Dunne, James (‘Fairy’) (c.1841–1927), horse-racing trainer, was son of James Dunne, farmer (details of his mother are not known), and was initially apprenticed as a jockey to Peter Davis of Hawthorn Lodge, and subsequently to Joseph Osborne (qv), having his first mount in public at Maryborough (Portlaoise) Heath in 1854. As a lightweight jockey he was in great demand and was later associated with Larry Keegan's stable at Waterford Lodge, the Curragh, before eventually becoming private trainer to the stables of Charles J. Blake at Cameron House, Co. Mayo, in 1864, and moving with Blake to Heath House, Maryborough, Queen's Co. (Laois), in 1880. He trained Arbitrator to victory in the Liverpool Autumn Cup at Aintree in 1877, and his first major training successes in Ireland – at least in terms of prize money – occurred in 1879, when he saddled the winners of the Railway Stakes (Yellow Gown) and the Anglesea Stakes (Sibyl) at the Curragh for Blake. He spent the best part of a decade at Heath House, winning the Irish Derby with Blake's horses Sylph (1883) and St Kevin (1885) before moving to the Blakes’ stables in Lewes, Sussex, to train for a season. On his return to Ireland he set up as a public trainer in Stand House, behind the Curragh racecourse, in 1892.
After four years he moved to larger premises at Curragh View, and spent seven years there before pressure of business meant that he eventually built his own stables on the Little Curragh, naming it Osborne Lodge after his original mentor. Although he never headed the trainers’ list, he won twelve Irish classic races during a long and honourable training career, including four Irish Derbys, five Irish Oaks, and the first three winners of the Irish St Leger, setting a record for Irish classic victories that was unsurpassed until after his death. His other Irish Derby victories came with Flex Park (1904) and Wild Bouquet (1908). He won the inaugural running of the Irish Oaks in 1895 with Sapling, and saddled four other winners: Copestone Filly (1904), Rheina (1907), May Edgar (1914), and Captive Princess (1916). His three St Leger victories came with La Paloma (1915), Captive Princess (1916) and Double Scotch (1917). Of the other big-money races of the time, he won the Curragh (latterly the Irish) Cesarwitch on three occasions; the Madrid Handicap, the Railway Stakes, and the National Produce (later National) Stakes five times; and the Beresford Stakes four times, and twice saddled winners of the Anglesea Stakes and the Phoenix Park ‘1500’ (later the Phoenix Stakes).
He was one of the first high-profile public trainers and was acknowledged as an unrivalled trainer of ‘stayers’. His philosophy of giving horses all the time they needed to reach their potential meant that his owners tended to be those for whom the sport, rather than any financial return, was paramount. A popular figure, he was involved in training horses for almost seventy years, and saw the transition in racing from a world of private to one of mainly public trainers. Genial in personality and rotund in appearance in later years, his bird-like features, snowy white hair, and air of what has been described as ‘wistful innocence’ earned him the nickname ‘Fairy’ (Sweeney guide, 541). Scrupulous honesty in all dealings added to his general popularity. His stables at Osborne Lodge, although in other hands, continues to be one of the best-known yards in Irish racing. Involved in racing matters right to the end, he died 15 February 1927 and is buried at Tully cemetery, near Kildare town.
He married (1889) Kathleen Tynan from Athy, Co. Kildare; they had three daughters and two sons.