An Interview with Julia Mangan, an 'Almoner' of the IJF
Julia ‘Jules’ Mangan has always been witness to the harsher side of racing. She lost her beloved husband, the ex-jockey Roy Mangan in 1994 to an asthma attack. For the years of her happy marriage, Jules witnessed first-hand how harsh a jockey’s life was, with the dieting, injuries and the toll both these aspects took on their bodies. Yet, through this terribly sad time after losing Roy, Jules found an unlikely friend and support network via the workers of the Injured Jockeys Fund. There are no boundaries to the work of this amazing racing charity. It goes beyond just helping jockeys to include their families. A charity for which Jules has, as a way of thanking them, has worked since 2009.
Jules, right, with daughter Isabelle on an IJF stall
Jules rode as a jockey and an eventer, was a racing secretary, managed a saddlery and is the mum to two daughters: Isabelle, who is a keen eventer, and Melissa, who’s eldest of four children, Maisie, enthusiastically rides ponies. Now living in Shipton Oliffe, near Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, Jules is kept company by her black whippet, Millie.
Did you have a horsey childhood?
I grew up in Bedfordshire, starting off on ponies then changed to horses at 16. My first pony was a fine piebald called Patche. I competed ponies in Mounted Games and then all the usual show jumping, hunting and eventing.
How did you get into racing?
I worked for Horse of the Year Show and the Royal International Horse Show, where I met trainer David Nicholson whilst he was competing in the jockeys’ show jumping. I mentioned to him that I wanted a change of job. Two months later, his secretary had a fall and thus I became secretary for ‘The Duke’ at Condicote for three years. I also rode out daily as well as performing all my secretarial tasks.
Jules' first ride.
Did you ever ride in races?
In my early days it was so different to now in that, unless you were a trainer’s or an owner’s daughter, there was little or no chance of getting a ride. Even at Newmarket – the “place” of racing on the Flat - the ladies’ changing facilities were diabolical. I had a few rides on the Flat; on my first one, I got runway with on the way to the start! Yet, I always wanted to ride in races and it was a great experience. Thank goodness, times have changed. Now, girls ride equally to the boys.
Please describe working for the Duke, David Nicholson:
When riding out first lot, I received many bollockings! In the office I was left alone to do my work and could always go racing if my work was done. David had colourful language but haven’t we all?!
He was such a professional in everything he did and I learned so much from him and Dinah, his wife.
How did your life begin to change?
I met my future husband Roy Mangan whilst we both worked at the Duke’s. We got married and opened the saddlery in Stow-on-the-Wold. Roy had started learning the saddlery trade whilst he was still a jockey. He started to learn after suffering a particularly bad injury. I ran the shop and he’d always be there on his days off from racing.
We ran the saddlery from 1979 to 1994. In 1996, I sold the business to Allen Webb.
Jules with husband Roy
What have been your roles since?
In 1998, I started as the Practice Manger to Peasebrook Equine Clinic, but in the back of my mind I’d never forgotten the IJF, who’d been so kind and supported me in the aftermath of Roy’s death. I really wanted to do something to help the charity. I became a Visitor and spent time with the elderly jockeys.
Please detail your role in the IJF:
I saw an advert for an IJF Almoner – basically it’s a welfare officer who supports financially or pastorally any currently licensed amateur and professional jockey who is injured or unwell. We also support anyone else who has previously held a jockey license – Amor Pro Lic (in anyway, for any reason). Every year, except this one due to Covid-19, beneficiaries would be invited to lunch at the races and there would be an annual holiday in the sunshine. Initially it was only for wheelchair users but now it is open to all.
When Roy was riding, I didn’t know the full extent of the IJF or its role. There’d be the odd cricket match and raffles and I always gave a little. Yet after Roy’s death, someone from the IJF visited us and asked, “What can I do?” It was someone from the outside, not friends or family and it meant so much. Even Lord Oaksey visited a few days later – it was all a great relief to me. I needed advice and they really cared.
It sought to make other people feel they were cared about and that there was always help available. Also, the IJF’s rehabilitation centres – the Oaksey, Jack Berry and Peter O’Sullivan Houses – are so amazing. Roy had so many injuries – there were no diet or fitness coaches then and a jockey’s life was so unhealthy.
Left, meeting HRH Princess Royal at the opening of Oaksey House in 2018
Photo Credit: Injured Jockeys Fund
Who do you admire in racing?
I have always admired Lord Oaksey from his days as TV Racing Presenter, bungee jumper, journalist and founder of The Injured Jockeys Fund. Lady Oaksey is now the bright and guiding star of the IJF and is an inspiration to all.
What was the best advice you were given?
My dad drummed into me to always have well-polished shoes and to treat people as you would like to be treated yourself.
What is the best advice you can give?
To work hard in everything you do. Follow your dreams. Always be kind.