Jump jockeys are notoriously tough and heal from broken bones remarkably quickly. But no story is more extraordinary than that of Declan Murphy who has just written a memoir. In May 1994 at Ascot his horse fell, and another horse shattered his skull. His injuries were so bad the Racing Post published an obituary; and by all rights he should have died. But traffic was light, the paramedic skilful and the neurosurgeon was available. After a long operation, the doctors thought he would be brain-damaged, paralysed and partly blind. But four days later he hadn’t regained consciousness and the hospital was waiting for his family to arrive from Ireland before switching off life support. They came by boat since his father was afraid of flying. The journey took ten hours and three hours before they arrived he started to waken up. He discharged himself two weeks later; and 18 months after that, despite his brain damage and impaired memory, he made his professional comeback at Chepstow and won. A month later, having gained closure, he retired from the sport and became a businessman.
He says he believed that he could recover fully only if he disregarded everyone else and fought his way back to a full recovery by sheer force of will, because he felt that the alternative was to look weak or inadequate. ‘The only thing that clawed me back was this belief that I was going to do it. I was going to be referred to as a now rather than a past tense.’
Born 5 March 1966 Limerick, Ireland, he has Sun Saturn Mars in Pisces opposition Uranus Pluto square Jupiter in Gemini – so a mix of dogged determination from Saturn Pluto and Mars, and a fear of not coming up to expectation from Sun Saturn – plus a huge dollop of luck from ever-optimistic Jupiter. He’s also got Neptune in Scorpio, a Leo Moon, North Node in Taurus and Venus in Aquarius – so enough Fixed planets to give him staying power.
When he had his fall in 1994 he was on his First Saturn Return with tr Saturn approaching the conjunction to his Sun; tr Pluto was trine his Mars and tr Uranus sextile his Mars; with the transiting Uranus Neptune in Capricorn hovering around the square to his Solar Arc Mars – so a high-risk, accident-prone and a hugely disorientating time. But his Solar Arc Jupiter was exactly trine his Saturn and tr Jupiter then in Scorpio was about to trine his Pisces planets in the months following.
Difficult charts tend to attract difficult life situations, but they provide the grit to overcome problems. And his lucky Jupiterian guardian angel also played a part in getting him immediate care through the initial trauma and then giving him, what must have seemed to others, the delusional hope that he was going to recover. Never knock the crazy optimism of Jupiter or indeed the dour determination of Saturn and Pluto.