During the preceding depression in the 1890's it was a Melbourne jockey who lifted the spirits of the general public, whose amazing winning record helped them find a reliable constant in their lives at a time when banks and governments were proving unreliable and crumbling before everyone's eyes.
Tommy Corrigan was a lad from Ireland who had a way of handling his mounts. He was firm but fair in both his jockeys silks and in his general life. He won over wowsers who labeled horse racing immoral and Henry Lawson with his bright, cheery smile.
His racing record is impressive in itself; from 788 starts he had 238 wins, 135 seconds and 95 thirds and the Tommy Corrigan Medal recalls this today but it was his generous good nature that marked him out, with Banjo Paterson penning a poem about him.
When Tommy died, his funeral procession was 2 miles long with a hundred jockeys and trainers leading the hearse. All flags flew at half mast, the shops were closed, leading dignitaries of the day, if not in attendance, sent wreaths. Even the newsboys from the streets sent a wreath shaped as a horse shoe, such was Tommy's popularity.
Read more about this bloke anyone would be happy to call friend HERE
Tommy Corrigan by Banjo Paterson.
YOU talk of riders on the flat, of nerve and pluck and pace—
Not one in fifty has the nerve to ride a steeplechase.
It’s right enough, while horses pull and take their fences strong,
To rush a flier to the front and bring the field along;
But what about the last half-mile, with horses blown and beat—
When every jump means all you know to keep him on his feet.
When any slip means sudden death—with wife and child to keep—
It needs some nerve to draw the whip and flog him at the leap—
But Corrigan would ride them out, by danger undismayed,
He never flinched at fence or wall, he never was afraid;
With easy seat and nerve of steel, light hand and smiling face,
He held the rushing horses back, and made the sluggards race.
He gave the shirkers extra heart, he steadied down the rash,
He rode great clumsy boring brutes, and chanced a fatal smash;
He got the rushing Wymlet home that never jumped at all—
But clambered over every fence and clouted every wall.
You should have heard the cheers, my boys, that shook the members’ stand
Whenever Tommy Corrigan weighed out to ride Lone Hand.
They were, indeed, a glorious pair—the great upstanding horse,
The gamest jockey on his back that ever faced a course.
Though weight was big and pace was hot and fences stiff and tall,
“You follow Tommy Corrigan” was passed to one and all.
And every man on Ballarat raised all he could command
To put on Tommy Corrigan when riding old Lone Hand.
But now we’ll keep his memory green while horsemen come and go;
We may not see his like again where silks and satins glow.
We’ll drink to him in silence, boys—he’s followed down the track
Where many a good man went before, but never one came back.
And, let us hope, in that far land where the shades of brave men reign,
The gallant Tommy Corrigan will ride Lone Hand again.