To be, rather than to seem to be





Liddell is an Anglo-Saxon surname, initially documented circa 1165.

The origin is a locational name from any of the various places in Cumberland and Roxburghshire called Liddel.

It is composed of the Olde English pre 7th Century river name “Hlyde”, Loud, and the Olde English “-dael”, valley.

That river is also called Liddel today.





Mrs. G M Billy Liddell, the icon of the family, was known to all also as Billie Coutts or Billie Liddell.

She was a legendary horsewoman, trainer and owner in China and Hong Kong racing.







Billie Coutts was born and her father was a banker.

Her family had been associated with the Shanghai Race Club since its earliest days.

After her grown-up, she became a slim, svelte lady and a superb horsewoman.



Billie Coutts entered as an ownertrainer of the Shanghai Race Club and had two wins on her first day.



At the Hankow Autumn races, another winner at this meeting was Jack Liddell, riding his own PUNCH.

Liddell Bros., Hydraulic Packers, was a huge firm with an establishment at every port.

John Liddell, the father, a notable figure at the Shanghai races, was one of the Shanghai Municipal Council’s ablest chairmen.

His son in due course held the same office. It was an almost exact modern parallel with being the Doge of Venice.

In the Shanghai races Jack Liddell frequently found himself riding against ponies owned and trained by Billie Coutts.

He and she both rode in paper hunts.

With a mind like a rapier, who ordered men about all her life, Billie never did a day’s work.

She shopped annually in Paris and was about the best-dressed woman on the China coast, was not exactly the easiest person to marry.

Nevertheless, Billie Liddell she became, and remained so to the end, long after the marriage had dissolved itself.



Billie Liddell had a dreadful ‘animal’ called GOING SLOW.

No rider seemed to be able to manage him.

He behaved so badly he got nowhere, and consequently had a terrible reputation.

When Billie Liddell entered him for the Grand National, no one would ride him.

She knew and could command the services of every jockey in town — except to ride GOING SLOW.

On the morning of the race, in despair, she contacted Eric Moller’s eldest son, Eric Blechynden Moller, and asked him if he would take it on.

With befitting gallantry, he said that he had never having heard of the horse.

He arrived at the course to find himself surrounded by consternation.

Had he taken leave of his senses? That horse! He would end with a broken neck.

Somewhat unnerved, he was relieved to note that Billie Liddell was very calm.

Her parting words to him were, ‘Sit still; don’t move.’

This he did, just raising his eyes at the jumps and lowering them once over.

He had a sensational win and, the pony’s reputation being known, an equally sensational dividend.

Perfectly trained, GOING SLOW. was a pony who could not stand being interfered with. He wanted to do it all himself. E.B. let him.


Not for the first time, conditions around Tientsin were disturbed.

The races in May had to be held with the entire racecourse guarded by foreign troops.

Willie Howell, Tientsin manager of Liddell Bros., won the Champions that year with GOBI EVE, who later repeated the performance several times.

Strangely enough, in Shanghai at exactly the same moment Jack Liddell was doing the same with WHEATCROFT, who won the Champions four times.


Paper hunts in China were a kind of romance, with a glamour all their own, reinforced by the fact that ladies rode in them.

Many of them wearing pink coats, many of them with more than one silver cup to their credit.

Billie Liddell won 27.



Then came ‘We Two’, which was the racing partnership of Billie Liddell and Vera McBain.

They at last won the Shanghai Champions, with MISTER CINDERS.



It was always held that racing standards in Hankow were high. BOSTON DRILL was the proof of it.

After his exploits, Billie Liddell bought him and took him to Shanghai.



Autumn meeting, BOSTON DRILL won the Criterions and the Chinese Cup, and was winning confidently a year later, his rider Buffy Maitland.



Billie Liddell bought the winner of the St. Leger, who had beaten two ‘MORN’ ponies, changed his name to CORDON ROUGE.

He won the Criterions and numerous other races with him.

With FRENCH LEAVE and EARLY SCHOOL both doing well, and with BOSTON DRILL too, she had four current winners.



The races were booming. Billie Liddell won the Champions.



‘Peanut’ Marshall rode a magnificent race to win the Spring Champions on Mrs Liddell’s RAIN.

In the presence of a huge crowd, it was one of the most thrilling races of the season.

He defeated Mr A.S. Henchman’s griffin HINDHEAD.



Jack Liddell, the Shanghai Municipal Council Chairman, soon after the Japanese occupation called a meeting of the British, American, and Dutch members of the Council and its committees.

He informed them that the Japanese had asked all of them to resign, otherwise the Japanese would take steps.



“Billy” Coutts Liddell and her racing partner Vera McBain, owners of “We Two” stables, had been warned by the Japanese authority,

so, they gave their ponies to Chinese friends.



Racing never resumed in Shanghai, partly because there were difficulties in obtaining horses and ponies.

But mainly, it was because all were busy carrying a suitcase of currency notes to buy a loaf of bread.

The hardship finally became insuperable, though even then quite a few would not recognize it.

Billie Liddell was there when the Liberation Army marched in.

Then she left: in the opposite direction, of course — north. You could not get out to the south.

In Tientsin, with less surveillance, she got aboard a ship bound for Hongkong.

It was the last voyage to leave before the port closed.



Quite a crowd of Shanghai people were to be seen at Happy Valley in the year when the new China was found.

Buffy Maitland, Jimmie Pote-Hunt, Charlie Encarnagao, Billie Liddell…..



For most of her horses, Mrs Liddell stabled with Chue Po-ming.

For some of her horses, she still kept the racing partnership with Mrs McBain, some with Mr Marton.



The demise of the amateur racing had come.

Only professionals could now train, exercise and ride horses at Happy Valley.

There was nearly one exception, Mrs. G.M. Liddell.

For over fifty years, she was known to all as Billie – had owned horses in Shanghai and Hong Kong and exercised them herself.

The Stewards had not the heart (or, perhaps, the courage) to ban this redoubtable character,

she continued to gallop her horses each morning at the Valley until August 1974.



Mrs Liddell led in her last winner, MASTER ROBERT and passed away that Saturday evening.

She was buried in Hong Kong Cemetery, Plot (Section/Row/Location) 12A/4/13.

It is a Monument of low marble headstone with slightly rounded top with etched engraving, with curbs and concrete infill.

Inscriptions: G.M. BILLY LIDDELL/ Died 7th December 1974.’Esse quam videri.’.

The motto is a Latin phrase in Marcus Tullius Cicero’s essay meaning “To be, rather than to seem (to be)”.





Finally, one of the last links with China Coast racing was broken.





Mrs Liddell‘s racing colors were Turkish Blue, Red cap.


Some of the horses owned by Mrs Liddell were:

LI00 TUDOR CONQUEST(59-60), M069 WILLIAM (60-61), T032 DORlS (65-66), V032 D’ARTAGNAN (66-67), C018 WILLIE (70-71),T046 SHINDIG (70-71), H018 MASTER ROBERT (74-75), etc.


CORDON ROUGE, is a red amorphous powder, also one of the world’s most consistent Non-Vintage Champagnes.


HINDHEAD is the highest village in Surrey, England, with buildings at between 185 and 246 metres above sea level.





Cumine, Eric (1905-2002) – 《RacingMemories.HK》

DUNBAR – 《RacingMemories.HK》



Acknowledgement to Mr Paul Cheng kong-yip for offering record data.

Acknowledgement to Mr Peter YUEN for rectifying record data.





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