Photo re­vives fond mem­o­ries

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By JOAN STAN­LEY

APHO­TO­GRAPH of three ele­phants rac­ing in Arawa St, Mata­mata in the Mata­mata Chron­i­cle (His­tory Never Re­peats, June 29, 2011) brought back mem­o­ries of this ex­cit­ing event to some of the par­tic­i­pants.

In fact in­ves­ti­ga­tions have un­cov­ered there were two such races in Mata­mata in a space of three years.

The first race was or­gan­ised by Farm­ers on De­cem­ber 13, 1962. In those days there was a Farm­ers shop in Arawa St, not far from the Post Of­fice on the same side.

Bullen’s Cir­cus was com­ing to town and ar­range­ments were made that their three ele­phants would take part in a race which would start at Arawa St North, where it meets Rawhiti Ave and end at the Farm­ers in Arawa St.

It was de­cided to ask three ser­vice or­gan­i­sa­tions to pro­vide jock­eys for the race.

Peter Singh, a school teacher from Mata­mata Pri­mary School, rep­re­sented the Jaycees; Jack McAn­nal­ley, a lo­cal chemist, was the Lions Club jockey and Jack Martin, a plumber, rode for Ro­tary. Each jockey wore a plac­ard around his neck with the name of his or­gan­i­sa­tion printed on it in large let­ters.

Both Jacks have very clear mem­o­ries of that spe­cial oc­ca­sion. Jack McAn­nal­ley re­mem­bers wear­ing Ozzie Ed­wards’ pur­ple and red rac­ing silks com­plete with match­ing cap.

The jock­eys walked to Rawhiti Ave where it meets Arawa St North, to meet the ele­phants and their ma­houts or keep­ers.

Jack Martin re­mem­bers he was wear­ing jodh­purs and a sa­fari hat and Peter Singh, the pho­to­graphs show, was wear­ing a tur­ban.

Jack Martin re­mem­bers that be­fore he mounted the ele­phant his ma­hout asked him if he’d been on an ele­phant be­fore. ‘‘No, but I’ve rid­den horses,’’ he said.

‘‘You’ll do me. I hope to make some money if you win!’’

He had to stand on the ma­hout’s knee and jump up high on to the ele­phant’s neck. The skin was quite rough and there was only a piece of rope tied around the ele­phant’s neck to hang on to.

He had to sit just be­hind the head, on the neck and the ele­phant’s shoul­der dug into him.

Jack McAn­nal­ley takes up the story.

The two other ele­phants set off be­fore his at a spank­ing pace, urged on with sharp pokes from the ma­houts, much faster than he had ex­pected them to.

His only other ex­pe­ri­ence had been a ride on Jemima, a well­known Auck­land Zoo ele­phant who moved at a stately pace car­ry­ing her load of ex­cited chil­dren. Mr McAn­nal­ley also re­mem­bers he had to sit on the bare back of the ele­phant with only a bit of bal­ing twine to hang on to.

He found out later that the ma­houts had each placed bets on his own ele­phant to win the race so were ea­gerly en­cour­ag­ing it on.

They crossed over Broad­way, which was closed to traf­fic, and raced up Arawa St to the fin­ish­ing line at the Farm­ers of­fice in about three min­utes.

They were ac­com­pa­nied by Win­ston Mc­Carthy, the rugby ra­dio com­men­ta­tor in the 1940s and 1950s, who is re­mem­bered for his well-known cry of ‘‘Lis­ten . . . It’s a Goal’’ fame. He was mak­ing a com­men­tary through a mega­phone but ap­par­ently got left be­hind be­cause they trav­elled so fast and were cheered on by the large crowd watch­ing the race.

The Mata­mata County Mail recorded the fol­low­ing re­port:

ELE­PHANTS: Win­ner of last Thurs­day’s ele­phant race up Arawa Street was Rotarian Jack Martin. In sec­ond place came Jaycee Peter Singh with Lions Club rider Jack McAn­nal­ley third. The huge crowd was amazed at the speed of the ele­phants but authorities say that a speed of 40mph can be at­tained by them.

Jack Martin re­mem­bers that Farm­ers gave him four fold­ing chairs, which he still has.

Spec­ta­cle: A huge crowd gathers at the fin­ish line out­side Farm­ers on Arawa St af­ter the first ele­phant race in Mata­mata in 1962.

And they’re off: From left Peter Singh, a school teacher from Mata­mata Pri­mary School, rep­re­sented the Jaycees; Jack Martin, a plumber, rode for Ro­tary and Jack McAn­nal­ley, a lo­cal chemist, was the Lions Club jockey in the Mata­mata ele­phant race or­gan­ised by Farm­ers in De­cem­ber 1962.

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