In 1913, a newspaper reporter from The Argus, Melbourne, interviewed Mr William Brazenor, of Ballarat, about his memories of the poet, jockey and politician Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833 – 1870). Below is a transcription of the article that appeared in the Argus, on Saturday 11 October. An abridged version was published in the Wairarapa Daily Times, New Zealand, on 3 November 1913.
GORDON IN BALLARAT “RODE TO KILL HIMSELF” PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS.
Mr William Brazenor, a well known Ballarat identity, now living at the cattle -yards, about four miles out of the city, is one of the few men living, who knew Adam Lindsay Gordon, and can talk interestingly about him. The ill-fated poet’s Ballarat days are not very fertile of anecdote in any of the published biographies of Gordon. Mr Brazenor’s reminiscences reveal him as a melancholy, hard-riding man, silent, except in the company of stable-lads, with whom he apparently talked about horses. Not a word about poetry ever fell from his lips, though it was expected that he harboured the muse by two or three who rode with him in the hunt club.
” He was a man,” said Mr Brazenor, “I could never make out. He was in no way a sociable man; far from it. He and Harry Mount were partners, and their livery stables were at Craig’s Hotel. He was living round on the lake, close to the show-grounds. some of the old trees that were about his cottage are there still. Harry Mount was master of hounds. He had a subscription pack of harriers in those days – I think it must have been 1866 or ’67. Gordon was married then and his wife, I remember, was a very young woman, and a very good rider.
“Gordon was a reckless rider. We always used to say that he rode to break his neck. I remember on one occasion he rode for a jump at a corner of a fence, and had to pass between the rails and a big tree just at the take off. The mare he was riding, a black one, landed him in the road, and he broke some of his fingers. But that did not stop him riding. He was taking out the drag for the hunt within the month. With his broken fingers he could not hold his mount, which bolted with him.
” Gordon always gave me the idea that he had got out of his place in the world, and was mixing with people who were not of his class. He had the look of a man who had lost himself. He was tall with very long legs, and used to sit with his head right over his horse’s neck. And when he jumped he had a most peculiar habit of throwing himself back till his head almost touched his horse’s flank. And that reminds me. I went out with him one day on a very clever horse I had , called Skylark. I talked to him on the way, but didn’t get much out of him in reply. He was always like that – would ride silently alongside you for miles. Gordon had called on me, and asked me to go out on that morning, and, at his suggestion, we struck out over a new line of country for the hunt. After a while he asked me to change horses. My horse was a very light-mouthed one. We changed saddles. My horse was very sensitive and I always sat in the stirrups, never moving when he was taking a fence. Well, we rode at a fence, and Gordon moved, as was his habit. The horse baulked, and shot sideways, and Gordon came over the fence by himself. I rode up and asked him whether he was hurt. He said ‘No. I’d rather a horse fell through a fence than do a thing like that.’ I was a bit angry, ‘Damn it! ‘I said, ‘He’s a sensitive horse, and won’t stand moving just as you are coming up.’ Without a word, Gordon went back, unsaddled my horse, and I did the same with his. He got his saddle on quickly and I took my time. Suddenly he was up and off. He came back at the fence, sitting perfectly upright, like a soldier, and, taking it, turned round at a gallop, and was out of my sight at once. I never saw him again that day.
“Yes; he was a fine rider; would ride anything, and force it at a fence. But he always seemed lost, poor, unfortunate fellow. There are only three of that hunt club now- Mr Stephen Holgate, Mr William Leonard, and myself. I had the pack afterwards, and sold it to Mr Chirnside, at Werribee. There were no foxes or hares in those days and I remember “blooding ’em” with those kangaroo rats until we got rabbits up from Geelong.
After about two years in Ballarat, according to the recollections of Mr Brazenor, two years in which he lost an infant daughter (not an infant son, as is stated by some biographers), Gordon went to Melbourne. “I think he went to ride in the Steeplechase for Mr Herbert Power, but I would not be sure of that. It may have been Mr Power’s brother. Some few months afterwards we heard of his end. I suppose he got tired of it all.”
(Adam Lindsay Gordon was born in the Azores, of Scottish parents and died at Brighton, Victoria. Several statues, museums and memorials to Gordon are to be found in Victoria and South Australia. In 1934, a bust of Gordon was placed in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey, London.)