Archive for August, 2017

Chippenham away

More time was spent in the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre at Chippenham working on Salisbury research last week.   For my previous visit I’d worked out which items from their catalogue I’d like to see, and a succession of them were brought out to me during the course of that day.  This time I wanted to see what I could find on the open shelves of the local history library (which is all in the same room) and from old-style card indexes and other manual filing systems.  I must say that I found these were the easiest to find, follow and understand records office procedures that I can remember.  Maybe I’m just getting the hang of it after 25 years blundering around them in several counties, but more likely credit is due to WSHC for the way they organise things.  It’s been a pleasure working there, and in a way it’s a pity that I’m unlikely to need much more there.

They also showed a willing, flexible attitude regarding a bit of an old map I wished to photograph or copy.  (Copyright lawyers need not worry; I paid for a copy for private use, but if I want to use that image in the book I will go back to WSHC for permission to do so and pay the appropriate price.)

Regrettably, I’ve only been racing at Salisbury once this year.  The journey is long enough for me to want a guaranteed fine afternoon when I get there, and that hasn’t been the case.   I will try again before the end of their season.  I took a chance going to Newbury last week and was rewarded with frequent heavy showers from midday onwards.  If the sun was shining, you knew it would be raining in fifteen minutes and vice versa.  At one stage an all-too-close thunderstorm held up proceedings.   The two-year-olds who were in the paddock whinnied their concerns to one another and were taken back to their stables until the darkest clouds had passed over.  Unlike this unusually glorious Bank Holiday weekend.


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Sir Gordon

I’ve had cause to be reminded of the achievements of Gordon Richards.

In 1933 he rode twelve consecutive winners, one at Nottingham and then eleven at Chepstow on two days.  He was only beaten a head and a neck in the last race on the second day,  ironically riding the shortest-priced of all of them – three to one on.  He had already ridden a five-timer and four winners in a day on five occasions that same year. He was 29 years old, but had already been champion jockey six times and was immensely popular with punters who could bet almost blindly on him.  Well Done Gordon! was a song written about him.  Opinions differ whether it is a foxtrot or a quickstep.

After winning the jockeys’ championship 26 times and failing to win the Derby in all those years he, and the public, were relieved when he steered Pinza to victory at Epsom in 1953, his 28th attempt.  In fairness the horse was so superior to his rivals quite a few others might have won on him.  On the other hand, most of his previous Derby mounts hadn’t been likely to stay the mile and a half and he didn’t hunt around for better prospects, being scrupulously loyal to the owners and trainers he was contracted to ride for. Unlike Lester Piggott!

Sir Gordon, Lester and possibly Frankie Dettori are the only jockeys to become household names in the last hundred years, but they haven’t had songs written specifically about them.   Or not that I know about.  There is one called Sometimes (Lester Piggott) by a band called James, although its lyrics are not obviously about racing.

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