OUR MEMORIES
MASTER, Godfrey Chester


 

 

Rider Trainer Owner Lawyer Steward

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Mr. Godfrey C. C Master established himself as one of Hong Kong‘s earliest sole proprietorship law practices, solicitor and notary public.

Later he became partner of Johnson Stokes & Master (JSM).

Besides being a voluble lawyer, he was a lightweight rider, won the Derby thrice in 1891, 1897 and 1907.

Sometimes referred to as Mr Chester Master, he was one of the earliest pillars of HKJC.

 

 

BACKGROUND

 

Mr Master had ridden a good deal in English hunting fields, in Gloucestershire and elsewhere, before coming to Hong Kong.

Governor Sir Henry May commented:

“In 1890 Mr. G. C. C. Master began to ride, and to win without further ado. Few riders have earned a higher reputation in the Far East than he. He rode decidedly short, and like Mr. Hutchings owed a great deal of his remarkable success to the extreme lightness with which he rode his pony. Moreover, he packed himself away so close to his mount, that no rider I have watched was so successful as he in squeezing through on the rails. Time and again he has repeated this manoeuvre, and by it has stolen not a few races. He was always in very hard condition, and could ride the most inveterate slug with untiring perseverance…”

 

Mr Master usually rode his own ponies in races; but he was an expert jockey and frequently rode for other owners.

He piloted 3 Derby winners.

 

He had a small training stable, on Morrison Hill, where he lived (a pleasant wooded place of residence, now leveled).

He administered for a time the Kennedy Stables before the Club bought them.

 

 

HIGHLIGHTS

 

He joined the Club in the late 1880s.

As a member he was of mercurial type and in debate always aggressive.

As well as being a frequent speaker at the meetings he was a keen racing man.

 

1881

In the Member Meeting, Mr G. C. C. Master pointed to Rule 10, which provided that the Governor and the Senior Naval and Military Officers, “and such other persons as the Stewards in their discretion thought fit, should be invited to become honorary members of the Club and to act as Stewards during the racing season.”

Major-General W. Black (the General Officer Commanding) commented that in the previous year seven Army officers had been appointed Stewards during the races.

That, he said, was too many; it was utterly absurd.

Mr Master thought there should be no more than three honorary members — the Governor and the senior Naval and Military Commanders.

The Chairman said that in the previous ten or twelve years he had frequently invited old Shanghai Stewards to join him in the Judge’s box and act with him.

Mr Master’s suggestion would make it impossible for him to invite these gentlemen from Shanghai, or any other renowned Judge, to officiate here.

An interesting comment by a local racing reporter had written (in the Hong Kong Daily Press):—

“We may here remark that it is highly objectionable that any person should be allowed within the Judge’s box during a race, as such practice is not in accordance with custom and racing rule.”

Finally, Rule 9 alone was amended, to make Service officer members eligible for election as full Stewards.

 

1890

1890-02-27 Annual Race meeting, Mr Godfrey Master began to ride at the Valley, and quickly won fame as a good man to back, besides as an outstanding member.

Mr Robert Fraser-Smith, Editor of the Hong Kong Telegraph was a keen racing man and owned a small stable from 1883 to 1894 .

He never attained the dignity of office in the Club, but had the distinction of being its most troublesome critic.

For a few years, he was the centre of the most violent internal storm that has ever disturbed the Club.

As the result of “disclosures” in his newspaper, he appeared before the court on a charge of “conspiracy” and was convicted upon a majority verdict.

A group of members, led by Mr Godfrey C. C. Master demanded that he be dealt with by the Club.

Later, opinion was divided; apparently because a feud existed in the background.

There was some unpleasant argument, at meetings that were fully reported in the newspapers.

 

1891-02-19, Godfrey Master won the 19th Derby, ARDENT, for owner John Peel, (Jardine Member).

 

1896

Mr Master rode John Peel‘s pony THE LAIRD in the Ladies Purse and got a third place.

 

1897

Mr Master rode John Peel‘s pony HEATERBELL in the Ladies Purse and got a third place.

 

1897-02-17,Godfrey Master won the 25th Derby, RED FISH, John Peel (Jardine Member).

Then,Mr Master won on John Peel‘s pony KENNETH in the Ladies Purse in 1.49.

 

1900

Annual Meeting, there was Mr H. J. Gedge , a partner in Messrs Johnson, Stokes and Master.

Master’s Waler ICHIBAN rewarded him well in the early years of the century, winning the Waler Champions.

 

1901

Mr G. C. C. Master asked questions about racing colours.

Why, he enquired, should owners not be able to register their colours?

“I go away for two or three years, and I come back and find someone else racing in my colours.”

In response the Stewards opened a register, but years afterwards (1921) the Chairman was moved to complain that owners made no use of it.

Later, in 1930, new rules provided for the cancellation of registration if colors were unused for three successive years.

 

1902

Mr G. C. C. Master was elected a Steward.

Stewards had supposedly proceeded in their “accustomed manner”, arranging the programme for the next Annual Race Meeting.

August this programme appeared in the newspapers, where the members saw it for the first time.

In a meeting, Mr G. K. Hall Brutton, encouraged by applause, rose and said:

“The new Rules provide that the programme shall be discussed at the half-yearly meeting in April. Those Rules did not come into operation until after April, and probably this programme was settled in the usual way by the Stewards at The Dinner, and that without any reference to the members. Now, if this rule comes into operation this dinner will be abolished, and the programme will be discussed by the members and the Stewards. I would ask the Stewards whether they are prepared to have the programme discussed at this meeting?” (Applause.)

The Stewards apparently had no immediate opportunity to reply.

Mr Master took the floor and made a long speech. He concluded:

“The Stewards have no power to fix or alter the programme without reference to members . . . We are treated, as the Stewards have treated us in the past, with scant courtesy . . . We are treated more as some Companies are treated in Hong Kong.”

Mr Master rode his PUNCH in the Ladies Purse and got a second place.

 

1903

Mr Master on his ICHIBAN landed the Ladies Purse in 1.55.

His PUNCH riden by Gedge was the runner-up.

 

1904

One of the regular Stewards was G. C. C. Master.

The results of the Annual Race Meeting told briefly of one of Jardines and Potts’ duels in the Challenge Cup.

John Peel sent out two of his best — POLKA (Mr Burkill) and RAJAH (Mr Johnstone).

Mr Potts had PANDUR (Mr Crighton) and REBEL KING (Mr Master).

These two ponies had been first and second in the Champions Stakes the year before.

1904-02-23-5 G Master on REMNANT won the FooChow Cup the day before, but Mr Burkill on POLKA won the Challenge Cup the next day.

 

1906

Clerk of the Course, Col. Dowbiggin says: “Even in 1906 there was hardly a house in the vicinity (of the Racecourse), except the old terrace of houses on Morrison Hill and one house up the hill near the Jewish cemetery, known as ‘the haunted house’. This was later occupied by G. W. Gegg as a training establishment and stables, after he had been manager of the (Kennedy) stables in Causeway Bay.

When I came here in May 1906 there were still a few private stables in the Colony, viz., Jardines’ at East Point, Godfrey Master’s at Morrison Hill, and G. K. Hall Bratton’s at The Castle (on Castle Road); but most of the ponies were kept at the Kennedy Stables at Causeway Bay, adjoining which was the Polo Ground.”

 

1907-02-20,Godfrey Master won the 35th Derby, SPRING ROSE, the owner was Buxey, Mr Mody.

 

1908

Mr Master was perhaps never in better form than at the Meeting (his last year in Hong Kong).

During the 3 days of Annual Races from 1908-02-11 to 1908-02-13, Mr Master scored 10 firsts, 5 seconds and 2 thirds.

He won nine races for Mr. Mody, and some of them on animals that any other man would have been proud to get a third place on.

Brilliantly, he won the Champions that year on Mr Mody’s SPRING ROSE.

He was second on his own ASTRAL in the Ladies Purse.

 

 

SUMMARY

 

Godfrey Master left a legend that at one Annual Meeting, in the programme of thirty races he rode in all but one.

He had to skip the Jockey Cup, for which he was not eligible.

According to Henry Ching (SCMP editor), Godfrey was placed in every one of the 29 races.

However, it has not been possible to confirm this from the surviving records.

 

There was a saying that perhaps the most versatile member of HKJC has ever had was Mr Godfrey C. C. Master.

He was a good rider of light weight, and a knowledgeable owner.

According to the comment by Sir Henry May, Mr Master was more jockey than owner.

 

The death has occurred of Mr. Godfrey Cornewall Chester Master who practised m Hongkong for many years ar, a solicitor, partner m the firm of Johnson, Stokes and Master. He retired about twelve years ago, or more. Mr. G. C. Master was a sound lawyer and was also one of the most accomplished amateur riders in the Far East. He was a familiar figure at the Hong Kong race meetings, and seldom rode without getting placed, even when he was over fifty years of age. He died at the age of 64 at Banchory in Scotland on November 10th and was buried at Preston, Cirencester.

(106 words)《The Straits Times》1925-01-05 Page 8

 

REFERENCE

 

The Northumbrian Anglo-Saxons used an Old English equivalent of the British name, Legacæstir, which was current until the 11th century, when, in a further parallel with Welsh usage, the first element fell out of use and the simple name Chester emerged. Lega was the street or an ethnic group.

Legacæstir was the full etymology of the place Chester, which was originated from Cæstir, the Anglo-Saxon cæstir, meaning ‘military camp’ or Old English cæstir, meaning castle.

 

1895, Alfred Bulmer Johnson became senior partner of the law firm with Alfred Stokes and Godfrey Master as supporting partners.

Subsequently, the firm was re-named Johnson Stokes & Master (JSM).

JSM, by that time, was already legal advisor to the newly formed HSBC, a major commercial establishment in Hong Kong.

 

THE LAIRD is a member of the Scottish gentry, who bears the designation Laird of X, where X is the place name. A lord; a landholder, esp. one who holds land directly of the crown.

 

PANDUR, Hungarian of security guard protecting crops in vineyards and fields, and it was coined from the verb puditi (also spelled pudati) meaning to chase or scare away.

 

 

EXTERNAL LINK

 

John Peel – Jardine racing name – 《RacingMemories.HK》

 

 

Acknowledgement to HKJC Racing Registry for offering record data.

 

 

 


 

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