Plenty of horsing around during a day at the races
Towns had their own horse racing events. Yandina held races on Boxing Day and on May 24, Empire Day, which was Queen Victoria’s birthday.
Eumundi held its races on New Year’s Day and for Nambour it was St Patrick’s Day.
Ladies, “as fresh as paint and as sweet as sugar candy”, dressed in their finest outfits.
Jockeys had to be able to ride on a track through primeval bush that was “no better than a bullock path and as heavy as a newly ploughed field”.
The local publican set up a refreshment stall and offered a four-square meal for a shilling while the local baker sold tea and cakes.
In 1912, St Patrick’s Day celebrations combined with the Nambour Turf Club to feature races for both men and horses on the Nambour Show and Sports Ground. So many patrons attended that it seems to have been a public holiday in Nambour.
The Irish were out in full. Mr O’Halloran was the president and Mr O’Brien one of the stewards.
Races included the Publican’s Purse, A Trial Handicap, A Hack Handicap and a Welter Handicap but the race with the greatest prize money was the St Patrick’s Handicap, about a mile long with only three starters.
The track was rough and through bush and two jockeys fell. One owner ran out on to the track, caught his horse, climbed into the empty saddle and completed the course.
He came second, of course, but some argument took place before he was awarded second prize of two sovereigns. First prize was 12 sovereigns.
A sovereign was a one pound coin so 12 sovereigns or twelve pounds was a worthwhile prize and worth about five weeks’ wages. The weekly wage was about two pounds five shillings. In today’s values, five times our weekly wage is a worthy prize.
Other attractions were athletic events for men with foot races of 100 yards and 75 yards, teams lined up for tug o’ war and sometimes woodchopping events were included.
Again there were good prizes. Sixty shillings, three pounds or three sovereigns were awarded for first prize in the 100 yards sprint.
Country race days were well established on the calendar. A grand day of entertainment was usually followed by a grand ball at night.
(A note for younger readers: Australia changed to decimal currency in 1966. One pound equalled two dollars; five shillings equalled fifty cents. In 1974, the metric system of measurement was introduced. One mile equalled 1.6 km and one yard was 0.9 of a metre. It is surprising how many of us are still comfortable with the old imperial measures.)