This was the first of six short pieces of writing, with a reflective statement, which was part of the first assessment for Writing the Family Saga.
Horses keep appearing in my family story.
The family association with horse racing began in 1810 when two of my convict ancestors, Simeon Lord and George Guest, raced horses at the first Sydney race meeting. Research shows that other family members have also owned and or trained race horses on their properties while my family currently participates in a small horse racing syndicate.
Horse racing has therefore been a part time interest in the family but imagine having family connections with the Melbourne Cup, the pinnacle of horse racing in Australia. Exploring my family story has shown not one but two links to this famous event.
Australian legend records that Archer won the horse race that was to become the Melbourne Cup in 1861 and again in 1862. Archer’s trainer, Etienne de Mestre, also trained three other Melbourne Cup winners, Tim Whiffler in 1867, Chester in 1877 and Calamia in 1878. Being the winning trainer of horses in this race five times was a record Etienne held until Bart Cummings came on the scene. Recently I discovered that Etienne de Mestre was the grandson of Mary Hyde, my great (x3) grandmother, via her first marriage.
Almost sixty years later another family link to the Melbourne Cup was forged when the race was won by Poitrel in 1920. This horse was owned by Bill and Fred Moses, nephews of my grandfather, George Moses.
‘The race that stops the nation’ therefore holds a special place in the family story.
Family history is not just studying the members in the direct family line. Exploring the stories of brothers and sisters of ancestors expands and adds to the flavour of the family story. It was only by exploring the lives of extended family that I discovered the involvement of two branches of the family in Melbourne Cup history. The history of sport, including horse racing, is also an important aspect of Australian social history as well as being part of my family story.
'Sydney Races', Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 20 October 1810, p 2
'Victoria Turf Club Spring Meeting', The Argus, 9 November 1861, p 5
‘A popular victory’, The Argus, 3 November 1920, p 10