Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Turf and Heath: Australian racing reminiscences by Samuel Griffiths.

Turf and Heath: Australian racing reminiscences by Samuel Griffiths. Hardcover book (no dust jacket) published by A.H. Massina & Co. 1906, 262 pages with some black and white photographs and illustrations.

A few years ago I was in the midst of negotiating the purchase of a large collection of mainly railway magazines from a rural historical society (… it's a long story) when for some long forgotten reason one of the historical society members recounted a rather interesting anecdote regarding the original local horse racing track ledger (1880s?) which was in the historical society's possession. It was an item that they were reluctant to part with, but one which they believed would be of minimal use to their mostly genealogical research. That is until one of the local horse racing aficionados discovered that the ledger existed. The historical society has a library which as you can imagine is full of irreplaceable items of all sorts... including the racing ledger... and is therefore not a lending library. I can't remember exactly why, but it was decided that just this once they would let the book out of their collection and into public hands for a short period only. The book was returned intact a few days later by the very appreciative borrower.

In itself this is not that exciting a story, but it is a story that left an impression on me. The ledger was something that most people would find incredibly boring... myself included. It's a list of names of long forgotten horses racing on a country race track in the middle of what would then have been nowhere. The historical society couldn't really see how it would be of interest, but due to it's historical nature had decided to preserve it. It was only when it was discovered by that one very interested local person, that they realised the historical value of what they had.

It was with this anecdote in mind that lead me to not hesitate in picking up this history/reminiscence of the early days of Australian horse racing. Sure many horse racing fans would find more use in a more recent form guide, but there are those who are interested in a more in depth history of what is a rich tradition here in Australia. Maybe it is just the one guy, but somehow I think there may be more around.

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