The Great War: Melbourne Cup 1914 -- bewildered Australia found itself at war!

Separated by half the globe from the place where trouble had been fomenting, most Australians had believed that all was well with the world. Nonetheless, the young nation followed the Prime Minster, Mr Fisher, when he said “Australians will stand along side our own to help and defend her to our last man and our last shilling.” Australians rallied to the cause. When the 1914 Melbourne Cup was run, several boat-loads of Aussie troops were already ensconced at war.

Adapted by Frank Morris

It was a subdued Cup Day in 1914. It was the dark days. It was tame in colour, in movement and even in the meeting and greeting of old friends. The attendance was not far short of 100,000. It was a sobering remainder that the world was at war.

There had been some agitation to suspend racing for the duration … but the VRC had promised to donate one-third of its profits for its Spring Meeting, or 5000 pounds – whichever was the greater – to patriotic funds.

The first war-time Melbourne Cup was by won Kingsburgh, a comparative outsider at 20-1; the horse was popular with the crowd because they admired the owner, VRC committeeman, L.K.S. Mackinnon.

Mr Mackinnon had made several previous attempts to win the Cup, and had at times supported his horses very seriously. Originally, he used the nom-de-course of “K. S. MacLeod” but Kingsburgh was the first horse he raced under the correct name.

He did well over Kingsburgh’s success. He took early odds and his horse won 1400 pounds for an outlay of only 78 pounds.

Kingsburgh’s form had not been particularly impressive before his cup win. The horse’s previous success had been the Carlingford Mile at Rosehill as a 3-year-old. Nevertheless, there was no element of luck about his Melbourne Cup win; he accomplished it in the record time of 3.26.

Bred at Shipley stud … Kingsburgh was purchased by Mackinnon under advice by trainer Charles Wheeler for 700 guineas. Wheeler took charge of Kingsburgh in the early stages of his racing career, but the young horse raced poorly on Melbourne tracks.

Mr Mackinnon took him to Randwick where he was trained by Isaac Foulsham, the former Victorian who had gone to Sydney for health reasons.

Foulsham was a skilful trainer with a well-liked dry humour. He had won the Melbourne Cup thirty years ago with the versatile Malua. He won it for a second time on Kingsburgh.

Young apprentice G. Meddick, who rode the winner, was trained by Bill Kelso who taught Jimmy Pike and many other great riders.

[Adapted from The Melbourne Cup by Maurice Cavanough; 1971; published by Lloyd O’Neil Pty Ltd.]

Midget: The first World Men’s Championship trophy 50 years on!


Surfabout was around when the first World Championship at Manly, NSW, was held in 1964. I was the editor of the magazine at the time. Once in awhile the head surfing photographer and part-owner, Jack Eden, and several “tear-away” surfers used to come to my house where we sat and talked – and drank coffee.

One of the surfers was Midget Farrelly. Midget was 18-years-old when I first met him; and it was 12-months before the ‘big’ surfing event.

As 1964 rolled around, the first “properly organised” World Championship was off with some brilliant surfing.

Writing in Surfabout, Lord James Blears said: “Farrelly … with a distinguished style of riding, scoring 132 points from a possible 150, beat the top Americans Mike Doyle and Joey Cabell. An estimated crowd of 65,000 watch the race.”

Midget Farrelly had become the champ of the waves.

“Thirty years ago Australia hit the headlines as a surfing nation. We’ve come of age on the waves” opined Surfabout magazine.

Phyllis O’Donnell, of Banora Point, NSW, took out the first Women’s World Championship, to make a clean sweep of the major titles.

Australia’s Pacific Longboarder magazine editor, John Brasen, takes up the story 50 years on. In part, he writes: “In retrospect, it can seem surprising just how much fuss a two-day competition at a Sydney beach-break caused 50 years ago. But Australia, then, was another world.

“Australia was a land of just 11 million, mainly Anglo-Saxon souls. It was nearly 20 years since the end of WWII. We had the White Australian Policy and a church and state told us how to live. It was, basically, a fundamentally conservative society, although from the mid-50s a growing youth culture had surely begun to shake it up.”

Then the revelling 60s landed on our doorstep as did the hotly debated first World Championship.

Brasen writes: “The trophy sat in his garage, neglected, from 1964 to 2014 and it could seem that he didn’t care a toss for it really. Midget said he ‘ignored it for 50 years after the ‘New Era Spoilers’ talked the event down … keep in mind they controlled the surf media of the day and had a lot of people who were reading their nonsense.’

”While Midget was a hero to most of us, others were less impressed with the victory at Manly; even suggesting it was a “hometown” decision. The drop-in rule was at the heart of this, and at the time it had its grey areas.

“Two or more riders could surf the same wave but they weren’t to impede each other. A photo showed the sleek Hawaiian Joey Cabell … dropping down on the top of Mike Doyle. While Bobby Brown is forced to straighten out in the whitewater behind the both of them.

“The surf media picked this up … and suggested Cabell’s aggression had cost him a chance to finish better than his eventual third.

“But the maximum penalty for a drop-in, at the time, was a point, and Midget had clearly won with 132 points from Mike Doyle on 126.4 and Cabell with 126. Midget said, ‘when I saw the score sheets 10 years ago, a … judge had given them to me, I realised it had been a good win, and not a close one, or a ‘hometown’ decision as put forward by that small group.’”

 [Adapted from Pacific Longboarder, Vol 17, No. 5, 2014.]

Australia’s first film – the 1896 Melbourne Cup


Adapted by Frank Morris

Marius Sestier arrived in Sydney in September. Sestier commenced photographing scenes in the local area, on 60-spools of film, but unfortunately his knowledge was limited to that of a professional cinematographer.

Not being an artisan, he knew nothing about developing, and his first shots of Australian life were a complete failure. But help was to come from an unexpected source. Arthur Peters, manager of Falk’s dark room, designed a special drum on which the undeveloped film could be wound, and gently rotated through a bath of chemicals.

Sestier’s name then appeared on the vaudeville bill at the Princess Theatre, Melbourne. The bill stated that “The Lumiere Cinematograph was exhibited by M. Marius Sestier”.

However, on Tuesday, November 3, Sestier outshone them all.

He visited the Melbourne Cup meeting at Flemington. Next morning the Argus contained the following report:

“The cup of 1896 boasted a last novel feature … the cinematograph for the first time. By the Lumiere principle, a series of views were taken of London, Paris and St Petersburg; and an actual presentation, not only of the Cup meeting, but the most wonderful Cup race ever run over this classic course.”

Sestier returned to Sydney and once again opened the Lumiere’s Criterion Theatre, on November 24. According to a newspaper advertisement, “Exhibitions of the Wonderful Tableaux of the Melbourne Cup were received with thunders of applause and unbounded enthusiasm”.

This is the first historical Australian film. It captured the excitement of a steam train from Melbourne arriving at the Flemington station. Snorting like a temperamental film star, the train was soon relegated to the role of an extra, when the doors of the dark carriages opened.

Out they poured, charming ladies in filmly frocks set off with large, lacy hats to put interest and excitement into a flickering scene. Another remarkable clear shot showed the arrival of the Vice Regal party, with constables telling the crowd to keep back.

After his win, Newhaven refused to act like the perfect gentleman as Lady Brassey attempted to place the Blue Ribbon around his neck; he reared and plunged out of camera range.

[Adapted from The Australian Screen by Eric Reade.]



2015: DC-3 Revisited. Pioneering days were fun. They were the days of grass roots flying. As air attendants on the DC-3, they were quite used to coping with unusual situations … Famous Women. From all over the world, women have become famous – like Marie Curie, the scientist; the young unknown Indian who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their epic western adventure; Sally Ride (pictured), the first America space shuttle traveller; and there are others.



Posted in: Grand Years with Frank Morris at 31 October 14

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