For Sheila Spillane it all began when she received her first greyhound from a neighbour when she was a young child, a bitch named Springfield Gift. From that moment on, the yard was never without a greyhound. She and her late father James would race Springfield Gift at the old Western Road.
However, it was the opening of Youghal track in 1948 that really cemented Sheila’s attachment to the sport along with a romantic encounter! Her late husband, John, was a salesman for Keenans Sheds in Bagnelstown and came to price a shed locally when Sheila caught his eye, the rest as they say is history.
The pair were wed in 1957 and moved to the townland of Burgess where they set up kennels. They had four children, Con, Norma, Shelly and Mary, and were married for almost forty years until John’s passing in 1996. Shelly unfortunately passed away in 2012, and the family created and sponsor the Shelly Fennelly Memorial in Curraheen Park to this day in her honour.
Sheila’s kennel partnership with her son-in-law JJ (Shelly’s husband) cemented the future for the Burgess prefix, with their 9-acre site proving to be a fantastic spot for rearing pups and they are now one of the most recognisable names in the sport.
Burgess Kennels continues to be a family affair with the numbers now expanded to include grandchildren and great-grandchildren along with her ex-racing greyhound Jimmy (Burgess Dubh), forever at her side. Sheila was inducted into the Greyhound Racing Hall of Fame in 2023, in recognition for her contribution to greyhound racing.