‘Honey Gold’ Across the Harbour Bridge in Style!
Featured Image: Miss Taia de Burca on ‘Honey Gold’ when living at Vaucluse in 1959
Entirely out of the blue I recently received a most welcome old fashioned letter from Ms Taia de Burca who now lives in retirement in the Blue Mountains. Taia was @ ‘The Australian Stud Book’ with Keeper Jim McFadden in the ‘good old days’ and was an outstanding employee in administration. Taia’s letter was one of those truly electrifying and uplifting moments which so rarely occur!
According to Taia ‘Honey Gold’ affectionately known as ‘Honey’, ‘was an absolute treasure with legs of steel, metal hooves and you couldn’t tire her out’. In 1959 as a young girl Taia rode ‘Honey’ from Vaucluse through the city to Bobbin Head over the Harbour Bridge via Turramurra and back again two weeks later; all at dead of night under cover of darkness with only one stop for a bucket of water each way! Taia and Honey had to start very early in the morning to be over the Harbour Bridge before the trams started trolling! There were trams on one side and trains on the other! This story beggars belief but is indubitably true! It ranks right up there with the Olympic Spring Valley Horse Rides from Broome WA in 2000 which also spanned the Harbour Bridge; albeit under rigidly controlled circumstances. ASHS Upper Hunter Valley ‘royalty’ led these charges; Joy Poole from Singleton ‘North’ and Neville Holz from Lemington ‘South’.
‘Honey Gold’ was bred in the Upper Hunter with local notables Reg Riley, Jim Caslick and quintessential laconic bush gentleman Harry McPhee of ‘Belltrees’ (“rode the real ‘Rocky Ned’ to a standstill” at Muswellbrook) all featuring in her breeding with their high calibre stock horses. ‘Honey Gold’ was purchased by Taia from Dick Best on 3rd June 1956 for £25. ‘I’d have been happy with anything equine at that age’.
“Dick Best brought her down to Sydney in a truckload of unbroken horses. A young lad in Hornsby was still breaking her in at the time. I was told that “she was a Cecil” although that didn’t mean anything to me at the time.
Her first home with me was in the paddock of William Charles Wentworth’s home at Vaucluse, but only until such time as she began “rounding up” the little boys who were throwing things at her! From then on it was in people’s backyards”.
At 14hh‘Honey’ was light chestnut in colour and foaled in 1952 at registered breeder Reg J Riley’s “Eulalia”, Gundy, via Scone NSW 2337. She had a few white hairs on the off side of her forehead and sustained a scar below her off hip & above the near hind fetlock joint on the inside. Honey Gold carried a firebrand 8- on her near shoulder and later the uniquely nominative Australian Stock Horse .A. on her left thigh. ‘Honey’ was 22 by the time the ASHS was beginning to register its foundation stock.
Honey Gold’s sire was Reg Riley’s piebald; ‘Spotty’ by ‘Curiosity’ out of a mare by ‘Cecil’. Reg’s piebald’s dam was Hunter Carter’s cream mare of Saladin breeding which was from the Gloucester side of the range. On the distaff side ‘Honey’s dam was Jim Caslick’s chestnut colt; a half-sister to ‘Quail’ who was ostensibly placed in a Camp Draft at the Sydney Royal Easter Show during WWII. Les Bridge’s chestnut (by Pocket Money by Paper Money ex a bay Cecil mare) sired Jim Caslick’s mare out of a creamy Old Taragon mare by Old Taragon (Black) out of a Saladin mare.
From my rather garbled long-hand description (I’m looking at Taia’s tabulated pedigree. My ‘blog’ doesn’t do tables or diagrams) it is clear that ‘Honey Gold’ boasted two of the absolute legends of the Australian Stock Horse Society in her pedigree. These are Cecil and Saladin; the latter from which she ostensibly inherited her distinctive coat colour. Well done Taia on your exquisite selection and later careful detection for parentage verification! Taia went to great lengths to establish Honey Gold’s pedigree which did not come with her initial purchase. This included a special visit to Scone catch up with Reg Riley and the others.
A telephonist-of-the day in the manual exchange at the Scone Post Office was able to provide accurate information on their whereabouts including Reg Riley’s subsequent move to retirement in Guernsey Street, Scone ‘in the house with the front veranda opposite the RSL Club’! No wonder ‘Honey Gold’ performed so well under Taia’s expert tutelage! It was easy for Taia to find Jim Caslick. She needed to go no further than Gundy’s celebrated Linga Longa hostelry. Taia reflects “it was a wonderful memorable week-end, speaking with these people and hearing their stories”.
Over time I’ve received quite a bit of feed-back on some of my (mainly historical) posts. One which stands out is the identification of a Stud Groom at Segenhoe Stud in the 1950s from a superb charcoal drawing by renowned artist Cedric Emmanuel. Sydney Errol Anderson was recognised by his granddaughters who happily made contact with me. Is there anyone out there who can fill in some gaps on Honey Gold’s breeding and early life in the Upper Hunter? Sadly this whole genre of stock men with their own special strains of stock horses is fast disappearing from our purview. My first port of call will be to speak with Ken MacCallum of ‘Kintyre’ fame who will have known all the principal protagonists.