John Maunsell Richardson.

Gentlemen riders : past and present online

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cedented in the annals of steeplechasing.

Other well-known horses of his were Harlequin, White


Mr. C. J. Cunningham

Cockade, Leap Year, Keelson, Morebattle, Manderay, Kale,
Hendersyde, Why Not, and King Charles. The last named,
Mr. Cunningham always declared, was the best horse he ever
owned, and would have won the Liverpool in a canter had he
lived. He died, unfortunately, in 1896 of inflammation of the
lungs, having the previous year won eight out of the twelve
races he engaged in. In the National Hunt Steeplechase, the
subject of our sketch had quite his share of luck, for he won
this once important race on no less than three occasions, viz. on
Dry Bread, at Derby in 1882 ; on Why Not, at Highfield, near
Malton, in 1886; and on Harlequin in 1890, on which occasion
the race was run in Scotland, in conjunction with the Edgbaston
Hunt meeting.

Considering that he stood 6 ft. i in. in his stockinged feet,
and that his average bodily weight during the seventeen years
he was riding was over twelve stone, the record Charlie
Cunningham left behind him was indeed one to be proud of.

In addition to race-riding, he was a first-rate rider to
hounds, a fine game shot and fisherman. He was very fond
of curling, too, and in his young days had been a fine cricketer.

As a judge of hunters he had few equals, his services being
always in demand at the principal shows in Scotland, as well as
in England and Dublin ; whilst as an agriculturist he took a
very high place both on the practical and scientific sides of the
profession. As a judge of stock, too, he had no superior.

A good story is told of him when presiding once at the
dinner in connection with the Shepherds' Show at Yetholm,
just after the war in the Soudan. General Gatacre, who was
staying at the time with General Wauchope of Yetholm, in
the course of a speech descriptive of pastoral life in the Soudan,
showing how a good shepherd was rewarded, told the company
that if a shepherd increased his flock in one year, then


Gentlemen Riders

according to this increase he was given a certain number of
young wives, " The next year, and so on," went on the General,

"he is similarly rewarded, and " Here the speaker was

interrupted by the roar of laughter which greeted a remark
from the chair, uttered in its occupant's dryest manner, " If ye
speak any more like that, General," said Charlie, " we will not
have a single shepherd left on the Border."

A man of whom the Borderland might well be proud,
Charlie Cunningham — to give him the name he was known by
far and wide — died at his residence at Muirhouseland, Kelso,
on the 20th October, 1906, amidst regret as sincere as it was

He was a J. P. for the county of Roxburghe ; county
councillor for the parishes of Morebattle and Hownam ; was
an officer of the Border Mounted Rifles, being second in
command to Lord Minto (then Lord Melgund), until the regi-
ment was disbanded ; and was one of the senior members of
the Jedforest Club, which he joined in 1879. In 1873 Mr.
Cunningham was married to Margaret, daughter of the late
Mr. Joseph Crossley of Halifax, by whom he is survived, and
by a large family of sons and daughters.


(" Snip ")

For many years past we have been in the habit of setting a
mark against the names of such gentlemen riders we thought
would be tolerably certain in the course of their career in the
saddle, to ride the winner of the Grand National, at all events




Mr. H. M. Ripley

once in his lifetime ; and if ever there was one we thought it
safe to predict would help to uphold our reputation as a
"prophet in his own country," Mr. H. M. Ripley, affectionately
known to his intimates as " Snip," was that man ; possessing
as he did to a remarkable degree those qualifications which in a
contest of this description are so conducive to victory, viz.
pluck, nerve, and dash. Horses, too, always seemed to run
better in his hands than in those of other people, and we could
name several instances where he has brought off a long shot on
some awkward brute, who no one else could do any good with,
and was allowed to run loose in consequence.

His four Grand National rides were as follows : —

Year. Horse. Result.

1899 Mr. C. A. Brown's Barsac,

9 St. 12 lbs. Fifth.

1 90 1 Mr. C. A. Brown's Barsac,

9 St. 13 lbs. o

1902 Mr. Polehampton's Miss

Clifden, 1 1 yrs., 9 st. 7 lbs. Tenth.

1904 Count de Madres' Old Town,

9 St. 8 lbs. Pulled up.

by which it will be gathered that his nearest approach to a win
was his fifth on Barsac to Manifesto in 1899.

In 1896 the National Hunt Steeplechase, which for a long
period has been a mere shadow of its former self, more's the
pity ! was held at Hurst Park, the executive very liberally
adding 1000 so vs. to the original stake, on their own account ;
the second to receive 150 sovs., and the third, 50 sovs. On
this occasion there were nineteen runners, and Mr. C. P.
Shrubb's Ludgershall, 5 yrs., 12 st. i lb., starting at 6 to i,
ridden by Mr. H. M. Ripley, won by three-quarters of a length,


Gentlemen Riders

after a great race from the last fence with the Hon. Reginald
Ward's Benedictine, 9 yrs., 12 st. 10 lb., ridden by his owner.
Ford of Fyne, 5 yrs., 12 st. i lb. (Mr. J. M. Shiel), being third,
four lengths away.

In 1903 the popular "Snip" again scored in the National
Hunt Steeplechase, this time on Miss Clifden, a mare he had
previously steered in the Grand National.

He was once, too, successful in the Royal livery which he
donned at the shortest possible notice ; his own pleasure at
the result being mingled with regret that the Royal owner was
not present to see his horse win.

A terrible accident when riding in a hurdle race at
Sandown somewhere in the nineties, which would have
certainly killed most men, and from which it was a wonder he
ever recovered, necessarily kept the bold " Snip " out of the
saddle for some time, only to come up smiling in the following
spring, apparently with unimpaired nerve, and riding better
than ever.

Mr. albert H. RIPLEY

Though he did not ride in public to anything like the extent
of his younger brother, the popular " Snip," the subject of our
memoir was an exceptionally fine horseman, having the happy
knack of making himself quite at home on any sort of animal
you liked to put him on — to our thinking as good a test of
horsemanship, in the true sense of the word, as one could
well have.

Though a winner of a good number of races of sorts,


Mr. Albert H. Ripley

Albert Ripley only seems to have faced the Starter on two
occasions in the Grand National, namely, in 1891, in the race
won by Come Away, when he rode Mr. H. Wotton's Adelaide,
who started at the forlorn odds of 200 to i, and 1894, when
Why Not won, on which occasion he rode M. J. C. Levene's
Calcraft, who, starting at 100 to i, fell at Becher's Brook the
first time round.

In the Grand National Hunt Steeplechase of 1895, which,
owing to a frost having intervened, was run that year at San-
down Park instead of Hurst Park, as was originally intended,
Mr. Ripley had the leg-up on Alibanum (4 yrs., 10 st. 10 lbs.),
belonging to Mr. Arthur Yates, but could only get third to
Fin-ma-coul, ridden by Mr. F. B. Atkinson, who, starting at
7 to 4, won by two lengths, double that distance separating
second and third.

On that occasion there were fifteen runners, the largest
field, with one exception, since 1879.

Apart from his performances in public, innumerable stories
are told of Mr. Albert Ripley's feats in the saddle, in the
hunting-field and elsewhere, one of which may be worthy
of mention here.

On one occasion at a meet of the Household Brigade
Draghounds, near Windsor, a stranger — to all appearance
indifferently mounted — turned up at the meet, and astonished
everybody by taking the lead the moment the hounds were
laid on, and, what was more to the purpose, keeping it to the
bitter end, in spite of all opposition.

This was bad enough, but when, after the usual interval,
during which the members of the Hunt had mounted a fresh
horse apiece, the hounds were laid on once more, and the
stranger — still on the same animal — for the second time "cut
'em all down, and hung 'em up to dry " as the saying is, the

401 2 D

Gentlemen Riders

astonished officers thought it about time to inquire who the
mysterious stranger was. More than this, so pleased were
they at his performance that they gave Albert Ripley — for he
it was — a most cordial invitation to pay them another visit at a
future date.

Perhaps had they known that the horse on which the
stranger had beaten them all was one he had picked up not
long before for a "tenner," the members of the Drag might not
have been quite so well pleased.


Possessing as he did, to an unusual degree, those qualifications
so essential to riding over a country with success, viz. good
hands, good judgment, and iron nerve, it is no flattery to say that
during the period he was before the public in the capacity of
race-rider, the superior to Captain Percy Bewicke would have
been hard indeed to name. Educated at Harrow, where he
made his mark in the cricket field, and at racquets, Mr.
Bewicke in process of time was appointed to a commission in
the 15th Hussars, and that he was not long in giving a taste
of his quality is made plain from the fact that, within a short
time of his joining, we find him winning the Subalterns'
Challenge Cup at the Regimental meeting on Westwind,
belonging to a brother officer, and the 15th Hussars Consola-
tion race the following day on Mr. C. Browne's Sincerity.
Going gradually ahead, he became possessed in 1890 of a
real good horse in Cameronian, whose breeding, seeing that
he was by Isonomy, out of Twine The Plaiden, may be










Captain Percy Bewlcke

described as good enough for anything. Beginning with a
hunters' flat race at Plumpton, his owner won altogether
twelve races with him of one sort or another. That good but
somewhat uncertain horse, The Primate, was another Captain
Bewicke's name will always be associated with.

Having beaten Cloister, at Gatwick, with his owner in the
saddle, it was only natural that the horse should be fancied for
the Grand National of 1892, won by Father O'Flynn. The
Primate, however, who started at 100 to 14, in second demand
to Cloister, who was favourite at 1 1 to 2, was done with soon
after going into the country the second time round.

The following year the Primate ran again, but with no
better result, Captain Bald's horse falling at the third fence
from the start.

In 1894 Captain Bewicke's mount in the Grand National
was Ardcarn, belonging to Mr. Grant, who, starting third
favourite at 1 1 to 2, fell at the second fence into the country
the second time round.

Whilst mentioning Cameronian and The Primate, we must
not omit Lady Helen, on whose back Captain Bewicke won
the Manchester Steeplechase in 1896, the Irwell Handicap
Steeplechase the following day, and the International Steeple-
chase at Leopardstown, in Ireland. In 1896 he won the
Grand Prize at Sandown on Stop ; and, in addition to four
hurdle races of minor importance, the big hurdle race at
Auteuil, on Soliman, who started favourite at 5 to 2 in a field
of thirteen runners.

In 1900 Captain Bewicke won it again, this time on
General Peace, on whom they laid 5 to 4 at the finish.

It would have been curious if, during his career, a
"Grand Military" had not fallen to his share, and it was quite
in the order of things therefore when, in 1891, he won that


Gentlemen Riders

much-coveted trophy on Ormerod for Captain A. E. Whitaker,
beating, amongst others, Why Not, ridden by Captain " Roddy"

Altogether, from 1884 to 1897, i^i which year he gave up
riding, Captain Bewicke won on his own and other people's
horses, no fewer than 203 races, his two best years being 1891
and 1892, when he headed the list of gentlemen riders with
thirty-seven and thirty-eight wins respectively.


Of the many military riders of recent times who find honourable
mention in this volume, none are better entitled to a prominent
position in the Temple of Fame than the distinguished soldier
who forms the subject of this chapter, and it speaks volumes for
his ability in the saddle that his race-riding career should have
been the success it was, considering how its progress must
necessarily have been interfered with by his multifarious duties
in connection with the profession to which he belongs.

The eldest son of the late Rev. Canon Burn- Murdoch,
the subject of our memoir was born on March 26th, 1859, and
received his education at Eton, after which, in 1878, he joined
the I St Royal Dragoons.

In 1882, in which year the regiment was quartered in
Dublin, General Burn-Murdoch, being then a subaltern, won
his maiden Steeplechase, the Sligo Hunt Cup, on a horse
called M.D. He now went steadily ahead, riding in and
winning a great many open races, and in 1884 won his first
Grand Military on Major Tidswell's Larva (5 yrs., 1 1 st. 7 lbs.)
at Sandown Park, beating eight others.


General Burn-Murdoch, C.B.

During the whole of 1885 he was abroad on active service
with his regiment, so there was no more riding until the follow-
ing year, when he resumed work once more, the success he
met with being sufficient proof that his skill in the saddle was
in no degree impaired through want of practice.

In 1893, having ridden a large number of winners in the
interim, both in point-to-point races on horses belonging
to himself and then under National Hunt Rules, General,
then Major, Burn-Murdoch won the Grand Military Gold Cup
for the second time of asking, his mount being that good
horse, the Midshipmite, belonging to Mr. H. L. Powell, who,
carrying 1 3 st. 7 lbs., won easily from six others.

Shortly after this, the subject of our memoir had again to
leave for Egypt to take part in the campaign, and there he
remained until 1897, when he returned to England to renew
his long-abandoned race-riding with greater zest than ever,
winning, amongst others, the South Hunt Cup on Chieftain H.
This horse with another, named Snuftbox, on which he had
previously won the Atherton Hunt Point-to-Point, when the
property of Mr. Cray, accompanied General Burn-Murdoch all
through the war in South Africa, where they proved as good
campaigners as they are " fox catchers," even to this day, proof
of which is furnished by the fact that the last-named old
warrior was the horse his owner told us, in a letter written
on the 30th of October, 1907, he hoped to ride at the opening
meet of the Quorn on the morrow.


Gentlemen Riders


Of the military men riding in recent years, not one, so far as
we are aware, can boast of a career in the saddle extending
over so long a period, and certainly not one more successful
than that of the gallant officer who forms the subject of this

Educated at Eton and Sandhurst, Major Hughes Onslow
made his dibiU as a gentleman rider exactly twenty-seven
years ago, at the Melton meeting of 1882, on which occasion
he won two steeplechases during the afternoon. Soon after
that he went to India with his regiment, and the following
winter we find him winning the Indian Grand Military
Steeplechase at Umballa, the most important event which
he had taken part in as yet. It would have been odd
indeed had a rider of such ability in the saddle as the subject
of our sketch failed to make his mark in the Grand Military,
at one time or another, and that these expectations were
realised is proved by the fact that out of his four rides in the
race for the Gold Cup, he won it three times, viz. on Mr. H. T.
Fenwick's Bertha (4 yrs., 11 st.) in 1888, on Major Fenwick's
County Council (a., 11 st. 7 lbs.) in 1898, on Major Loder's
Marpessa in 1903, and was second on Covert Hack in 1899, on
each occasion at Sandown Park.

Besides riding many other winners at the principal meetings
in Ireland at various times. Major Hughes Onslow has had
more than his share of luck at Punchestown, he having won
the Conyngham Cup on no fewer than three occasions, viz. in
1899, 1 90 1, and 1903, each time on Covert Hack belonging to
Major Eustace Loder. Covert Hack, who was certainly one of









Major Hughes Onslow

the best horses that ever ran at Punchestown, won the same
race in 1900, Mr. Gwyn-Davies being in the saddle in place
of his old pilot, away on active service in South Africa. He
also ran in 1902, 1904, and 1905, invariably getting the course.
Always heavily penalised, he twice won under 13 st. 5 lbs., the
extreme weight under the conditions of the race.

[It will be remembered, too, how useful he made himself to
his stable companion Ambush II. in the Grand National of
1900, by getting away from his jockey and knocking over
one or two of the most dangerous opponents to the King's

Harking back to Punchestown, Major Onslow won the
Irish Grand Military on three separate occasions, and the
Maiden Military Steeplechase five times.

Melton, too, is a favourite battle-ground of his, Major
Hughes Onslow having accounted for the Ladies' Plate no
fewer than three times within four years, the Leicestershire
Steeplechase (twice), and the Melton and Oakham Plate.

Some of Major Onslow's Irish experiences are very amusing.
One was in a hurdle race at Baldoyle, in 1896, in which there
were nine or ten starters ; at the last hurdle but one the
leading horse pecked badly, threw his jockey, and galloped on.
At the last hurdle the next two fell and galloped on riderless,
closely followed by two more who were having a desperate
race. About sixty yards before reaching the winning-post the
jockey of the outside horse picked up his whip in his left hand ;
his horse swerved badly, and bumping into the other, caused
both to smash through the rail separating the hurdle from the
steeplechase course. In the scrimmage both the riders were
knocked off, the result being that five riderless horses passed
the judge's box before any of the others with a man on
his back.


Gentlemen Riders

Another was at Kilkenny in May of the same year. The
weather was hot and dry, and directly after the start of a three-
mile steeplechase some jokers took the opportunity of setting
fire to the open ditch fence on the far side of the course. By
the time the horses reached it, it was blazing merrily, but three
or four of them had the pluck to jump it, and it was nearly
burnt out when they got there the second time, so the race was
run all right.

Some trainers and owners, especially those who have only
an odd horse or two, are often very funny with their orders and
advice to their jockeys, the following final instructions given
by an excited stud groom to Major Onslow just after he had
mounted his master's mare for a Hunt Cup race, being a fair
example. " Take a dangerous tight hoult of her head. Captain,
and knock Hell's blazes out of the fences." The mare, how-
ever, proved a charming ride and won easily, without her
jockey having to resort to the heroic measures advocated by
her owner's master of the horse.

*' I have always found," remarks Major Onslow, *' that the
owners and trainers who know most about the game, are those
who give their jockeys the freest hand, and, for sure, if you want
to lose a race the best way is to tie your jockey down with all
sorts of orders. I am all for starting a race with a plan of
campaign, but the * unexpected * so often happens — especially
in a steeplechase — that a jockey must be always prepared to
change his tactics, if the events of the race seem to require
him to do so."



At a period when the real thing in gentlemen riders, in the
true sense of the term, was apparently getting scarcer and
scarcer every day, the value of so promising a recruit as the
subject of this sketch when, in 1887, or thereabouts, he com-
menced riding between the flags in real downright earnest, can
hardly be over-estimated.

A member of a Welsh family of ancient lineage, Mr. Gwyn
Saunders-Davies first saw the light of day in 1865, and, after
a preliminary canter at the preparatory school at Slough (pre-
sided over by the Rev. John Hawtrey, whose house at Eton,
where he was formerly a lower-school master, was a perfect
hotbed of youthful sportsmen, the late Lord William Beresford
being one of the number), went to Winchester, where he came
out strong as a cricketer, playing in the eleven in 1881 and
1882, when he left the school.

It was in the last-named year that Mr. Gwyn Davies had
in reality his first ride in public, the occasion being the Law-
renny Hunt meeting, and the race the Lawrenny Hunt Cup ;
whilst the following year was responsible for his first winning
mount, when he won a three-mile steeplechase on a mare called
Jane Shore, at the Tivyside Hunt meeting.

In the early part of 1884, a couple of chance mounts at
Tenby Steeplechases, both of which he won the same after-
noon, put him on still better terms with himself, and with a
speculative expedition to South America, for which country he
sailed the following June, not turning out a success, it is no
matter for surprise that, when nearly three years later he returned
to England, he should make up his mind to devote himself for
the future entirely to the training and riding of steeplechasers,


Gentlemen Riders

with the result that in an incredibly short space of time there
was no better known or more honoured name at the various
cross-country meetings than that of the subject of this memoir.

On one of those he trained in his early days, a mare named
Fairy Queen, he won no less than forty-one races. In 1896
he left Wales to take up his abode in Staffordshire, moving a
year afterwards to Cleeve Hill, near Cheltenham, a locality
from which many of the most famous steeplechasers of their
time have gone^ forth at various times to do battle for their
owners in the Grand National and other important events ;
such celebrities as L'Africain, The Colonel, The Doctor, and
that marvellous pony Globule, all having been trained there.

From there he removed to Weyhill, and finally, on relin-
quishing the saddle, settled down as a public trainer at Myrtle
Grove, near Worthing ; amongst the numerous winners he has
turned out being O' Donovan Rossa, who won the Stewards'
Cup at Goodwood in 1901, and Rambling Katie, when she
annexed the Manchester Cup the second time.

Mr. Gwyn Davies rode in five successive Grand Nationals
in 1896, 1897, 1898, 1899, and 1900, his nearest approach to
victory being fourth to Ambush II. on Breemont's Pride in
1900. The Sapper, his mount in 1899, started in great request
at 10 to I, but fell at the second fence from the start.

On the famous Cloister, he won the Welsh Grand National
at Cardiff for Mr. Duff Assheton-Smith, a victory which, in
theatrical parlance, " fairly brought down the house," it being
hard to say which was the more popular, the horse or his

From 1882 to 1903, when he gave up riding, Mr. Gwyn
Saunders-Davies had ridden on no less than 1068 occasions, in
races under National Hunt Rules. Out of these he has won
322, and been placed 364 times. A fine record indeed !





We once overheard an animated discussion between a noble
lord and an Art dealer of large experience as to what difference
there was between a professional artist and an amateur.

"Why," argued the nobleman, "shouldn't the work of one
be just as good as that of the other ? "

"Well, I'll tell you, my lord," replied the dealer. "The
former being absolutely dependent on his art for a living, does
his level best accordingly, knowing full well that otherwise he
will starve. The amateur, on the other hand, though perhaps
equally talented — probably more so — merely trifles with art
pour passer le temps^ as it were, and is perfectly indifferent
whether the result of his handiwork is good, bad, or indifferent."

It appears to us that these remarks as applied to Art are
equally adaptable to gentlemen riders as a body. In this
case, however, there have been, and are, exceptions, though
very few, and we do not think we shall be accused of flattery in
naming Mr. George Thursby as one of them, for not only does
he work quite as hard as any professional, but it is equally
certain that very few of the latter riding at the present time

Online LibraryJohn Maunsell RichardsonGentlemen riders : past and present → online text (page 30 of 36)