History of the Hexham Polo Club
From 1884 to 1984.
Written by E. A. (Ted) Mann,
for the Hexham Polo Club Centenary Tournament.
1896 Caramut (Hexham) Team.
R. A. Affleck; E. R. De Little; R. A. D. Hood; W. J. T. Armstrong.
The game of polo has been played in the Western District of Victoria for over a century. Of all the Clubs the Hexham Polo Club, formerly the Caramut Polo Club, is the only one to survive. Its teams, in the colours maroon and gold hoops, taken from the famous Hawkes Club at Cambridge University have dominated Victorian polo and have had major successes interstate, particularly in South Australia (Barr-Smith Cup) and N.S.W. Its history reflects the social, political and economical events of the past century and its very existence today is indicative of the dedication of the players and supporters over the past 100 years.
The first recorded match in Victoria was played at Warrnambool on August 22nd 1876. The Club was known as Warrnambool and with eleven players played for eleven years. The first inter-colonial match was played at Adelaide in May 1883 between Adelaide and Warrnambool, with the latter winning 10-4 and bringing home the solid gold miniature polo stick trophies presented by the President of the Adelaide Polo Club Mr. Barr-Smith.
There is record of the Mortlake Polo Club in 1884 from which the founding date of the Hexham Polo Club is taken. In 1894 the Mortlake Polo Club amalgamated with the Caramut Polo Club, which after W.W.II became the Hexham Polo Club.
After the initial flurry of excitement there is little record of polo between 1884 and 1894. 1894 saw the beginning of the first golden age of polo, which lasted until 1914 and W.W.I. The most mentioned players of these formative years were O. Palmer, Angus Urquhart, W. W. Hood and R. A. D. Hood (brothers), G. Ware, the three St. Quentin brothers and Captain Standish, A. Chirnside and J. Robertson. In the mid 1890’s further names appear, such as E. R. de Little, W. J. T. Armstrong, R. A. Affleck and S. F. Mann. The Camperdown team of 1894 consisted of J. C., W. T., and T. P. Manifold and L. McArthur. The main cup was the Colac Polo Challenge Cup and was competed for by Caramut, Camperdown and Colac (Everard Browne, James, George and Colin Robertson).
1906 Victorian Team, playing in Caramut (Hexham) colours.
R..A. Affleck; J. S. Ross; E. R. De Little; R. A. D. Hood; J. C. Manifold; W. J. Manifold; W. J. Curle
In 1901 a Victorian team toured New Zealand, and consisted of R. A. D. Hood (Captain, Caramut) R. A. Affleck (Caramut) Colin Robertson (Colac) George Robertson (Colac) and E. Manifold (Camperdown). It was a highly successful tour winning eight of its ten matches.
1905 saw a triumphant tour of New South Wales. The team consisted of E. R. de Little, R. A. D. Hood, W.T. Manifold (Camperdown) J. C. Manifold (Camperdown) and R. A. Affleck. Enroute to Quirindi for the big tournament they played two matches in Sydney inning 11-2 and 12-2. At Quirindi they met the all N.S.W. champions, Tamarang, and won 17-2 provoking comment in the local press of the “Flower of Liverpool Plains being humbled by the bold riders from the cabbage garden.” Further matches resulted in wins of 15-1, 11-4 and returning home they defeated Musselbrook 13-1 and Sydney again, 11-2.
During the years from the early 1890’s to the first World War, interest in polo reached extraordinary heights with the game becoming very popular and match reports and results receiving coverage in the press only accorded to football and cricket in the 1980’s. In 1907 the Cumming Cup was presented by W. B. Cumming of Mt. Fyans and it became the most sought after A Grade cup until W.W.II. Of the more famous players to emerge from this period were J. Manifold of Camperdown, Keith and Rod Urquhart and Ronald Cumming (son of W. B. Cumming) of Caramut.
Until 1909 ladies did not participate except as spectators and most of the grooms were men. However in that year an enormous step forward was taken and women were allowed to participate in the Camperdown Gymkhana – in their own event. The ladies Flutter, a horse race, was won by Miss Doris Cumming “riding with the Tod Sloane crouch”! The local press commented “There is a striking contrast between the lackadaisical Lady Languish of a generation ago, who felt it incumbent upon her to faint at the mere suggestion of anything that called for more energy than needed to wield a fan and the riders who in approved fashion rode desperate finishes on Thursday.”
In 1909 another team came into being, having much success until 1914 consisting of three young boys Roddy and Keith Urquhart of Boonerah, Hexham and Ronald Cumming of Mt. Fyans – all of whom had difficulty cementing a place in the Caramut A Team. With them was R. A. D. Hood the veteran and they played as Caramut B, and were known as Hoods Pups. Sadly Rod Urquhart was killed in the 1914-18 war.
The advent of W.W.I saw the end of an era in polo and there was virtually no polo until 1922. When another era of polo began, lasting until 1930 and the great depression, it was dominated by Caramut consisting of R. Cumming, K. Urquhart, K. Calvert (Terrinallum South) and N. Calvert (Hopkins Hill) C. C. Kelly, J .E. de Little, James Affleck and J. E. F. Mann. This period saw Carranballac; J . V. Fairbairn, G. Chirnside, E. Austin , C. O. Fairbairn. Camperdown; C. B. Palmer, A. J. Staughton, J. Stansmore, R. Brisbane.
Victorian Team during the tour 1905/’06 tour of NSW, again playing in Caramut (Hexham) colours.
E. R. De Little; Parbury; R. A. D. Hood; Major Dudds; W. J. Manifold;
D. Martin; J. C. Manifold; TomWatorn; R. A. Affleck; Bill Dudds.
1925 was known as the peak of the second golden age of polo, it saw the first Gold Cup Tournament for competition between the Australian states and N.Z. It saw 15 teams do battle for the Barr-Smith, Melrose and Cudmore Cups in Adelaide. It also saw the beginning of the famous polo career of Jim Mann of Caramut.
In 1926 the Victorian (the Caramut A team) of C. C. Kelly, A. K. Urquhart, J. A. Affleck and R. Cumming (Captain) won the Gold Cup, and this team dominated Western District Polo.
In the late 1920’s interest in polo seemed to be on the wane with 1928 marking the last appearance of Ronald Cumming. In 1929 little polo was played. At the end of 1930 polo went into recess.
In 1935 another era of polo began and in January a day was organised at the Hexham Racecourse. C. C. Kelly, J. E. de Little, Jim Mann and Keith Urquhart continued to play as Caramut. They were joined by some of the young men of the district namely J. Allen, A. Coy, R. G. Bryant, N. B. Palmer, Roy Palmer, Geof and Ken Palmer, John McDonald, W. R. Armstrong. James Affleck only played on occasions.
Moonee Vallery, 1918: Caramut (Hexham) vs. Goulbourn
Jack; G. Ashton; Mann; J. Asthon.
The Caramut team of the time (Kelly, de Little, Urquhart and Mann) were almost unbeatable through the years 1935 to 1939. The team record from 1928 to 1938 was 37 matches played; won 33 lost 4. With 468 goals for an average of 12.64 per match and 110 against (average 2.9). However, while they were carrying all before them the younger players were getting little experience and in 1936 a younger team went to the Stradbroke Cup Tournament (R. G. Bryant, Jim Allen, John McDonald, N. B. Palmer), calling 1tself Hexham. While the Caramut Greats won the Stradbroke Cup, the Hexham team won the beaten teams final. In 1938 the old firm of Kelly, de Little, Mann and Urquhart joined Hexham teams in the local tournament.
Polo again went into recess in 1939 and another era came to a close. Post-war polo recommenced in 1946 at the old Hexham Racecourse and another great era of polo began. The two great pre-war players, J. E. F. Mann and J. E. de Little were joined by two young players W. W. Weatherly and J. W. Kelly (son of C. C. Kelly). This team dominated Victorian polo for the next 6 years winning the Barr-Smith cup in 1949 and 1951, and the Urquhart cup in 1950 and 1952. In 1953 J. E. de Little retired and his place was taken by J. A. Kelly (brother of John) and in 1954 this team played the 29 goal N.Z. team in the Australasian Gold Cup at Flemington, losing 6-3. To reach the final they defeated N.S.W. (19 goals) 6-5. W. W. Weatherly retired and his place was taken by A. W. Officer and this team played through the late 1950’s with Jim Mann retaining his 6 goal handicap and both Kelly’s reaching 5 goals.
The Hexham A team between 1949 and 1959 was so successful that of the 50 matches played they won 45 and lost 5 with 456 goals for (average 9.12 per match) and 176 against (average 3.5).
In the early 1960’s Jim Mann retired and over a very short period Jim Kelly and John Nash retired and John Kelly took up three day eventing, representing Australia at the 1960 and 1964 Olympics. Suddenly Hexham was down to three players, namely Keith Urquhart, (son of Keith of 1930’s fame) Jim Clarke and Alan Officer.
Another great era of polo had ended and polo in the Western District was struggling to survive. In 1961 the Hexham Polo Club moved from the Hexham Racecourse to Boonerah, the property of Keith Urquhart, where a very fast and flat ground beside the Hopkins River was used until 1978 when the Club moved to Terang next to the Golf course on the dry lake bed.
The Club was kept going in the early 1960’s by the aforementioned three players and a series of visiting players, the Harding brothers and Sam Vestey. In 1966 James Weatherly came into the team, but for the rest of the 1960’s while unbeaten in Victoria, Hexham never managed to defeat the rising Adelaide team of Alistair and Alan MacGregor, Hugh MacLachlan and Alistair Ross.
Moonee Valley, 1928
Ronald; Mann; Jack; Murray.
However, as in the past after a recession another era was beginning. Through the 1960’s the Club had survived and in 1970 was on the threshold of another boom. That year John Kelly and James Weatherly took two novice players, Clive Manifold and Ted Mann to Southern N.S.W. where the rising Goulburn team of the two Walker brothers Peter and Richard and the Maple-Brown father and son was the only team they could not master. The following year this team defeated Adelaide in extra time to win the Barr-Smith cup final for the first time in a decade. In 1973 Alan Officer replaced Clive Manifold in the team and in 1974 James Weatherly, with a broken leg, was replaced by John Goold of Carlton Football Club fame.
1975 saw the formation of the second strong post-war Hexham team of J. W. Kelly, E. A Mann, J. W. C. Goold and J . F. Weatherly. This team stayed together until 1979, which was the only year they were defeated in the Urquhart Cup, losing by a goal in extra time to the N.S.W. Bungendore team (R. Cowan, P. MacGinley, J. MacGinley and J . Kilmartin) which won the Dudley Cup in Sydney the same year. This team won the Barr-Smith Cup in 1977 and the Urquhart Cup in 1975, ‘77 and ‘78.
Winners of the Cumming Challenge Cup, 1908-09-10
R.Urquhart; R.A.A. Affleck; W.B. Cumming; R. A. D. Hood; E. R. de Little; R. Cumming.
In 1980 John Kelly, the dominant figure of the Hexham Polo post-war retired from A Grade polo and Anthony Baillieu came into the team. In 1983 James Weatherly retired from senior polo, his place being taken by Charles Abbott. A younger generation of players consisting of Rob Greig, Simon Gubbins, Kim and Anthony Kelly and latterly Tim Clarke (son of Jim), Nick Manifold (son of Clive) and William Mann (a great-nephew of Jim Mann).