The Nostalgia column with Margaret Watson: Former Champion Jockey Tommy Weston
Dewsbury Irish National Club will soon be adding a photograph of former champion jockey Tommy Weston to the club’s hall of fame.
It will be presented to the club next week by two long-standing members, Michael Maguire and John Ormsby, who have been researching Tommy’s connection with the club.
The two men feared the name of one of its most famous members would disappear from the annals of the club unless steps were taken to have him honoured in this way.
Michael and John have arranged the presentation to coincide with a grand reunion of members of Dewsbury Celtic Rugby Club which celebrates its 140th anniversary this year.
Tommy’s great niece, Susan Dobson, who has been researching the life of her illustrious ancestor, will be present.
Much has been written over the years about Tommy Weston’s outstanding racing career, but little about his generosity to charity.
At the height of his career he spent £2,000 – an impressive sum in the 1920s – on commissioning ten paintings of “The Stations of the Cross” for St Paulinus Church, Dewsbury.
And In 1928 he raised the equivalent of thousands of pounds by persuading many of his fellow jockeys to come to Dewsbury to take part in a charity event at Crown Flatt organised by St Paulinus Church Committee, in aid of Dewsbury Infirmary.
The event was on a Tuesday evening and the horse racing stars, who had all been riding at York races that afternoon, took part in a football match, followed by a “Donkey Derby” with the likes of Gordon (later Sir Gordon) Richards, Harry Wragg and Charlie Smirke.
The great Steve Donoghue and his son Pat were linesmen and the event attracted a staggering attendance of almost 15,000.
Two local rugby league heroes, Joe Lyman and Frank Gallagher, took turns in kicking off at the start of each half.
Tommy captained the South team against the North and it was reported that Gordon Richards created a big impression for the South at right-back with his tackling, distribution and on one occasion prevented a goal with a tremendous header on his line.
The match ended after 40 minutes at 1-1 but it was decided to play a short period of extra-time.
When the North scored again, Tommy sportingly decided they were the winners and their captain Joe Taylor collected the Infirmary Cup and his team each received a fountain pen.
The Donkey Derby was a riotous success.
Donkeys invariably have a mind of their own and the star riders, used to handling well-trained throroughbred horses, struggled to have any sort of control.
They weren’t helped by the fact that they only had bridles with no saddles or blinkers and certainly no whips.
Some animals refused to move at all, others went in the wrong direction and on one occasion a leader stopped near the winning post to chew the grass.
It provided great hilarity for the vast crowd.
The heat winners, who included Tommy Weston, lined up for the final. His opposing riders were Pat Donoghue, Billy Nevett, Harry Wragg and Charlie Elliott.
The winner was Donoghue, who was presented with a silver cup and Weston received a rose bowl for finishing runner-up.
At the presentations the match football, signed by all the jockeys, sold for a massive £66 10s, paid by Joe Phelan, who promptly sold it to Weston for £10.
Tommy then handed the ball to the committee for the benefit of the Infirmary.
You have to wonder how much that football would be worth today. Or even where it is now. Perhaps one day it will appear on television’s “Flog It”– but who will know its provenance?
Thanks were expressed at a lavish dinner for the jockeys and footballers in Dewsbury Town Hall, to Messrs Edwin Box and Sons, of Bradford Road, who provided a saloon coach to bring the jockeys from York and return them.
This astonishing event was an indication of the respect in which Tommy was held by his fellow jockeys, many of them huge names in racing.
Tommy, born in Westtown, won every Classic race in the calendar, and every Classic race in which he took part, he won first time – a rare achievement.
Throughout his career he won an astonishing 149 races, and in more than 200 was placed second or third.
He won his first race at the age of 15 and the Derby when he was 21, and in 1926, he became Champion Jockey.
Among his triumphant victories was the St Leger, the Gold Cup, the Oaks, the Ebor Handicap and the 2,000 guineas.
But he was best known for his two famous Derby wins – in 1924 on Sansovino and in 1933 on Hyperion, thus ensuring the two names – Weston and Hyperion – were linked in horse racing circles forever.
Tommy was also a member of Dewsbury Trades and Friendly Club, now closed, and when visiting his sister, Evelyn Clough, landlady of the Crackenedge Hotel, he always paid a visit to both clubs to meet up with old friends.
The Celtic re-union and the presentation of Tommy’s photograph, will take place on Saturday, November 30 at the Dewsbury Irish National Club, Westtown.
○ Send your memories of past times in the Dewsbury area to me at [email protected]