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My First Visit to the Derby.

[By Max o'Rki.l.] Though I have spent sixteen years in England, I have never seen the Derby until to-day. Can there bo in the whole world such a dirty, hooting, swearing, brazenthroated, foul-mouthed crowd to be seen ? And I am told that things are vastly improved, and the scenes to be witnessed today are no match for the Derbys of Auld Lang Syne. And what a road ! Prom Westminster we drove over a route strewn thick with bills, papar debris, advertisements of fusees, advertisements of the gospel tent to be found on the course, with orange peelings, cocoanut shells, empty bottles. The only redeeming feature in the whole thing seemed to me the treatment of horses, the care with which they were driven, and, at intervals along the road down, watered and refreshed. On the course I saw a man furiously driving and whipping a poor horse which had unfortunately got into his company, quite set upon by an indignant crowd that looked likely to make a very good amateur R.S.P.A. The working man is no doubt better aware than anyonu who talks to him of humanity to his horse, that it pays to treat the animal well. Looking at tho way in which lie is often found treating his wife, the extra gentleness extended to Dobbin may arise from shrewdness, Or is it something else '! " A fellow-feeling makes U3 wondrous kind." In the carts, cars, shandrydans that I passed on the roads, thero were three distinct types of face : the bull-dog, the fish, and the sheep. What an unlovely number occupied each cart, with its layer or two of men in front, and all the women (the females I should rather say) stowed away behind in true British fashion. Where there was an apparent absence of any linen on the persons of the men, there was an extra display of ostrich feathers on the wonderful hats of the women. As the various vehicles tlischeirged their cargoes, some truly amazing toilettes that had been blushing comparatively unseen in the carts on the way down now joined in the general jarring and swearing. One noted carefully iu detail will give an idea of many, though I doubt if it could have been outshone on the wholo course. Dress of sapphire blue silk, covered to tho waist with beaded frills ; a gigantic hat of crimson velvet surrounded by a wide band of gold lace, and further adorned with a long and broad encircling plume of a dazzling appleqreeu hue. The finishing touch was put to this attire by a train of black lace, which started from the waist and trailed a long yard behind its wearer. Just after witnessing the check .in the career of the Jehu whom the crowd took in hand for lashing his horse, I stumbled upon a female fight. Two enraged creatures with fine feathers and foul tongues were in the thick of a quarrel which they evidently intended to settle on the spot. No interference here. On the contrary, hearty encouraging cries from the male bystanders of "Go it, old gal, "I'll 'old yer 'at," and other evidence of the absence of any intention to spoil sport. The main business of the day on the Downs is evidently eating, drinking, and getting photographed. I. will venture to doubtVhether a half of the people who flock to Epsom on Derby Day see a horse race. Horseplay there was of course iu plenty. Is it not an invariable accompaniment to every British holiday-making in which the masses take part ? On the whole, however, it must be admitted that it was a good-tempered crowd, rough and rowdy, but not riotous ; ridiculous and dirty, but with here and there a diverting touch, such as the impromptu foot-bath of an individual who removed the dust from his boots by calmly swilling a pail of water over them. To fun pure and simple the nearest approach seemed to be the wearing of a big bonnet by a man. How the cockney loves a holiday, and how he will toil at taking it! It would be hard to say wherein the pleasure of the Derby lay for the six fellows whom I noted going down with a hand cart. I say with, for only four of them were upon it, No. 5 was in the shafts, and No. 6 pushed behind. Where they had joined the stream I cannot, of course, say, but when we passed them they were on the Epsom side of Tooting, and with baskets on board were clearly enough bound for the course, if not for the grand stand. To one who goes to mingle with the crowd and not to look on from the grand stand, the impression left is not a pleasant or a cheerful one. I returned homo feeling that if horse racing was instituted for the improvement of the equine race, it has certainly not conduced much to the improvement of the human one.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18890817.2.29.4

Bibliographic details

My First Visit to the Derby., Evening Star, Issue 7988, 17 August 1889, Supplement

Word Count
834

My First Visit to the Derby. Evening Star, Issue 7988, 17 August 1889, Supplement

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