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13 December 2016

Epilepsy Society pays tribute to Walter Swinburn

Epilepsy Society has paid tribute to legendary jockey Walter Swinburn who has died at the age of 55. Friends say he died peacefully in his sleep.

Walter Swinburn was diagnosed with epilepsy eight years after a horrific fall during a race in Hong Kong in February 1996 and became a loyal supporter of the charity, helping to raise awareness of epilepsy and raise vital funds for research into the condition.

Shergar victory

The champion flat racing jockey, who famously rode superstar racehorse Shergar to victory at the age of 19, spoke candidly to Epilepsy Society about his diagnosis, during a fundraising dinner for the charity.

'The accident happened when the horse ran through the rails with me and hit a stanchion. It smashed everything on my left side and I was in a coma for a few days.

'I retired four years later due to my weight, met my wife and had a daughter, then one morning I had a seizure on the bathroom floor. It was a terrible shock. Epilepsy was mentioned but I could not get my head round it.

Denial about epilepsy

'I heard the name epilepsy and that was it. I did not want to accept that this was the result of something that had happened eight years ago.

'When I was first diagnosed, my confidence was at rock bottom. It almost felt like my life was over. But with the support I have received from the NSE (National Society for Epilepsy now known as Epilepsy Society) and people I have met, I now know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.'

Clare Pelham, chief executive of Epilepsy Society said: 'All our thoughts are with Walter’s family and friends, and the racing community, at this very sad time.

'Walter was a very loyal supporter of Epilepsy Society. He shared his own experience of epilepsy in order to raise the profile of the condition and was passionate about raising money to support research into epilepsy.

'We have always been very grateful for the time and energy that he gave us. We hope his good work will live on in his memory.’

Walter Swinburn was a three-times Derby winner. He won with Shergar in 1981, with Shahrastani in 1986 and with Lammatarra in 1995. He was also the first jockey to record over 100 winners in an Irish flat season.

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