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Andrew Spence Chirnside (1856–1934)

from Argus

One of Victoria's greatest sportsmen, a picturesque and romantic link with the early days of horseracing in the State, Mr Andrew Spence Chirnside, of Edrington, Berwick died yesterday in a private hospital in Melbourne. He was in his 79th year. Amateur of the Turf, a breeder of horses and stock, big game hunter pastoralist, a master of hounds in the beginning of hunting in Victoria, and pioneer and fine player of polo, Mr Chirnside was a man with a sportsman's zest for everything. Mr Chirnside was born at Cavendish, near Hamilton, a son of the late Andrew and Mary Chirnside of Werribee Park—the famous Werribee Estate which was acquired by Mr Andrew Chirnside and his brother Thomas in 1839. Mr Chirnside received his early education at Geelong College, but at the age of 10 years he travelled to England with his parents, remaining there for four years. While still a youth he was riding—and winning—at Warrnambool and other country meetings. It was at Warrnambool in 1875 that he made his historic bet of £500 to £5 with a bookmaker that he would win six races out of six. He won five, when his elder brother, Robert forbade him to ride the sixth. Robert won the sixth race himself, and his brother lost his £5.

He was one of the sportsmen who met at Craig's Hotel, Ballarat, in October, 1875, formed the Victoria Amateur Turf Club, at the first meeting of which, on the Dowling Forest course, Ballarat on March 24, 1876, he won the principal race, the Victoria Gold Cup Steeplechase, on Sailor. Two other gold cups followed. It was Newminster, owned by his father, who won the first Caulfield Cup in 1879. The turf registers for the 'eighties tell the stories of many other classic victories of the Chirnside colours. At the stud farm at Newminster Park Mr Chirnside bred Colonel Shilinski—a great jumper. Newminster was, too, the first home of Clean Sweep, a Melbourne Cup winner; Hymettus, who crowned a career with two Caulfield Cup; and Riverside, twice an Ascot Cup winner. Among others of the best horses which he owned were Elswick, who won an Adelaide Cup; Sunburn, and Newton, with which he won a V.R.C double; Queen of Scots, Cairncross, and, more recently, Blackadder. Only last week Mr Chirnside sold his last two horses—My Talisman and Dark Dawn. Once at Flemington Mr Chirnside fell at the last fence and still won the steeplechase. In 1878 he won a race at Durban (South Africa). He rode in England and Scotland, too. In 1881-82, at Ballarat, he hunted his own pack, which he took there from Werribee, and when the Ballarat District Hunt Club came into existence, he was its first master.

He organised and equipped at his own expense the Chirnside Mounted Cadets, who drilled at Colac. At Coragulac he bred splendid milking Shorthorns.

It was during the Zulu War that, with only one white companion, Mr Chirnside went on a big game hunting expedition to South Africa. He returned with many trophies of the chase and F.R.G.S. after his name, a tribute to his work in tracing the distance between Lake Nyassa and Tanganyika. One of his works was a brochure exposing the activities of the Blantyre Mission which aroused the Church of Scotland to immediate and effective measures to deal with atrocities committed under the cloak of religion.

Mr Chirnside was the oldest member of the Melbourne Club and an old member of the Victoria Racing Club. Although in recent years his farming interests had been largely confined to Edrington (Berwick) and Vite Vite (Derinallum) he was at one time the owner of many large pastoral properties in Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia, where, at the time of his death, he still had extensive interests. Among his gifts to charity were £21,000 for two wards in St Andrew's Presbyterian Hospital, East Melbourne, in memory of his late father and his uncle, Mr Tom Chirnside. His widow formerly Miss Bowner, of Melbourne, was severely injured in a motor accident a year ago, and she is still seriously ill in a private hospital in the city. His only child, Joan, who survives him, married Mr Alec Waugh, the novelist, and is on her way home to England after a visit to Melbourne. Two brothers Mr George Chirnside of Mooroolbark Park, Lilydale, and Captain J Percy Chirnside, of Brandon Park, Oakleigh, also survive him. His sister, Mrs Everard Browne, died in England a few weeks ago, and his elder brother Robert died some years ago.

The funeral which will take place today at the Eastern Cemetery, Geelong, will be private. It will leave the parlors of A. A. Sleight Pty Ltd who have charge of the arrangements at 1 p.m.

Members of the council of the Royal Agricultural Society, who attended a meeting held at Temple Court, Collins Street, yesterday stood in silence for one minute as a mark of respect to Mr Chirnside. The president (Sir Charles Merrett), in expressing regret at the death of Mr Chirnside, referred to him as a leading agriculturist.

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'Chirnside, Andrew Spence (1856–1934)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 July 2024.

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