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Thomas John (Tom) Roberts (1831–1899)

from Sydney Mail

A single-hearted and true sportsman in Mr. Thomas Roberts, of Exeter Farm, Braidwood, passed away last week at a ripe old age. Mr. Roberts was a native of the colony and was a wonderful judge of horses and cattle, while, as a bushman, he had few equals. With the people who knew him best his simple word was regarded as equal to the most hard and-fast bond it were possible for the most subtile lawyer mind to frame, and his generosity to friends who had fallen upon evil days was something not often met with nowadays. Often, when a boy, I have heard his virtues and those of his partner, Mr. Roland Hassall, extolled, and only the other day a friend of his, who knew him for 60 years, remarked, 'No man, black, white, or yellow, ever passed Tom Robert's house hungry.' About 50 years ago Mr. Roberts joined Mr. Hassall in horse-breeding, and in the olden days they turned out some very fine heroes, many of whom distinguished themselves on the turf, on the road, cattle camp, and in harness. The partners were both great judges of horseflesh. Mr. Hassall, before he joined Mr. Roberts, was the proprietor of a horse bazaar in Pitt-street, which was afterwards known as Burt's, and later and still Kiss's. There are yet good men in the flesh who remember this bazaar in Hassall's day and the droves of grand horses that used to come in from the country for sale. When Mr. Ettie De Mestre was a boy this bazaar was a favourite rendezvous for all classes of sports, who usually spent their time between there and O'Brien's Tattersall's Hotel, nearly opposite. The yard was the day Tattersall's of the early days, and often some heavy wagering took place there on current sporting events— wagering that would rather astonish the 'silver punter' of to-day. Messrs. Hassall and Roberts started their stud with only three blood mares, but they were not long in building up one of the finest studs in Australia. These mares were Maid of the Oaks, Lady Morgan, and Cinderella. From the former they got Archer who, like the majority of the best Exeter Farm horses, went to Mr. Ettie De Mestre. Archer won Mr. De Mestre the first two Melbourne Cups, carrying 9st 7lb in the first and l0st 2lb in the second. Old timers declare that we have produced very few horses since the first Melbourne Cup (1861) that could beat Archer over two miles. There were 20 starters in his second cup, and it was an open secret that a little unscrupulous band of doubtful sports intended to upset De Mestre' s good thing, even if they had to go to the length of knocking him into the Saltwater River, and Cutts laid away from them for a mile, then setting in to his horse he raced up on the outside of the field, and when the 'dealers' went to knock him about he knocked them aside like so many skittle-pins, and sailing away from them he beat them all in a common canter. Lady Morgan produced Exeter, a good performer, for whom a buyer from China paid Mr. De Mestre £1000; then came grand old Tim Whiffler from Exeter Farm to Terara to carry Mr. De Mestre's black jacket and cap victoriously in many a well-fought fray. Unfortunately, however, he had to meet The Barb in many of his battles, but he won many great races, including the Metropolitan and the Melbourne Cup of 1867. Old Tim Whiffler, who was the idol of racegoers in the middle 'sixties,' lived to sire a few useful horses. He was by New Warrior (24)— son of Pyrrhus I (3)— out of Cinderella (3), by St. John (9) from Cinderella, by Rous Emigrant (4) from the celebrated Spaewife, to whom trace most of Mr. William Royd's horses.

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Citation details

'Roberts, Thomas John (Tom) (1831–1899)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 31 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


14 February, 1831
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


18 May, 1899 (aged 68)
Jembaicumbene, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.