Patrick later married Margaret Flahive and had another four sons.
Patrick Dillon kept some horses and trained for others at Mount Hawke in Tralee. Patrick’s sons spent their young lives with their father, working in the stables and accompanying him to the races around the south of Ireland.
On new years day in 1901, young Bernard accompanied his brother Joe to England where they were both apprenticed as jockeys to W.B. Purefoy at the famous Netheravon Stables, Druid’s Lodge, Salisbury Plain. Bernard went on to have a successful career winning amongst other classic races, the Derby in 1910 on Lemberg.
Bernard met and began a relationship with the music-hall star Marie Lloyd who was already married and seventeen years his senior. In 1913 Dillon was found to have gambling debts which resulted in a court appearance. Although jockeys were forbidden from gambling, it was an offence often overlooked by the Jockey Club who governed horse racing. However, Dillon’s high profile private life ruffled many feathers within the establishment and so his licence to ride was withdrawn. In 1914 the pair travelled to America together as Miss Lloyd had been offered lucrative work. The couple were detained by the authorities for travelling as man and wife which was against the law in the states. They were given the option to leave or to stay and get married. Miss Lloyd wanted to honour her commitments and so they married which they were able to as her husband had since died. The scandal made headline news all over America and Europe, so Dillon resigned himself to never riding under Jockey Club rules again. His career was over, his reputation was shattered.
After their return to England the marriage broke down. Dillon drank heavily and his behaviour became erratic and aggressive. Even so they stayed together until Lloyd’s death in 1921.
Despite his earning vast amounts of money as a young jockey, it was soon spent after he lost his licence and Dillon never regained his reputation. In May 1941, while London was under bombardment during the blitz, Dillon died after collapsing, whilst working as a night porter at South Africa House in the city. He was buried in a pauper grave along with eleven other souls at Norwood in south London. Ironically, in his youth he made some investments, one being the purchase of nine burial plots at Epsom Cemetery where the entire family had settled; he had six brothers, one father, one step-mother, plus himself which made nine. At the time of Dillon’s death, only three of the plots had been filled. It is thought that due to him dying in London during the blitz, he was buried before any arrangements could be made for him to take up a place in his plots.
Bernard Dillon was my great-uncle, the brother of my grandfather John (Jack) Dillon.
|Date of Birth||13th Jun 1887|
|Date of Death||7th May 1941|