Jimboomba man remembers life as a bush jockey

BUSH CHAMPION: Alan Dorrington enjoys the racing at Maxwelton. Photo: Derek Barry
BUSH CHAMPION: Alan Dorrington enjoys the racing at Maxwelton. Photo: Derek Barry

ALAN Dorrington may live in Jimboomba but a part of his heart will always be in north-west Queensland.

Now 72, Mr Dorrington attended the Maxwelton Races on the weekend which brought back many memories of his time as a teenage bush jockey.

Maxwelton, population about 100, is in cattle country near Richmond in north Queensland.

“I’m came up here first when I was 14 years old and I went back to Brisbane when my father died but I came back up here aged 16 to work on properties,” Mr Dorrington said.

At that stage he had done a lot of stock work but had never ridden a horse in a race before.

“Nobody mentioned racehorses when I took the job. I got conned,” he said.

“I was wrong shape – tall – but I was pretty light and what had happened was the station owner, Peter Kennedy, had racehorses and he said to his brother-in-law ‘if only I had my own jockey I’d be right’.”

Peter was familiar with the horses so unbeknown to him, his name was put forward to race in the next meet at Maxwelton and – wrong shape or not – it seemed the instincts to choose him were spot on.

“I did all right, I won my first ride and I had three wins and two seconds for the day,” he said.

“Next year I came back and won the Maxwelton cup.”

For his efforts in being the most successful jockey at the Maxwelton Picnic Races in 1963 and 1964 Alan won two presentation whips which he proudly had on display when he returned a quarter of a century later.

Mr Dorrington also brought a collection of photos of his races and details of his win at bush tracks like Maxi as well as Julia Creek, Corfield, Richmond, Nelia and Gilliat.

Apart from the loss of tracks like Nelia and Gilliat, there were many other differences in Alan’s day.

“There was no inside running rail or outside running rail and in 1963 there was only a flag start. (A starter dropped a flag to let runners go.)”

Mr Dorrington said that after flag starts, race starts were introduced with a simple spring-loaded rope.

They could twist around a horse’s neck if the starter’s lever did not work properly.

“They were frightening,” he said.

Mr Dorrington’s north Queensland racing career ended as suddenly as it began.

“In 1966 there was a big drought on and I went down to Brisbane for Christmas and Peter told me, ‘you better find something down there’,” he said.