Success is getting what you want; happiness is liking what you get

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Timaru – home of Phar Lap

We feel we should be celebrating today.  When we arrived at our stop for the next three nights, our odometer for our South Island trip just clicked over to 2000kms.  And that’s just towing the van behind us, from Picton, to Invercargill, through Otago and finally here to Timaru.  Plus another 1300kms off and about tiki-touring around.  As for that celebration, perhaps Robin can have a beer at Happy Hour!

Lovely grounds at Old Seadown School

It’s a lovely place here – Old Seadown School in Timaru.  Now privately owned, there is plenty of room to park on the former playing grounds, and the CAP (charges apply parking) provides water, toilet, shower and a washing machine.  Fresh eggs are available for sale, so we will be sure to buy some before we leave, plus there is also a selection of jams on offer.  Lewis the owner has a wonderful vegetable garden, plus quite a range of fruit trees.

On site, and part of the large veggie garden

The legendary race horse Phar Lap was born in this area, and I grew up with hearing tales of his racing prowess from my parents, who were both rather keen on a flutter or two.  (Not me – the gambling gene has passed me by).  The street sign Par Lap Road directed us to an early statue of this great race horse.


Phar Lap was born on the property where the statue stands in October 1926, and died in California on April 1932.  This statue was officially unveiled on October 1988.

Phar Lap – born on this property in Seadown

There is a later monument to this great horse at the Phar Lap Racecourse in Timaru, created by sculptor Joanne Sullivan Gessler, and unveiled in November 2009.  It depicts a life sized bronze of the horse, galloping over a map of New Zealand, with his front hoof placed squarely over Timaru, a reminder of his South Canterbury heritage. 


The horse’s original track work did not seem promising, and his exotic name originated from a pun on his slowness.  The name Phar Lap meaning Lightning   in the Zhuang Dialect of Southern China.  A Chinese medical student present at the naming episode provided the translation and trainer Telford accepted the name.

Phar Lap’s pedigree

HIs wins were legendary – Phar Lap raced mainly in Australia, winning 37 of his 51 starts, including the 1930 Melbourne Cup. He died in mysterious circumstances (possibly poisoned) in California in 1932.   His feats, even today, remain incomparable, and his great achievements lifted the spirits of people everywhere throughout the Great Depression.
There was another, much smaller, monument nearby – remembering all the horses sent overseas in WW1.  Only ten days after the declaration of war the first contingent of the Mounted Rifles left Timaru for their final training.  During the course of the war 104,000 men and women left to serve overseas – around one fifth never returned.  More than 10,000 horses went with them, and only four horses returned home to New Zealand.

Monument to the horses in WW1

The rain had been falling while we were out and about, and wouldn’t you know it, the rain stopped, the sunshine came out again, just in time for Happy Hour under the shade of a nice old tree.  It was so nice sitting there in the shade, chatting to the owners and the other campers.

Happy Hour at Old Seadown School

1 comment:

Janice said...

I didn’t realise that Timaru was where Phar Lap originated from, but yes I did know he was a Kiwi. I saw his heart in a museum in Canberra when I was in primary school. It was huge. Your campground looks rather lovely. Enjoy happy hour.