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Sir Colin Campbell Stephen (1872–1937)

Sir Colin Stephen, who had been chairman of the Australian Jockey Club since October 24, 1919, died at his home, Llanillo, Ginahgulla Road, Bellevue Hill, yesterday morning.

His health had been failing since last May, but until Sunday he had been able to move about. Last Saturday he attended Tattersall's races at Randwick, and watched some of the events from his car.

Born on May 3, 1872, Sir Colin Stephen had been associated with the A.J.C. since February, 1892, when he was first elected as a member. He was appointed to the committee in February, 1912.

Sir Colin Stephen was a man of great versatility and acumen, who succeeded as completely in the field of legal erudition as he did as a sportsman. He was equally at ease discussing knotty problems of law, as a judge of racing and horseflesh, as an amateur rider, and as a leader of social life. People in Sydney who did not know him personally knew him as a personality, and he, in his turn, was familiar with almost every type of individual in the community. His shrewd and analytical mind, high conception of duty, and capacity for mastering details lifted him far out of the category of those who, having wealth and position, are content to go through life as figureheads.

A member of the legal firm of Messrs. Stephen, Jaques, and Stephen, he came of a family famous in the traditions of the law. He was a son of Septimus Alfred Stephen, whose Parliamentary service included periods in both State Houses; grandson of Sir Alfred Stephen, a former Chief Justice and Lieutenant-Governor; and a great-grandson of Mr. Justice John Stephen, who was appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court in 1825.

Sir Colin Stephen was educated at All Saints' College, Bathurst, and afterwards went to England, where he was tutored privately for three years. He returned to Sydney in 1800, and was admitted to the Bar as a solicitor in 1896, becoming a notary public in 1928.

He took an active part in the legal work of his firm, and was regarded as a most capable and shrewd lawyer. He was a trustee of several large estates, and a director of the local board of the National Bank of Australasia, Ltd. He was chairman of directors of the Abermain Seaham Collieries, and when that company was merged with J. and A. Brown Collieries, he became chairman of the new company, which was known as J. and A. Brown and Abermain Seaham Collieries, Ltd.

For many years in early manhood he distinguished himself as an amateur rider, both in polo and at picnic races, recording his first win as long ago as 1892 at Randwick, on his own horse, Pro-Consul. He carried off the Tirranna Cup four times, and won the Bong Bong Cup three times, but these represented but a small fraction of his victories, for out of 152 racing mounts between 1891 and 1903 he rode 58 winners.

As might be expected in so keen a horse-man, polo had a strong attraction for him, and he was never happier than when taking part in a hotly contested game at that exhilarating period of his life before considerations of age began to obtrude. He contrived to be active on the polo field for more than 20 years, up to the end of the war.

One of his most cherished memories was that he had helped to capture the Dudley Cup for Lord Denman's team in 1912, and another was that he had been president of the Polo Association and the Polo Council.

Sir Colin Stephen inherited his father's flair for a good thoroughbred, and had every reason to be proud of his first mare, Elvo, whom he took out of picnic races to see win at Randwick and Flemington and run fifth in the Melbourne Cup. Elvo was the dam of Vole, a record-maker for five furlongs at Randwick, and Vole was the dam of Wolverine and Voleuse, the former producing Fidelity, who won six races in eight starts, and the latter producing Sal Volatile, winner of the Adrian Knox Stakes. Incidentally, Sir Colin thought he might win the Derby with the Hobartville Stakes winner, Caesar, a son of Wolverine, and had been out to watch the horse compete in the Chelmsford Stakes at Randwick last Saturday, when his horse Sal Volatile ran unplaced in the last race.

In partnership with the late Sir Adrian Knox, Sir Colin raced many well-known horses, and it was this turf association which began the remarkable friendship which developed in after years. The bond between them was strengthened when Sir Colin Stephen married a daughter of the late Mr. Edward Knox, chairman of directors of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, Ltd.

He was famous throughout Australia, of course, as chairman of the Australian Jockey Club - a position which he had held continuously since 1910.

In the paddock at Randwick he could always be observed, dressed as for Royal Ascot in a grey topper and morning suit, acting as host to Vice-Regal visitors or as the entertainer of parties of friends. To his official position he brought very special qualities - a perfect understanding of the intricacies of the "sport of kings," a wholesome soul, consummate tact, and a determination to make racing in New South Wales a clean and healthy pastime. No detail was too small to escape his attention, and no problem too complex for his powers of elucidation.

He was a member of the committee which framed the original Australian rules of racing, which came into force in 1912, and later, at the request of the Australian clubs, he re-drafted the rules since adopted by all clubs in the Commonwealth.

His alert and thoughtful face, his charm as a host, his great intelligence, and his status as a gentleman won for him in turf circles, in clubland, in the business world, and in his private environment a unique place of esteem and respect.

Original publication

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Citation details

'Stephen, Sir Colin Campbell (1872–1937)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 17 July 2024.

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