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Remembering a royal show jumper


The Morris children always knew that their father, Tom, rode ‘show jumpers’ as a young man before he was married. There was a large, beautifully framed photo which hung in the living room of their Housing Trust home in Woodville West to prove it.

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The horse in the photo had a strange name – Teetotaler. They also had another photo, not so large, of their father riding a horse called Prohibition.

Tom Morris was orphaned by the time he was seven years old and he, his younger brother Henry and his older sister Eileen were placed in the Goodwood Orphanage.

At the age of nine Tom was fostered by a wonderful Catholic family who lived in a little country town named Pekina, 13.5km south of Orroroo.

Jim and Sarah Clarke had three young children of their own – Matt, Margaret and Frank.

Tom learnt how to be a farmer and also how to ride horses, especially those that jumped over fences at the various country and city shows.

Pekina, Tom told his children, was settled in the latter part of the 19th century by Irish immigrants and there was only ever a Catholic Church in the town and the only school was a Catholic school, which he attended. The teachers were Sisters of St Joseph.

The pub, of course, was also owned by Catholics. Perhaps that had something to do with why Jim Clarke named several of the horses that he bred ‘After Six’, ‘Abstainer’ and ‘Barmaid’, as well as ‘Teetotaler’ and ‘Prohibition’.

Or, as Tom’s wife Irene said, it could have had something to do with the Temperance Movement of the time!

Tom and Irene had seven children: John, Jean, Colin, Margaret, Elizabeth, Richard and Brian.

When Irene died, Tom and Brian moved from the family home at Woodville West and Richard, who was in the seminary by then, took charge of the family photo and cared for it for more than 50 years.

Recently he brought it to Adelaide and hung it in the living room of his eldest sister Jean. It was there, just two weeks before this year’s Royal Adelaide Show, that Elizabeth (Sr Liz Morris) noticed the hand-written inscription below the photo: ‘Teetotaler winning the Boswell Cup Jumping Competition. Adelaide Royal Show, 1923. Owner: J. F. Clarke. Rider: T. Morris’.

Richard took a photo and Liz sent it via email to the Royal Adelaide Show and was contacted the next day by Erin Reardon, Museum and Archives coordinator of the Royal Agricultural & Horticultural Society of SA. Erin was delighted to learn about the photo and subsequently the family decided to donate the 100-year-old photograph to the Society’s museum.

At the same time, Richard did some research and found the following extracts from local papers:

The Adelaide Register newspaper dated September 12, 1923 – ‘The Boswell Challenge Cup was presented by Captain J Houston Boswell, who donated the trophy. Boswell required that the same exhibitor shall be successful three times at the September Show, before the cup became his property. Teetotaler negotiated the obstacles with dash.’ This was the first of Teetotaler’s three wins and the only time Tom rode him.

The Adelaide Advertiser, Wednesday September 9, 1925 – ‘The Boswell Challenge Cup, the most important event on the afternoon’s programme provided thrills. Mr J F Clarke’s Teetotaler gave a finished exhibition of jumping and never touched one of the fences.’ Teetotaler was ridden by Ernie Webb when he won the competition for the second time.

The Chronicle, Thursday September 18, 1930 – ‘Exceptionally good jumping was witnessed yesterday. Teetotaler won the Boswell Challenge Cup for the third time, so J P Clarke will retain the trophy.’ Teetotaler was ridden by Frank Clarke, Jim and Sarah’s son, in this, his third victory.

Fr Richard, Sr Liz and the family have great memories of the Royal Adelaide Show but this year, the centenary of their dad winning the Boswell Cup, has been the most significant.

Compiled by Sr Liz Morris and Fr Richard Morris.

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