Horseman Poet’s Racing Colours in Dispute

From a Newspaper Article in 1971 (displayed in the Mudgee Museum)

What were the original colours worn by Adam Lindsay Gordon when he rode in the first steeple chase held by the Adelaide Hunt Club more than 100 years ago?

The Equestrian Federation Olympic Fund believe that they have the original red and white checked racing colours worn by Gordon and the Mudgee Historical Society claim that they have the original colours worn by Gordon.

Adam Lindsay Gordon’s Racing Colours in the Mudgee Museum (a Gordon Tartan). The photo of the house is “Dingley Dell”, Gordon’s home near Mt Gambier.

The colours in the Mudgee Colonial Museum are blue, green and yellow tartan. Gordon, one of Australia’s greatest bush balladists was also a famous cross country rider. The scene of his greatest exploit is still marked on maps as Gordon’s Leap, at Mt. Gambler, South Australia.

Gordons Leap at the Blue Lake, Mount Gambier.

In an endeavour to sort out the riddle, the President of the N.S.W. Pony Club Association, Mr. Rex Waterhouse visited Mudgee this week to look at the colours in the Colonial Museum. Mr. Waterhouse is a member of the Equestrian Federation Olympic Fund committee.

The whole controversy began when it was publicised in a Sydney newspaper that the original red and white checked colours would be escorted from Sydney to Adelaide in Australia’s biggest “Riderthon”, starting early in January. The “Riderthon” is being held to raise funds to send both a show jumping team and a three-day event team, to the Olympic’s at Munich next year.

The Great Gordon Ride in 1972. (Note:- Edwin Blackmore was not knighted but received a CMG)

Dame Mary Gilmore’s Search
Apparently Dame Mary Gilmore began a search for the colours several years ago. (Dame Mary Gilmore passed away in 1962). The red and white checked colours were discovered when an elderly woman (Mrs. Edith Blackmore) living in Sydney made contact with officials of the Equestrian Federation. She told officials that she wanted the colours to be preserved In Adelaide where Gordon once lived. The colours have been entrusted to the Equestrian Federation and are locked away in a safe at the R.A.S. until such time a the “Riderthon” begins. (At this point the newspaper article states that “They bear the signature….”, but the clipping misses the rest of the sentence.)

Those who also inspected the colours at the Mudgee Colonial Museum, with Mr. Waterhouse on Tuesday, were the President of the Mudgee Historical Society and curator, Mr. Errol Grieve, a member of the society, Mr. Dick Cox, the President of Zone 6 of the N.S.W Pony Club Association, Mr. Clive Suttor and his wife and Mrs. Y. Bucknell, a member of the Mudgee Pony Club.

The first important discovery made about the Mudgee colours and those being held by the Equestrian Federation was that both of them came from the same source. The tartan colours at the Mudgee Museum were donated by Mr. and Mrs. Jack Blackmore, of Kandos, to the Mudgee Museum on May 4, 1969. The same lady, who now lives in Sydney is the owner of the red and white checked colours. (Jack passed away in 1971)

Thank You Card sent to Jack and Edith Blackmore

Mr. Waterhouse said that up to date no one is sure what colours Gordon rode in when competing in the first steeplechase held by the Adelaide Hunt Club. He said that as far as he knew Gordon did ride a horse belonging to the Blackmore family in the race. The Blackmore family originally were Victorian. He said. “Gordon could have ridden in the Blackmore colours, or in his own. The rules about racing were not so stringent in those days”

The red and white checked colours (possibly Rob Roy tartan) being handed over by Mrs Edith Blackmore to the NSW Minister for Justice, John Maddison (left) and Australian Equestrian Gold Medal Winner, Laurie Morgan (right)

Mr. Waterhouse observed that the material of the Mudgee colours is of the same kind as those being held by the Equestrian Federation. With the tartan colours are two racing caps, both of them lined. One of the caps has the brand “Coultas and Son, 4 Rundle Street. Adelaide” on the inside.

Mr. Waterhouse said that the red and white checked colours had bone buttons while the tartan colours have covered buttons. After a very careful examination it was found that there were some faint marks on the collar which could be “A. G.” in old fashioned type scroll Initials.

Dilly Bag A calico/canvas type dilly bag which held the Mudgee colours has also got some faint markings which read “Blackmore colours Adelaide”. (Note: It is possible the dilly bag was originally for the red and white checked colours which are more than likely Edwin Blackmore’s colours)
The colours in the shirt are somewhat faded in comparison to the caps, but this is probably due to it being washed more often.
Mr. Waterhouse said that he had heard that the original Gordon colours, which Gordon wore when he rode his own horses, were tartan, “However”, he said, “I am not terribly certain of this fact.”
Nobody inspecting the colours at the Museum knew whether the tartan was a “Gordon” tartan.

Mr. Waterhouse said that he hoped to find out in the near future from the Adelaide Hunt Club if they have any records about the first steeplechase. He admitted that there was a possibility that the tartan colours at the Mudgee Colonial Museum could be the original” colours worn by Gordon in that first steeplechase.
Mr. Waterhouse said: “Whatever the outcome of our Investigations, we will still take the red and white colours to Adelaide in January”.

A sketch in the Mudgee Museum of Adam Lindsay Gordon in 1870, the year of his death.

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