Michael “Mick” O’Farrell, the Irish writer, actor, soldier, and greyhound and horse trainer, died March 20 at Loughlinstown Hospital. He was 71.
Born in Waterford, Ireland, O’Farrell entered the Curragh Military Academy at 18, then joined the army. A fitness fanatic, he won the Mulcahy Trophy for the best army athlete for five successive years and led the Brickey Rangers to its only Waterford senior football championship in the early 1960’s. He also kept 18 greyhounds in his barracks, which he trained covertly with help from a private.
O’Farrell’s lucky break in film was due to Irish tax laws which ensured military involvement in filming. While still serving, he appeared in 1966’s “The Blue Max” as a German military officer shouting “Achtung!” This cameo led to another role, in 1981, as Sir Tarquin, a rider, in John Boorman’s “Excalibur.”
From bit part actor, O’Farrell shifted his focus to behind the camera becoming an a.d. for 1994 Maruice O’Callghan’s production of “Broken Harvest.”
Meanwhile, O’Farrell’s interest in greyhound and horse racing continued. He paired with Nicki Dee and the two pioneered the system of interval training which O’Farrell wrote about in “The Irish Field,” a publication focused on race horses and sport. In 1994, O’Farrell and Dee trained Minnehoma, owned by laffer Freddie Starr, which won the Grand National title.
Retiring from the military, he moved to Dublin and went on to record his book of memoirs “Tough at the Bottom” which was published in 1999. This new scribe followed with two more works, “Couch Potato” and “Skint, The Diary of a Failed Punter,” which was published last year.
At the time of his death, O’Farrell was organizing a concert to benefit Palestinian children at the Vicker Street venue in Dublin skedded for next May.
He is survived by his sisters Etta, Lulu and Kathleen.