By Gordon Deegan 

A 73-year-old farmer from west Clare has credited his fitness and his time in the boxing ring for how he survived being caught up in a “raging bull fight” at Kilrush Mart seven years ago.

At Ennis Circuit Court, farmer and cattle hauler from Burrane, Killimer, James Vincent Fitzpatrick said he thought he “was a dead man”.

Fitzpatrick described how he was bringing a bull, a bullock and a cow to his truck when another bull “came like a rocket” from a chute at the mart.

“I don’t think anyone else would have gotten out of it alive,” he said.

During his personal injury action against Clare Marts Limited and Clare Co-Operative Marts Limited, Fitzpatrick broke down in the witness box as he recounted the bull fight.

Bull fight

The incident occurred at the loading area at Kilrush Mart on October 7, 2015, during which he sustained a “crush” injury to his right leg.

Fitzpatrick described:

“It was like a flash of lightning when this other bull came up from behind – unexpectedly. The bull roared and he tore and the bull I was driving turned and he whipped me right across. 

“I was between the two bulls – they were big bulls. It is a miracle that I am here today,” he said.

Counsel for Fitzpatrick, Lorcan Connolly told the court that one bull weighed 995kg with the second bull weighing 960kg.

Fitzpatrick said: “The two bulls were ramming on both sides and only for spending time in the boxing ring years ago, I didn’t get a fright – anyone else would have dropped down with the shock of it.”

He recalled being able to climb up on a gate and how he injured his leg when one bull drove the other back. Fitzpatrick said:

“The other bull jagged him and put him flying across the ring. The fight was raging between the two bulls. It was serious stuff.”

He added that he was on top of the gate for eight or nine minutes:

“It was cruel to the world’s end. It was savage.  I was trying to hold onto the bar. The agony and the pain were frightening. I was lucky I didn’t get a heart attack or fall down and get killed.”

‘I still see a bull being lifted up’

Breaking down in tears for a second time in the witness box, Fitzpatrick said: “I still see a bull being lifted up by another bull and ramming it into the wall right alongside me.”

Fitzpatrick said that mart staff were able to help him down from the railings. He added that he was in “severe pain all the time” for a number of days after the bull incident.

“The marks from that day are still on my leg but it is not as bad as it was.

“My wife Mary would help me bathe it in water and that would be done for 30 days in cold and hot water. I would put a sock on it in bed at night to keep it warm,” Fitzpatrick explained.

Counsel for the mart, Emmet O’Brien said that contact was made by a bull with Fitzpatrick’s leg but this was caused by his own inability to close the gate in time.

Fitzpatrick denied this. Mart employee, Michael Clancy told the court that Fitzpatrick said to him after the incident “my good man, it will take a lot more than that to put me down”.

Settled case

Counsel Connolly said that the mart was wholly negligent in releasing the bull as he loaded the three other animals onto his truck.

The mart denied liability but after Fitzpatrick and other witnesses had completed their evidence, an offer was made.

Counsel Connolly was able to tell Judge Francis Comerford that the case had been settled and it could be struck out with no order.

Speaking outside the court, Fitzpatrick said that he was “very happy” that the case had settled. He added:

“It was a long journey – my leg is still sore and I still dream of the bull. The fighting of the bulls was unreal.”

Solicitor Patrick Moylan said “Fitzpatrick is delighted. He feels that he has been vindicated”.