William Francis Walsh (polo)
William Francis Walsh (1907–1992) was known to all as Billy. He was a 5-goal polo player and soldier in the Cavalry. Billy is regarded as one of the three key figures in the post war revival of the sport of polo in the United Kingdom. He single-handedly restarted Ham Polo Club in 1946.
Like so many of the pioneers of polo in the western world Billy Walsh was an Irishman, born in County Kilkenny. In the 1920s he went to the USA where he gained his initial skills and a talent that was to take him to 5-goals by 1928.
In 1933, Billy went to work for Major Philip Magor training the many Argentine polo ponies imported by Magor to Roehampton Polo Club. Billy became recognised throughout the polo world for his skills in making polo ponies-it has been said that his handicap could have been much higher had he spent more time playing, rather than training.
In 1936, Captain Tom Brigg, owner of the Equestrian Centre at Ham Gate and member of the Swaine Adney Brigg family, invited Billy to run his stables and teach polo there. Three years later he joined the Cavalry and, after his army service returned to Ham to find that Capt. Brigg had died and that the Equestrian Centre was for on the market. Using his gratuity, he bought the stables and revived Ham Polo Club under HPA rules. Indeed, he may be ranked-together with the late Lord Cowdray and Authur Lucas-as being one of a trio to whom English polo will forever be indebted.
In 1977, Billy gave up the game. it was not until 1982 though that he gave up the position of manager of Ham Polo Club to become the President. He has been succeeded as manager by two generations. Firstly his daughter Peggy Healy and secondly his grand son Tim Healy. The Billy Walsh tournament is still played at Ham Polo Club today, the finals are held in September.
In 1985, on International Day, the Queen presented Billy with a bronze of a polo player and pony, donated by his many friends in recognition of his lifelong work.
Billy was married to Ivy and had two children, Peggy and Brian. Their daughter Peggy married actor David Healy. They had two sons William and Tim, who are both polo players.