Race horse owner was a true great British eccentric
Local author DJ Kelly writes about a remarkable lady and successful race-horse owner who might be remembered by some of her fellow Chafont St Giles residents
DOROTHY Paget, the highly eccentric race horse owner was a daughter of Lord Queensbury, with maternal links to the fabulously wealthy American Whitney family. Dorothy had a reputation for being difficult and by the age of 15 she had been expelled from six private schools.
A 20-stone, heavy drinker, smoker and gambler, Paget swore profusely and could not tolerate the sight or presence of men. Her race horse trainer had to wait in an adjoining room whilst she communicated with him via notes passed by her secretary.
Indeed, she would hire an entire cinema auditorium, railway carriage or racing enclosure just to avoid men, the mere sight of whom, she claimed, made her vomit.
The nocturnal Paget would consume a four-course dinner at seven in the morning, before retiring to her bed for the day. Her nights were spent placing bets with local bookie, William Hill, who engaged night staff especially for her calls.
Her odd timetable meant she often bet on races which had already been run, but the bookie always paid out since, in 1948 alone, he made the equivalent of £3 million just from Dorothy’s bets.
Dorothy and her friend, Mrs J. Arthur Rank (owner of Pinewood Studios) attended all the race meetings and rarely bet less than £500,000 on their own horses. Once, when Dorothy’s car broke down in Chalfont St Giles en route to the races, she bought the village butcher’s van so she would not miss the first race. Thereafter, she always travelled in convoy.
Neighbours knew when it was race day, as Dorothy’s gardener would stop the traffic outside her home on Nightingales Lane to facilitate the convoy’s departure.
On one occasion, when her horse had won the Grand National and she planted a kiss on the beast’s muzzle, she overheard a bystander quip that this must be the first time she had ever kissed a man.
She declared that she still had not, since the horse was a gelding! Although fabulously wealthy, she always wore the same old tweed coat to the races, believing it lucky. Her superstitious nature meant she would curse her staff soundly and colourfully if ever they wore green.
Dorothy Paget, a woman of substance in all respects, never married but was a profligate spender and a gargantuan eater. This colourful character passed away in 1960, at the age of just 54.
Paget and 227 other fascinating local people feature in DJ Kelly’s new book: The Famous and Infamous of The Chalfonts and District.
Now on sale online and from all good bookshops at £12.99.
Dorothy Paget, from Chalfont St Giles, was a great British eccentric. In addition to being a renowned racehorse owner, she smoked, drank and ate to excess and hated men with a passion