Acknowledge: Australian Stock Horse Society 40th Anniversary Compendium
Featured Image: Mr Herbert (Bert) Griffith, one of the founding members of the Australian Stock Horse Society
The 50th anniversary of the founding of the Australian Stock Horse Society will take place next year (2021). I write this encomium to one of its pivotal pioneers; while I still can. Bert Griffith was ‘essential’ as an inaugural proponent. The Australian Stock Horse Society is a very ‘Scone thing’ despite a few desultory claims to the contrary. Its genesis is closely linked to a veritable Scone institution of the day. I refer to the Fat Stock Cattle Sales every Tuesday of the year; with very few exceptions. Following the sales many ‘out-of-town’ cattle producers decamped to the Belmore Hotel for social and other discourse. See: http://sconevetdynasty.com.au/the-tuesday-boozers-club/ . The ‘exclusives’ had their own club at the weeks ends which was polo.
Bert Griffith’s father managed Branga Plains at Walcha for W H Mackay Snr. Following the sale of the property in 1929 the Griffith family removed to the Mackay family home at ‘Anambah’ neat Maitland. ‘Young Bert’ shifted to Scrumlo, Rouchel Aberdeen NSW; also in Mackay family ownership. He was instructed to bring two horses with him. The best of these was Branga Prudence, by TB sire Port Rush out of Gentle Annie.
‘Branga Prudence’ established herself as a foundation mare of the iconic Scrumlo line of Australian Stock Horses. She announced herself to the community with a brilliant if unexpected win in the Open Handicap at a bush race meeting at Rouchel; ‘unexpected’ because she appeared to Brian Brooker to be grossly underdone? Bert’s daughter Mary Griffith remarked that bush race meetings were a passion for her father. He and his brother Jim were highly successful. Mary explained that nearly all the Branga horses were thoroughbred because of the flatter country around Walcha. Most of them were by Port Rush or Secundas.
At Scrumlo Bert Griffith shared the single accommodation with another great local horseman, Reg Watts. The latter achieved immortal fame through his association with the legendary campdraft mare ‘Norma’. By the 1930s Bert Griffith was Manager of Scrumlo for F K ‘Darby’ Mackay establishing a friendship which lasted for over 50 years; ceasing only with the advent of Bert’s death.
Branga Prudence became highly influential in the Australian Stock Horse Stud Book. She is the grand-dam of two Foundation Mares, SCRUMLO NITA – FM and SCRUMLO BRANGA PRUDENCE – FM, the great grand-dam of the Impact Stallion SCRUMLO VICTORY – IS and Impact Mare RAY’S GIFT – IM.
Bert Griffith was fundamentally instrumental in the very beginning. He corresponded with Alex Braid of Wellington and together they forged a series of meetings culminating in the founding of the Society. Both men were motivated to ‘preserve the breeding and identity of our Australian Stock Horses’. The inaugural meeting was convened at the Belmore Hotel, Scone in March 1971 to test the support they had for this idea.
The first General Meeting was held at the Sydney Royal Easter Show in April 1971. RAS of NSW Ringmaster J K ‘Ken’ Mackay chaired this meeting. A steering committee of 18 men was set up. Bert’s daughter Mary Griffith was appointed inaugural Secretary/Treasurer. The first ‘Head Office’ of the Society was the shed at the back of Mary’s residence in Main Street, Scone. Later a garage was purchased in Kelly Street and converted into a purpose built Head Office. Mary also served as Secretary of the Scone Race Club at about this time which is where I first made her acquaintance. Our friendship endured.
Founding Member Bryant Gavin of ‘Wansey’, Cumnock was elected as foundation President of the Australian Stock Horse Society. In 1973 both Bert Griffith and Alex Braid were inducted as the first Honorary Life Members of the Society.