MIDNIGHT’S LAST RACE
© Graham Fredriksen (1956 – 2010)
Winner 2010, ‘Camp Oven’ Written Competition, North Pine, Queensland.
The story of the mare Midnight and her owner Gay Haydon (1890 – 1925) of Bloomfield Station and the 12th Australian Lighthorse Regiment (No.319).
“They are into the bend and the black mare of Bloomfield’s
is edging on up centre right!!
They’re packed close together, she hasn’t much room;
fields of horses are seldom so tight!
Now she’s making a break, she’s pushed through a gap
and she’s gaining!! — but is it too late??
There’s the grey and the bay and now look what’s happened,
there’s three abreast into the straight!!
Now the black streaks ahead!! by a nose!! by a neck!!
and the line!! — and the game is all up!!
Yes, it’s Midnight for winner, full length from the second —
black Midnight has taken the Cup!!
“Gay Haydon, on midnight!! oh what a fine rider,
from up where the blue Hunter spills
down out from the ranges; he sits well astride her —
that Pegasus horse of the hills.
And both born and bred on the Old Bloomfield station —
what pedigree, rider and horse!!
They are type of the blood that has builded this nation —
the best of the bush and the course!!
When the bally steers break, I am told, she’s a crack mare —
and up with the lead all the way;
now again to the fore, yes, bold Midnight, the black mare,
has taken the Cup here today!!”
Black Midnight, the thoroughbred, from Hunter River,
the pick of the Old Bloomfield run:
a century’s breeding and bloodlines a-fever
with fortitude second to none;
grit, courage and spirit, and easily fast as
quite anything not born with wings;
and prided with mettle the match of her master’s —
Guy Haydon could ride among kings!!
And come nineteen fifteen, with the Empire bells tolling
and Tyranny’s tempest uphurled,
Guy Haydon and Midnight, on wide oceans rolling,
sailed forth to the ends of the world...
Ancient Egypt, stone columns and pyramids rising
from dust where old heroes once trod,
in battles, unyielding and uncompromising —
for Allah — for Ceasar — for God —
there the world’s youngest army, Australia’s Lighthorses,
prepared for the breasting of guns
with the best of King’s Rifle and Yeomanry forces
to push back the Turk and the Huns.
And t’was there, ‘mid formality, drill and parade,
in the training ground cavalryward,
that the young Hunter River lieutenant, Guy Haydon,
would ride with the bluest of blood...
“To the bend and Lord Essex’s charger is showing
but heels to the rest of the race!!
But what’s this? Watch that mare from the Colonies going!!
she’s gaining!! — what glorious pace!!
The whips are out now and the Englishman’s plying
it all for the Union Jack!!
but the black mare is coming!! she’s closing!! she’s flying!!—
just Essex’s horse and the black!!
Now the last run for home and it’s straight down the lane
and the Bloomfield mare’s opening up!!
The Colonial mare, she has won it again!!
and it’s Midnight’s — the Cairo Cup!!
“She has done it before, half a mile in a minute!! —
on sand!! she has sinews of steel!!
See her chafe at the curb!! Oh, the chase, to be in it!!—
how grand could a rider but feel?
Guy Haydon, on Midnight, the black New South Waler,
can best what we British can breed;
the blood of Old Bloomfield has proven the haler —
the stayer — the stamina — speed!!
When we face to the foe with artillery pounding
and sabres unsheathed for the fray,
when we stand to the charge with the rifles resounding,
black Midnight will show all the way!!
So it was, on the straight in the Beersheba valley,
October, nineteen seventeen,
that great cavalry charge as the Lighthorsemen rally —
a feat to be nevermore seen.
The snuffing of bits and the scenting of water;
they send in the Twelfth and the Forurth;
and Midnight is there in the Twelfth’s forward quarter,
abreast to the west of the north.
The finishing line, hard ahead, and all open —
three miles down the straight to the wells;
they start at a trot, and increase to a lope —
and then gallop ‘midst bursting of shells.
It is Saladin charging on Richard the Lion
enacted again — one last time;
grim battalions of hooves and the thunder of iron —
and horseman and horse at their prime;
great frothing mouths gaping, eyes bulging, tails streaming,
great hearts feeding gristle and bone;
and bullets about them now, whilstling, screaming —
each pair races death, and alone.
And Guy Haydon on Midnight, ahead by a neck!! and
they’re flying!! they’re first to the lines!! —
a great yawning trench and they’re splitting the second —
uplift!! — what a moment defines!!
Hold the finish!! the scene of the bayonets upthrusting!!
one bullet, one enemy gun!!
and the horse, in mid air, with her giant heart busting,
falls dead — and the last race is done!!
And the bullet that’s taken the life so courageous
passed through her and wounding her man...
and departing the battle for History’s pages,
back to where the journey began,
the spirit of Midnight dwells yet in the valleys,
in Bloomfield’s green ranges and dells;
and Guy Haydon, Lighthorseman, in memory still rallies
that ultimate race to the wells.
She was the horse that I pressed to the pace
where the crowd in the grandstand enthrals;
she was the horse that I tested in chase
where the whip on the bally steer falls;
she was the horse that bested with grace
the kings in Britannia’s halls;
coal black Midnight, who galloped the fiery face
of the rifle and cannonballs;
black Midnight, who galloped the ultimate race
where the colour of Liberty calls.