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

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - PEOPLEANDPLACES -

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

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