White Park: The Memories
Acknowledge: Harley Walden (the author)
Featured Image: White Park as Harley Walden recalled it; and so beloved by him
The racetrack dominates with the Rodeo Ground in the centre. Centre left is the No. I cricket oval which was very highly regarded by aficionados. No. 2 oval is in the far left corner near the Golf Club clubhouse.
White Park was fundamental in the life of Harley Walden. His principle passion was the Race Club but clearly the whole ambience resonated powerfully throughout his long innings. He considered White Park to be the spiritual home of the Scone Race Club. He called his historical tribute ‘The Spirit Within’. It’s a most apposite title. For his generation and even before ‘The Park’ was the very epicentre of recreational activity for the citizens of Scone. Harley made the most of it; and this little tribute is an ornament to his written memorial.
There is a metal plaque on the right hand brick column (on entry), one of two which suspend the wrought iron gates referred to by Harley below. The people of Scone are eternally and perennially grateful for the munificent benefaction of Mr A G White of ‘Belltrees’. The plaque states:
Presented to the people of Scone as a Recreation Reserve by:
A G White Esq
And officially opened for this purpose
*9th June 1924*
Yesteryear, I walked down a one-way street; or was it a dusty gravel road flanked by an old school with non-uniformed children making the best of the surrounds as a playground? To these children it was just another school day at St Mary’s Convent, but if one fielded on the boundary at cricket or played on the wing in the football team they were fringed by the outside running rail of White Park Racecourse. And from here one could see the start of the one mile 100 yards Scone Cup.
The field would jump from behind the three-strand rope barrier and some moments later the winner ridden by a beaming young apprentice returns to the winning enclosure.
The year was 1952, the horse Neat Andrew and the jockey Darryl Fahey, who up until the previous night did not have a ride in the Cup. It was at the Calcutta that connections decide to give the young rider the mount.
The famous Race Club Calcutta in those foregone years was held in the enclosure of the club and conducted from the veranda, with a blazing brazier and the smell of barbecue steaks and sausages delicately cooked by Harry Hayes and helped by his offsider Cliff “Fazal” Duncombe, overcoats were the order against the cold May winds, as one could feel the dampness through the shoes, with only Arch Shepherd’s rum and milk for comfort.
Frank Lucas together with Arthur Banks are hurriedly putting the finishing touches to the sound system in readiness for Cup day, while such great names as Mel Shumacher, Leon Fox, Skeeter Kelly, Des Lake and Bert Lillye mingle among the crowd.
The Scone track, soon to be relocated could probably boast to be one of the safest racing surfaces in NSW and it was here that thousands flocked to see the great champion Gunsynd make his farewell appearance.
The Rodeo Ground home to the hardened bushmen, when in the nineteen-fifties and sixties the Scone Bushmen’s Carnival was one of the feature events of the calendar year, its sideshows, boxing tents and great competitors grew hundreds over the two days in November. Who will ever forget such names as Reg Watts and his great campdrafter Norma, Gwen Winter and Seagull, Jack Palmer and Vivid, the great buckjumpers, Ringwood and Satan?
Pick-up men such as Terry O’Brien and his wonderful horse, Popeye:
It was on the camp at Scone rodeo ground that Bob Palmer cut his teeth and later captured too many Australian and NSW titles to name. It was here that Wilf Barker made his mark as a bullock rider and went on the capture a world championship. And it was in this arena that Tony Mitchell lost his life, doing something he loved and knew so well, teaching the young horsemen and women of the area the skills and horsemanship of campdrafting.
It was on this ground in the mid-fifties that hockey, the baby of the sporting bodies on White Park was resurrected and it was on this ground that the James Moon Memorial Shield was for many years so keenly contested. A trophy donated to the memory of one of the games’ most ardent workers and finest young players who tragically lost his life in the construction of Glenbawn Dam.
Number two oval was to become the home ground of hockey association and it was here in the late fifties and sixties that many NSW junior touring teams played, together with New Zealand and American representative sides.
Local teams Centrals, Tigers and Warriors boasted both men’s and women’s sides in a competition that spanned from Quirindi to Singleton and could have been classified as the largest area in NSW.
It was in the sixties that the association gained the right to host the NSW hockey championships and I (HW) was a privileged member of the committee that stood in the opening ceremony when the President of the NSW association declared that the playing surfaces of White Park were equal to if not the best in NSW.
Thanks for the memories
Number one oval with white railing fence and lush green surface, this was the home of cricket and great teams of yesteryear played there; Scone, Belltrees, Merriwa, ABC, Aberdeen, Bunnan and Rouchel.
The grand finals in those days were something special, the atmosphere, the family day out, the picnic lunches with cars two deep around No. 1 and the players themselves too numerous to mention here, but there were MacCallums, Bartons, Ashfords and Saunders and of course when cricket is spoken about there will always be Gerry Saunders’ double century.
The bowling feats of Ian Logan and John Scott and the characters which every sport must have ; ABC’s Clive Harris whose bowling was only matched by his wit and dry humour and Scone’s Stan Day of whom it was said that the only time he was moved was when six o’clock closing was in force.
No doubt there are many sportsmen and women I have overlooked, but I am sure that like me they will remember their moments of sport on White Park.
And as I walk out through these wrought iron gates, I turn for a look back and I visualise Darcy Walden in his red coat as he leads another winner back to scale, Tony Mitchell, bridle in hand, Hubie Brown with one of his driving clearing shots and Gerry Saunders bat held high as he acknowledges another century.
And I quietly say thanks White Park, thanks for the memories.