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Arthur Kavanagh, The Limbless Adventurer

Arthur Macmurrough Kavanagh was born on 25 March 1831 into one of the wealthiest families in Ireland. Arthur was born without arms or legs below mid thigh. In spite of this, he was an expert horseman, a first class shot, a yachtsman, and a Member of Parliament. And he accomplished this all before scientists had created the prosthetic limb.

His father had no interest in him, but his mother employed a nurse whose name was Anne Fleming. She placed toys just out of his reach so that he had to wriggle to get them. He got rounded shoulders but his arm stumps became so strong that he could get a tight grip on a cane, pistol, or a fencing rod.

When he was at the age when most children would learn to walk, Anne got pads for his leg stumps and taught him how to balance on them and hop. When he was two years old he was strapped into a special bucket-like saddle so he could ride on the back of a small pony.

When he was four years old, in 1835, Doctor Francis Boxwell came into his life. He replaced the leading reins on Arthur’s pony with real ones. He also changed the bucket Arthur sat in and made it more of a saddle seat. By his 22nd birthday, after the great famine in 1850, his father and his two elder brothers had died, leaving Arthur as the Squire of Borris. The next year he married his cousin Mary Frances Forde-Leathley and they had seven children Eva, May, Angus, Walter, Arthur, Charles, and Osbourn.

Kavanagh died in London on the 25 December 1889 of pneumonia. He was buried in the Ballicopagain cemetery.


Arthur MacMurrough Kavanagh. (2018, October 20). Retrieved from andlord/

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