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Scarr, John Agar (1830–1895)

from Referee (Sydney)

It was quite a shock to the sporting community when the death was announced on Sunday last of the veteran handicapper, Mr. J. A. Scarr. Although Mr. Scarr was known to be ill, no warning that his end was approaching had been made public, and the sad news was received with profound regret in Sydney. Throughout the country and the other colonies where the deceased gentleman was known, his rather sudden end will be heard of as a sad and regretted event, for, through a long career of honorable work for the racing public, Mr. Scarr earned a name for capacity as a handicapper and high character as a man that will not soon be forgotten. His last trip to Melbourne to witness the racing of the V.R.C. seems to have been responsible for the beginning of an illness which in the end proved fatal. He complained of severe shock from the train journey, but it was expected that rest and treatment would effect a restoration to health. Feeling too unwell to make the Doncaster and Sydney Cup handicaps, Mr. Scarr apprised the A.J.C. Committee of his condition, and the work was given to Mr. F. Wilkinson, who was also engaged to frame the minor handicaps for the coming meeting. But meanwhile, instead of getting better, Mr. Scarr gradually grew worse, and finally developed diabetes, to which his death is attributed. He passed away at his residence, "Kalimua," Manly Beach, on Sunday morning at 5 o'clock, his age being 65 years.

Mr. John Agar Scarr was born at Campbelltown in 1830, and entered the New South Wales Civil Service as a lad of 17, eventually taking up a position as Parliamentary shorthand writer, in which he labored for about forty years, until in 1887 he retired on a pension. During those years he was an esteemed worker in his professional sphere of action, and popular with his associates in the public service, a fact testified to by a farewell demonstration made in his honor when he retired. He took a keen interest in racing in the days when the almighty dollar was not such an important factor as it now is, and proved his devotion to the sport by giving his time and talents without pecuniary reward to furthering its interests. He rapidly made his mark as an adjuster of weights, and proved his qualifications as an authority on the sport in many ways, notably through his articles in the Press. He was first (in 1869) one of the handicappers for the A.J.C., his colleagues being Messrs. Stephen Brown and Archibald Thompson; but in 1881 the sole control of the handicapping was entrusted to him, with what success the sporting community is well aware. The other principal race clubs sought Mr. Scarr's services also to make their handicaps, and he has acted for the Newcastle J. Club, Murrumbidgee J.C., Liverpool, Tattersall's Club, Sydney Turf Club, Hawkesbury R.C., as well as the Rosehill, Canterbury Park, Moorefield, and Warwick Farm Clubs. Quite recently he gave up the work for the four latter, but retained the position of handicapper for the A.J.C. and other clubs racing at Randwick, as well as for the Hawkesbury Club. At times fault has been found with his work, but in the main it was generally agreed that none of the colonies have ever possessed a more masterful weight adjuster, and therefore when a petition was recently got up by a section of owners, trainers, and others to have him relieved of the handicapping for the proprietary clubs, it will be readily understood that the clubs did not desire to fall in with the request of the petitioners. Mr. Scarr was an active steward—one of the few who did not bet — and he employed his keen insight into the ways of the racing world and his judgment of racing for the benefit of keeping the sport at a proper standard. Slow to form opinions about dishonest running, he was equally slow in giving up an idea when he had reason to form one, and was careful not to allow himself to be made use of by the unscrupulous. His strong point was his honesty of purpose and undoubted integrity, and any errors of underestimation or overrating of horses was usually forgiven in view of these indelible characteristics. As far back as 1873 Mr. Scarr compiled a useful stud book in association with the late E. K. Cox, and latterly was a member of the Manly Municipal Council. In the latter capacity he was a useful and energetic citizen, and in private life a kindly, respected gentleman, whose record from first to last is singularly unblemished. It may be some time before the sporting community get such a zealous and capable worker for the trusted position of handicapper and steward as the veteran who has just passed out into the great unknown, where, we are taught to believe, "the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest." The remains were interred in the Randwick Cemetery on Monday last, and were followed to the grave by a large number of mourners.

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'Scarr, John Agar (1830–1895)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/scarr-john-agar-29095/text36298, accessed 22 May 2019.

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