LEGEND: The Desiree Gill memorial at the Gympie Turf Club.
LEGEND: The Desiree Gill memorial at the Gympie Turf Club. Troy Jegers

Celebrating our eight fallen Gympie jockeys

Horse Racing: Eight jockeys from the Gympie region have been immoralised in author John Payne's book Their Last Ride. The Fallen Jockeys of Australia.

Desiree Gill, Lucas Bird, James Edwards, Daryl Mills, Reginal Russell Minter, Patrick Nevin and Gunalda's William Kew and Frederick Knudsen are among the 938 Australian jockeys who lost their lives racing.

These are the excerpts from Payne's book.

Desiree Gill

SHE was a mother of two and wife of Gympie trainer Barry Gill.

While riding Celtic Ambition at the twilight meeting at Caloundra on Saturday, November 9, she fell after her mount had clipped the heels of another runner when vying for the lead in the early stages of the Maiden race at Corbould Park.

Gympie Cup at Gympie Turf Club.  Race 6 winner No. 2 Troilus Fuse with Jockey Desiree Gill.
SAD LOSS: Race 6 winner No. 2 Troilus Fuse with jockey Desiree Gill on board in the Gympie Cup at Gympie Turf Club. David Crossley

Removed to the Nambour General Hospital, she died there the following day.

With 30 years' experience in the industry, 45-year-old Gill had won the Southeast Queensland Country Jockeys Premiership for the past two years and had ridden four winners at the race-meeting at Bundaberg on Melbourne Cup Day, four days earlier.

Lucas Bird

DIED while riding Commander, raced by hotelier John St Ledger in the Miner's Purse Handicap at the summer meeting of the Gympie Turf Club on a fine December 27.

The Arthur Noud trained galloper, running last as they passed the 5 furlong (1000 metre) pole, allegedly put a foot in a hole in the track, created by horses previously using the course in wet weather, resulting in Commander going down on his hind quarters.

John Payne
Author John Payne.

The 16-year-old light-weight Brisbane-based apprentice Lucas Bird recently engaged by the Hendra-based trainer, Noud, was rolled on by the animal, crushing the life out of him almost instantaneously.

Bird had ridden four of the six winners, including the feature event, the Christmas Handicap on the previous day, the opening day of the meeting, on two horses, Dewmond and The Officer, both raced by H. C. Lassig of Bundaberg.

A collection was taken up for his dependent parents, Joseph Bird and Amelia (nee Thomas), raising 22 pounds, ($44) before the body was taken to Maryborough for burial.

James Edwards

APPRENTICED to Gympie-based trainer, Peter Wolf, Edwards was riding a horse in a barrier trial at the Gympie racetrack on May 20.

He sustained fatal head injuries after he had fallen with the horse, which stood on the jockey's head after his safety helmet had become partly dislodged.

The starter, Mr Fitzhenry, was the first on the scene, discovering that the rider had been apparently killed almost instantly, having died before Mr Fitzhenry reached him.

Front cover of book, Their Last Ride
Front cover of book, Their Last Ride

The son of Clifford Thomas Edwards and Joan Barbara Edwards of nearby Cooran, had won the 1984 Gympie Cup, when riding Trendy Star for trainer G. Rielby.

A sister of the jockey, Kathy, subsequently became an apprentice jockey, who rode in the Gympie district, later marrying Gympie premiership rider Darren Donald.

Daryl Mills

GYMPIE jockey Daryl Mills, riding for about 10 years on a country jockey's licence, was killed in a race fall at the southside racetrack in the opening event of 1000 metres at the Gympie race-meeting of September 15.

The son of John Kenneth Mills and Myra Jean Mills (nee Carseldine) later died at a Brisbane hospital the following Tuesday.

Mills, who had an excellent record in sprint races, had in June, won Gympie's top sprint race, the Sires Produce Stakes, after being runner-up in the event for the previous two years.

The 29-year-old popular jockey, who did not consider racing as his career, simply a hobby, left behind a wife and son, and was later interred in the Gympie Cemetery.

The Gympie Turf Club opened an appeal for donations to assist the jockey's family and donated the entire gate from the southside race meeting on September 29, to the appeal.

Reginal Russell Minter

JOCKEY "Digger” Minter, died at the Gympie Hospital after falling soon after the start of a race at the Gympie race-meeting the previous day October 6.

Minter, a 21-year-old born in Kempsey, had been educated in Branxton, where he excelled at sport, particularly football and cricket.

He moved to Lismore at age 14 with his family, where the former show-rider was apprenticed as a jockey to his father.

He had ridden his first winner Cute Lad at Casino and had become a leading jockey in the northern rivers area, winning the Jockeys Premiership on the northern rivers on two occasions.

The son of Reginald Thomas (Reg) Minter and Madge (nee Ellem), holidaying with his father and wife of six months, Betty Ann, nee Hayes, at Gympie in Queensland, he had ridden the winners of 14 races there before his fatal ride.

The remains of the Lismore-based jockey were later interred in the Lismore Cemetery.

Patrick Nevin

IT WAS the second day of the somewhat unsuccessful three-day Christmas meeting at Gympie on Wednesday, December 27, 1871.

In the final event of the day shortly after the start of the Farewell Handicap, a two-horse race, Nevin's mount President, raced by Mr J. Nolan, while leading the other runner Chieftan, ridden by O'Connell, by a length and a half, attempted to run inside a post.

Nevin leant to one side of the horse in an endeavour to straighten him but the horse proved too strong for the rider.

In rushing past the post, Nevin's head struck the obstacle, violently throwing him backwards off the horse. Spectators who quickly ran to aid the fallen jockey saw his skull had been badly fractured.

He was taken to hospital where he was treated by Dr Benson, before he died later that evening. The funeral of the well-known and much-liked young man was conducted at Gympie the following afternoon.

William Kew

WILLIAM Kew, riding at the Gunalda race meeting, north of Gympie, on September 29, was smashed against a tree when his mount, one of four starters, veered off the course, breaking the rider's neck.

Transported by the Gympie Ambulance to Maryborough Hospital, he died soon after admission, with his body removed to Gympie where the remains of the 47-year-old unmarried son of Iabez and Eliza (nee Brady), were later interred.

Frederick Knudsen

JUST two months after the death of William Kew at the same rural track, Fred Knudsen was injured. The 15-year-old, a pupil of the Maryborough Grammar School, spent his holidays with his parents in the Gunalda district.

He was fatally injured at the race meeting at Gunalda, north of Gympie, on December 19, when his mount suddenly left the course and struck a tree. Picked up unconscious, and suffering severe head injuries, he was taken by truck to Gootchie, where he was met by the Maryborough Ambulance Brigade.

The boy's father was a well-known honorary office-bearer. Knudsen was taken to the Maryborough General Hospital where he died the following Saturday. Amateur jockey, Harold Cummings was soon after arrested on a charge of having unlawfully killed young Knudsen, but the charges were later dismissed by the court.

The body of the son of Peter and Annie Christina Knudsen (nee Carlson), was conveyed by train on Saturday to the small township of Tiaro, between Gunalda and Maryborough.

His funeral was conducted there on Christmas Eve.