James Cook Boy’s High School Kogarah NSW talk – Monday May 25 2009
A special thankyou to Mrs Rees for extending an invitation to me to talk to her year 7 History Class. I am aware that you have been looking at “Kogarah of the Past . “
I am here today to talk to you about Social History and in particular, Moorefield Racecourse. Your school is located on part of the old Moorefield racecourse- which is very significant in Kogarah’s history.
I have lived, since late 1985, on the Moorefield Racecourse . I believe that I go to sleep at night with “the ghosts of the past “– the jockeys, the trainers, the horses, the punters and the golfers. My late father, who died in late January 2007 aged 92.5 years, reminded me that “he attended a Moorefield Racecourse meeting in the early 1930’s to back a horse called Dutiful.”
*Social History is very important in acknowledging and recognising our local history. Since January 2008, I have been involved in a Social History project with Kogarah Council . Local residents, who had been involved in volunteering in many different areas in the community, were interviewed to provide their life story. If the person was deceased, research was done to establish their important volunteer work . This was then recorded into the publication, which we called Kogarah ‘s Volunteer Heroes and launched on April 7 2009, in Heritage Week.
You yourselves may have some interesting family members who have emigrated to Australia; your next door neighbour may be an elderly man or woman who can tell you many stories of the past; or you may have someone in your soccer team –(football) who have played overseas. These are the stories which make our Social History come alive, and this is my aim with my Moorefield research.
The locals referred to the Moorefield Racecourse as the Goat Track – up hill and down hill. There were many colourful characters associated with the Race course – jockeys, trainers, punters and caretakers.
There was also a strong emphasis on Kogarah Station, as horses were brought out on train carriages to Kogarah in the early days. There was a platform siding for them to exit the train at Kogarah station. Then they were walked down Montgomery and Gladstone Streets to the course. Patrons and jockeys alike caught the train to Kogarah and walked to the course.
Origin of my Moorefield Racecourse Project
I began to research the History of Moorefield Racecourse (1888-1951) in possibly mid –1993 and have worked on it since then. I have had many interruptions over the past years; now it is my aim to move the project forward so that I can publish it .
My project started with a phone call, in early 1993, from an elderly resident of O”Connell Street, Monterey. Mr Ray Cunningham, now deceased, phoned me in my capacity as a Councillor on Rockdale City Council (1991-1999. ) He wanted a footpath in his section of the street. I went back sometime later to tell him the good news that” he would get his foothpath “.
We talked for some time, and Mr Cunningham asked me where I lived . I told him that I lived on the old racecourse. He said “ I worked there in the 1940’s, but when I die the history will die with me “ Immediately I turned to him and said “ Mr Cunningham I will do you a deal . The deal is that I will write it for you ; you are lucky that I love local history and I also love horse racing “ And this boys is how it came about.
I then contacted the St George Leader, who published a story in the Leader on July 20 1993. A number of people contacted me as a result of this story, and my project went from there. In mid – January 1996 I had the pleasure of meeting an ex Aussie , Mr Bill Harris ( now deceased ) in Delaware , USA . He had lived directly opposite the course in the 1930’s, and gave me a photo from his front yard looking across the course.
Over the years, I have spoken to many elderly residents, read old newspapers, researched Sands Directories and Racing registers at the Australian Jockey Club and the Racing Museum then at Caulfield Racecourse, Melbourne.
* I have recorded all the race dates from 1888-1951. When I was short 21 years in Race dates, I researched, in 1997, the 21 years of newspapers on microfilm at the State Library in Macquarie Street. This took a lot of time…..
In the next few weeks, an ex- jockey and I are going walkabout around the back streets of Kogarah . Whilst I know where many of the horse trainers were located, as he rode horses at the time he will know much more. The back streets of Kogarah – French Street, Green Street , Stanley Street all had stables in them . Some of the trainers walked their horses from Tempe or Sans Souci to the course – there were no horse floats in those days.
*Today, boys, I have given you a sheet with Mr Cunningham’s hand drawn 1995 map on it . (When he drew this he was aged in his seventies, so he had great memory recall)
We can look at some locational features on the map. Your school entrance is near the main entrance to the course on Princes Highway. There was a Hotel on the course, but it burned down in 1926.
One of the old grandstands went to Fairfield Trotting Club to be re-used. The golf course was a 9 hole course established in 1928 – the golfers played the course twice to get their 18 holes. When the Racecourse closed they had to relocate their Club. You now pass Kogarah Golf Club on the way to the Airport.
Kogarah Golf Club has the aerial photo of the course, which I have shown you today.
Marshall Street did not go its full length in those days. It was market garden for the bottom part of the street. The area at the back of the Racecourse was known as Pat Moore Swamp. Many interesting activities I am told took place in the swamp.
*The top map on the left hand side of my sheet is from a Rockdale Council Directory –dated 1923. Notice President Avenue , and Moore Street , now West Botany Street. The course is clearly marked on the map. It is interesting looking at maps to see the development of the area around the Racecourse.
*There are 3 horses shedding tears on my sheet. This relates to the planned sale of the Racecourse in the mid 1950’s .This was very controversial. There was much discussion / debate at Rockdale Council as to whether the land was to be zoned industrial / residential . Eventually the NSW Government decided that the top section was to be rezoned for educational purposes and the rest of the land was to be residential. Rockdale Council was involved in the approval process. (Your school celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2007.)
*I have enclosed the late Dr Joan Hatton’s map of the racecourse superimposed onto the residential estate.
The names of the streets on the Moorefield Estate all have great significance – eg Fairway Avenue because of the golf course ; Moorefield Avenue after the Moorefield Racecourse ; Oakdale Avenue –after the subsidiary of L.J.Hooker who developed the estate; Annette Avenue the daughter of L.J Hooker , Real Estate developer who subdivided the Estate ; Lachal Avenue, Secretary of the Sydney Turf Club at the time the Estate was Subdivided; and Civic Avenue – named to acknowledge a new estate which was attracting new residents to the area and Traynor Avenue –after Mr H.A.Traynor, an official of the former Moorefield Racing Club.
*Marshall Street which adjoins the Moorefield estate is named after Thomas Marshall,who with J. T . Lawler subdivided this area as the Race Course estate.
Before I conclude , I must recognize that it was Governor Lachlan Macquarie, who on August 25 1812 granted the land to Patrick Moore. The Moore family (of Irish background ) later developed the Racecourse. (The Moore’s family home in President Avenue was a grand property. The Moore family were very influential citizens of Kogarah .A stained glass window in St Patricks Church commemorates the family ).
The Racecourse has had a wonderful history. I am honoured to be able to tell Moorefield’s story. I trust that you have learned a little today about the significance of the land on which your school is based .
Note: The last remaining Moorefield Racecourse Stables
Burlington Street Monterey stables were photographed by me on July 17 2012 and Rockdale City Council Local History Librarian on the 2nd of August 2012. The French Lane, Kogarah Stable was photgraphed by me on Dec 31 2013 and the Rockdale City Council Local History Librarian on Jan 9 2014
VALE ARTHUR WARD , MOOREFFIELD RACECOURSE JOCKEY – OCTOBER 18 2013
Arthur Ward, one of our nation’s finest jockeys, passed away in Perth on October 18 2013 , aged 94.
Arthur rode the last winner, Chief Pontiac at Moorefield Racecourse on July 14, 1951.
The Report in the Daily Telegraph last Friday states that “ he rode many champions during his riding career . Some of these horses included Tulloch , Redcraze, San Domenico, Comic Court , Rising Fast, Hydrogen and Prince Cortauld, and Carbon Copy . He won a Caulfield Cup on Rising Fast (1954) and Redcraze ( 1956)
On September 12 2013, on a tour of the new stand at Randwick ,I had the opportunity to have my photo taken underneath Arthur’s photo – it is adjacent to the jockey’s room .
Below is the link to the 4th FEb 2014 St George Leader article on Moorefield Racecourse.