Where are Adam Lindsay Gordon’s racing colours?

A plea to locate their whereabouts

Guest Post by journalist and writer, Lorraine Day

In 2019, in preparation for the 150th anniversary of the death of Australia’s national poet, Adam Lindsay Gordon, the search began for his racing colours, donated to the SAJC by the Blackmore family 47 years previous, in 1972.

Renowned as a daring steeplechase rider, on 10 October 1868, Gordon rode three winners on the three main events the same afternoon at Flemington – the Melbourne Hunt Club Cup on Babbler, the Metropolitan Steeplechase on Viking, and the Selling Steeplechase on Cadger.

Adam Lindsay Gordon riding “Viking” in the Metropolitan Steeplechase in Melbourne in 1868

Two years later, in 1870, one of Gordon’s best volumes of verse Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes was published. His poetry was becoming known worldwide. Even Theodore Roosevelt and Arthur Conan Doyle were devotees. In 1910 the Gordon Memorial Committee was formed in Melbourne and, in 1926, published a limited edition Memorial volume of Adam Lindsay Gordon’s poetry, lavishly illustrated by Australian artists, edited by Edward Vidler, and including a chapter by the committee’s president Charles Long.

Approaching the centenary of Gordon’s birth (19 October 1833), The Times announced on 4 August 1933 that Adam Lindsay Gordon was to have a memorial bust erected in Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey, making Gordon the only Australian poet to have received such an honour. The proposal was instigated by Douglas Sladen, nephew of Sir Charles Sladen who had known Gordon and admired his work. Many influential people also approved the memorial bust including Rudyard Kipling, Sir James Barrie, John Galsworthy, Sir Philip Gibbs, Professor of English Literature at Oxford and Cambridge Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, as well as the Archbishop of Canterbury William Cosmo Gordon Lang, and the Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin.

Adam Lindsay Gordon‘s memorial bust in Westminster Abbey

When Edwin Gordon Blackmore died in 1909 at ‘Lansdowne’ near Cowra, NSW, only three of his children were still on the family property – Jack, Lewis and Jane. Three brothers – George, Edward and James – had gone to South Africa, and another, Gordon, was in South Australia. After his father’s death, Jack received the the racing colours. Jane’s daughter, Eleanora Mary “Nell” Sharp, had a copy of the Adam Lindsay Gordon Memorial Volume, possibly received at the unveiling of the bust in Westminster Abbey and later passed on to her daughter Rosemary Park.

At the first meeting of the Adelaide Hunt Club at the Thebarton course, on 2 October 1869, Lindsay Gordon rode Edwin Blackmore’s black gelding Lancelot over about three miles. E G Blackmore (1837-1909) had been active in the founding and the development of the Adelaide Hunt Club, established in 1869. He was looked on as the father of the club and was its master in 1870 and 1885, and secretary in 1870, 1879-82 and 1884-85. He bought 2¾ acres for the club at New Thebarton for kennels and stables, designed the buildings and supervised their construction.

While a Member of the South Australian Parliament (1865-66) Adam Lindsay Gordon used to train and ride race horses for E G Blackmore when he was South Australian Parliamentary Librarian. He later became Clerk of the first Commonwealth Parliament in Australia, in Melbourne, and in 1901 was also appointed a Companion of of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG).

Edwin Blackmore’s son, John Coleridge ‘Jack’ Blackmore and his wife Edith had two sets of Gordon’s racing colours for many years, that had been given to Edwin after Adam Lindsay Gordon’s death in 1870 and subsequently handed down to them after Edwin died.

Racing Colours in Gordon Tartan at the Mudgee Museum.

In 1969, a jacket and cap, in a Gordon tartan, worn in Melbourne races, was donated to the Mudgee Museum in New South Wales and, in 1972, his red and black checked (Rob Roy MacGregor tartan) colours were donated to the South Australian Jockey Club (SAJC) at Morphettville. The set of red, white and black checked colours were carried south via a Pony Club relay to raise money for the equestrian team to compete in the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Mrs Edith Blackmore donating the Rob Roy Tartan colours for the pony club relay to Adelaide in 1972. With her are NSW Justice Minister, John Maddison and Equestrian rider, Laurie Morgan.

On 16 November 1971, the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales Showground, Paddington, received from Don Campbell of Manly (author and editorial assistant with the State Department of Agriculture) a ‘Set of colours (black and pink check jacket) belonging to the late Adam Lindsay Gordon, to be placed in strongroom at RAS Showground for temporary safe keeping.’ Mr Campbell, a long-time fan of Gordon and neighbour of Mrs J C Blackmore, who owned the jacket, suggested that it be carried on the relay ride as she had agreed to present it to the SAJC for display.

At a ceremony at Parliament House, Sydney, on 14 January 1972, horsemen were presented with the 102-year-old riding jacket that hundreds of NSW, Victorian and South Australian sponsored pony club members would carry on a 1500-mile relay journey to Adelaide. The Minister for Justice, John Maddison, deputising for Premier Sir Robert Askin, presented the red and black check jacket to Laurie Morgan, the gold medal winner of the three-day individual event at the Rome Olympics in 1960, who led 16 riders under mounted police escort to Warwick Farm, on the first leg of the journey. The NSW Pony Club Association, which organised the event, hoped to raise $25,000 on the NSW part of the journey to Albury, which would contribute towards sending an eight-man team and their horses to Munich.

On 11 February 1972, then SAJC Secretary, J W Keen, wrote to Mrs J C Blackmore at Manly:

‘I have received advice from Mr Don Campbell that you have agreed to this Club taking over the control of the colours used by the late Adam Lindsay Gordon. I am directed by my committee to thank you for this kindly gesture and to assure you that the colours will be permanently housed inn a specially made glass framed box here at Morphettville racecourse. They will be cared for inn a most proper and fitting manner.

‘Mr Campbell has informed me that the Pony Clubs of Australia are transporting the colours to Adelaide and I am advised that the local association will hand over the colours at a Gymkhana to be conducted at Morphettville on Sunday 12th March.

‘I am sure that the publicity given to this journey and the handing over ceremony will be great advertising for the Equestrian Federation Appeal.

‘Again, our sincere thanks for you kindly gesture and let me assure you that if you are ever in Adelaide and find it convenient to attend a Morphettville race meeting you could inspect the colours and be assured of a warm welcome.

‘With kindest personal regards, Yours truly, [signed J W Keen] Secretary.’

On 8 April 1984, the historic racing jacket was loaned by the SAJC to National Parks and Wildlife Service for the day of the official re-opening of the heritage-listed Dingley Dell Cottage and Museum, Port MacDonnell, the poet’s former home from March 1864 to December 1866.

The jacket was last seen hanging in the board room of the SAJC prior to renovations in 2001-2002.

If anyone has any information about its current whereabouts, please contact the Adam Lindsay Gordon Commemorative Committee Inc.lorraine@freestylepublications.com.au or phone 08 8558 3002.

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