Friday, November 25, 2016

Paying my respects to Peter Boothman

Not least because we now read the Racing Post on Emma's ipad and reading the contents of a newspaper on an ipad somehow seems less straightforward than reading a newspaper, on many days I read only the 'runners and riders' and the results, leaving the features and the bulk (if that's the correct word, which it might not be as there often isn't that much that is actually worthy of being described as 'news') of the news to be read at a later date.  Lazy, I know, but that's how it happens.  Anyway, on Monday evening I caught up on the previous few days' worth of Racing Posts, which turned out to be unfortunate.

I had accepted an invitation to attend the annual exhibition on Monday evening of the Society of Equestrian Artists in the Palace House Mews, and had told Jim Power, a very nice man who is one of the stalwarts of the Society, that I'd be there.  And there were two Newmarket Town Council meetings which I arguably should have been attending.  But on Monday it rained pretty much all day, I was working outside more or less uninterruptedly from 6.30 am until 6.00 pm, and when I finally got back in the house after feeding the horses to begin drying out and warming up, I really couldn't face leaving the house again.  So I found that unexpectedly I had a free evening, and I used it to read some Racing Posts.

I can't check the details because the ipad is currently not working, but on Monday evening I read a brief article in the Racing Post of the previous day (ie Sunday 20th November) saying that Peter Boothman had died, and that his funeral would be in the church at Fordham at something like 2pm on 21st November.  In other words, the funeral had taken place about five hours previously.  Which was very unfortunate, because I would have liked to have paid my respects to him, and feel rather bad that I didn't, notwithtstanding that it was not by choice that I was absent.  He was a man whom I liked very much, so I will use this chapter of the blog to pay the respects which I failed to pay at his graveside, and belatedly to offer my condolences to his loved ones.

I believe that Peter didn't live in Newmarket but in one of the outlying villages, presumably Fordham, which explains why I hadn't seen him for a long time.  But I can remember clearly when I did last see him.  The penultimate time that I saw him was at the wedding of Wayne and Lisa (nee Jones) Smith at the Curragh.  That took place in an August, and I would guess it was three years ago.  I believe that Peter was at one time married to Wayne's aunt.  I was very pleased to see Peter there, not least because I hadn't seen him for a long time.  And then, by chance, I saw him in the market-place in Newmarket about a week later.  And that was the last time I saw him.

I can only hope that there were not too many people caught out by the short notice given in the paper of the date and time of his funeral because he was a popular man and there would have been plenty of people around here who would have liked to have been there.  Over and above the many people who would have known him here, there are many around here who would have known him in Ireland.  Peter's best years as a jockey were spent in Ireland, when he was one of several British jockeys who took up jobs over there in the '60s, including Wally Swinburn and Colin Williams who both live in these parts.

Numerous of his Irish colleagues from that era have family living around here.  The late Phil McEntee was very friendly with him, and his son Phil jr trains in Hamilton Road.  Peter and Vivian Kennedy were neighbours as well as colleagues, and Vivian's youngest son Willlam has ridden several National Hunt winners for this stable, while his grandson Jamie Insole has also race-ridden for us.  George McGrath's son George jr worked in this street for Willie Musson for many years, and is now doing a very good job running the National Association of Stable Staff, whose offices are round the corner from the bottom of this road.  And Mark Sullivan, son of the late Paddy Sullivan, is working for Peter Chapple-Hyam.

If I recall correctly, Peter (long retired from race-riding by this time) was riding out for Gavin Pritchard-Gordon when I came to town in 1987.  When Gavin retired he moved to Ed Dunlop, for whom he rode out until he retired.  Taffy Thomas was doing the same for the same stable, and I'd say that they retired at around the same time.  It was always a pleasure to see Peter in the mornings.  Right into, I presume, his 60s, he always had a very relaxed, calm, kind seat on a horse; and always a pleasant smile on his face, and always a friendly greeting.  I liked and respected him, and I am only sorry that I was not there to bid him 'Adieu'.  He deserved a good send-off.

You'll have seen from all the photographs in this chapter (which were taken this morning between about 7.30 and 9.30) that we've had a lovely day.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky all day, and once the mist (and the slight frost) had been dispersed by around 9am we had unbroken sunshine right through until the sun started to set shortly after 3pm.  I don't think that we have any rain forecast in the next 10 days or so which is great as we got very wet at the start of the week, so a dry period will be much appreciated.  And, while one might have thought that an extended period of high pressure at this time of year might see us having some very cold weather, I don't think that we'll be having anything worse than slight frosts.

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