OUR MEMORIES
Benson, Donovan (Chairman) 1953-1967


Horse loving Taipan; Horse racing Chairman

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Donovan Benson , OBE,JP ( 1896-01-211972-11-17

 

He was a veteran horse owner, one of the Stewards and then the Chairman of HKJC from 1953 to 1967.

Mr Benson was a prominent banker who represented Mercantile Bank to sign its banknotes in Hong Kong.

Like Sir Arthur Morse, the preceding Chairman of HKJC, he was appointed unofficial member of the Executive Council temporarily on a few occasions.

 

 

BACKGROUND

 

1896-01-21 Mr Benson was born in Middlesex, England.

In World War I he served with the Dragoons and the South Staffordshire Regiment.

 

1915, he was badly wounded at Gallipoli. After that he came out to the Far East in the service of the Mercantile Bank of India.

 

1919, he was stationed in the Straits Settlements, principally at Singapore and Penang.

 

1923, he was married in Singapore.

 

1937 – 1952, he was Manager of the Mercantile Bank in Hong Kong and later retired.

 

Mr Benson, one of the few retired “taipans” who have made Hong Kong their home, was closely and actively associated with the public affairs.

He was a Director of many public companies and Chairman of several,including the South China Morning Post Ltd.

 

He served twice as Unofficial Member of the Executive Council in the absence of Sir Arthur Morse.

 

His interest in the Colony’s social problems had been devoted especially to the welfare of the younger generation.

He was the President of the Boy Scouts’ Association and the Children’s Playground Association, and was a member of the Boards of many other betterment organisations.

As a Justice of the Peace he became an honorary Magistrate dealing with juvenile cases, and he sat regularly in his court in the Causeway Bay Magistracy.

 

 

HIGHLIGHTS

 

A lover of horses and an active sportsman, he was a keen and competent Polo player.

 

He played in Penang and continued in Hong Kong when he was transferred here.

 

He commenced racing in Happy Valley before the WWII, as a partner in the Quartermaster stable, and had owned some outstanding performers.

 

1951, Mr Benson had acted as Chairman when Sir Arthur was on leave.

 

1953, the great change was the retirement of Sir Arthur Morse and the appointment of Mr Donovan Benson, O.B.E., to be the Club’s Chairman.

 

1960, however, the Chairman D Benson, again referred to the frequent racing accidents and said,

“This season must surely have been the worst in the history of the Club.”

Seven riders who had been involved in accidents had required hospital treatment. Mr Samarcq was killed in that year.

 

1960-04-30, Derby had only three starters, yet produced another sensational upset.

The hot favorite, Mr Kia Ora’s HONEY BIRD (Mr Ostroumoff), was narrowly beaten by Mr Leung Tak Wa’s VIRTUOUS (Mr T. H. Yau).

Mr Plumbly on Mr D. Benson’s TROOPER was forced to dismount owing to his saddle having slipped.

But the rider climbed up again, completed the course and was officially placed third.

 

1961, the Chairman referred to another fatal accident (1961-01-21_1 Mr Neel) and declared that it was definitely established that these were the results of bad riding.

 

1962, Mr Benson’s team of Stewards was composed of:

The Hon. H. D. M. Barton, M.B.E., Dr the Hon. Sir Sik-nin Chau, C.B.E., Dr Douglas Laing, Messrs J. F. Macgregor, A. H. Penn, J. O. Pote-Hunt, A. H. Potts, J. A. H. Saunders, D.S.O., M.C., and Wbi. T. Stanton, etc.

 

After he quit the galloping game he rode regularly on the training track at the Valley until very recently before he died.

 

When his health began to fail, he retired completely from all business and social activities, except his visits to race meetings.

 

 

SUMMARY

 

1972-11-17 Mr Benson died in Hong Kong, at the age of 76.

Among the pallbearers were Sir Douglas Clague and Dr Douglas Laing.

Cremation took place at Cape Collinson.

His ashes were scattered later in Junk Bay in accordance with his will.

 

1884, since its formation HKJC has had fewer than ten substantive Chairmen.

Sir Paul Chater filled the post for 34 years.

Mr Benson’s 14 years are the second longest term recorded, before being a Steward for 21 years..

HKJC getting the Royal designation was another remarkable achievement of Chairman Benson.

But newspaper reported that he opposed professional riding and racing commentators at meetings.

 

 

REFERENCE

 

Straits Settlements were a group of British territories located in Southeast Asia came under direct British control as a Crown colony in 1867.

The Straits Settlements consisted of the four individual settlements of Malacca, Dinding, Penang, and Singapore.

The colony was dissolved in 1946 following the end of the Second World War.

 

Horses owned by Mr Benson:

 

BUNKUM(71/72-E025)、IRISH HOLIDAY(70/71-D095)、PADDY(68/69-B068)、BRUNETTE(66/67-V017)、PASSPORT(65/66-T074)、DEIRDRE(62/63-P099)、BRUNO(60/61-M017)、TROOPER(59/60-L094)、COPS(57/58-F053)、YAM SING(56/57-D102)、SAME AGAIN(52/53-T062)、SAY WHEN(51/52-S037)、AVALON(46/47-M008)、WODONGA(46/47-M074)

 

 

RELATED LINK

 

SWAINE, Sir John Joseph (Chairman) 1993-1996 – 《RacingMemories.HK》

Macwhinnie, Sir Gordon (Chairman) 1989-1991 – 《RacingMemories.HK》

 

 

Acknowledgment to Mr K H Choi, Mr Peter Yuen and Mr Kelvin Lee for relevant data.

Acknowledgment to HKJC Racing Registry for offering relevant records.

 

 

 


 

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