10 May 2023

Tributes flow for Far North racing legend

| Cape York Weekly
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RESPECTED North Queensland jockey Frank Edwards summed up the life of his close friend Clive Gordon as well as anyone could following his sad passing on Sunday.

“He was a true gentleman,” Edwards said on Monday morning.

Social media, as well as conversations between friends and colleagues, have been filled with beautiful tributes about the much-loved Gordon following the news of his death coming out late on Sunday afternoon.

At 87 years of age, the Cairns-based stalwart has been unwell for some time and had battled ailments over the last couple of years.

Despite his health struggles, he was still a regular at North Queensland race tracks until recently, usually being helped around the club by another of his close friends, FNQ race caller John “Bluey” Forsyth.

After 40 years in a number of different roles at Cairns Jockey Club, Gordon retired as the club’s clerk of scales in the middle of 2019.

Edwards, still riding at the top of his game at 58 years of age today, recalls first encountering Gordon in Cairns when he moved to the north from Brisbane.

In those days, Gordon was a steward, after calling the races on the local radio, before moving into the role as clerk of scales.

As the clerk of scales for over four decades, he worked closely with the hundreds of riders that came through Cannon Park in that time and Edwards says they all treasured their time with the late Gordon.

“He was a true gentleman; he was very learned and well-spoken as well as being well respected,” Edwards said.

“On behalf of all the jockeys, we had great respect for him, he was courteous, he was polite and softly spoken.

“He was very intelligent and always understood where jockeys were coming from with our issues around weight control and the dangers we face in racing, and he respected that greatly.

“He was a great friend amongst the riders.”

While Cairns’ Cannon Park is the central hub of the racing industry in FNQ, the sport is about so much more than just Cairns Jockey Club in the region.

Clubs like Cooktown, Mount Garnet and Mareeba, as well as countless others, also play a vital role.

That is where Gordon first got started in the racing industry, initially calling the trots on radio as far back as 1978, which transitioned into the gallopers, and he would travel far and wide around the district to ensure they were given excellent coverage.

As young child, he grew up next door to Joe Baird, who was one of the leading trainers at the time in Cairns, which first sparked his interest in the game.

He called all three codes of racing in the Sunshine State, with the greyhounds on his resume as well.

Gordon loved the bush clubs and would make the annual trips to Cooktown and Laura, as well as the rest.

In his later years when he was no longer working as a steward or calling the races, he became the mounting yard master of ceremonies and on-course favourite at race meetings.

The mounting yard at the Cooktown racecourse is named after Gordon and president Darryl Paradise, who is also a trainer in FNQ, said a race would be staged in Clive’s honour at this year’s November Cup meeting.

He was a life member of 10 different clubs, stretching from the Queensland Pony Club Association, up to Cooktown and Laura, as well as Gordonvale and a number of other clubs, as well as shows — Cairns, Innisfail and Tully.

“He was a true gentleman and a great Australian. He helped put the Cooktown Amateur Turf Club on the map,” Paradise said following his passing.

“His death is going to shake the racing fraternity.

“If he lived another 10 years he would have been a life member of another 10 clubs”.

Many clubs in the north of the state recognised his efforts by naming Gordon an honorary life member in recent years, including Cairns and Mareeba.

“Clive started at the Mareeba Turf Club in 1978 calling the races on the radio,” former Mareeba club president Rex Petersen said when he was presented with the title in early 2020.

“He has been a big part of our club for a lot of years.

“We gave him a gold cup as well because we believe he has been a true champion to the club, he can have that forever and remember how important he has been to us.”

While Gordon and Edwards were friends at the track for decades, their bond extended far away from the races.

Their connection went international.

Edwards was born in Papua New Guinea and when the hoop decided to walk the Kokoda Track a few years ago, Gordon outlined his family history in a detailed book.

“I got to know him very well, we became close friends and he took an interest in my life, not only in racing but away from that in the personal side of my life,” Edwards said.

“He had a great interest in my history after my father fought in World War II, hence my interest in the Kokoda Track.

“When I got to know him, just the nature of the man, I grew to like him.

“He grew to have an interest in my story and where I came from, with my interest in pony club and growing up in PNG, as well as my parents’ history through the war and where they have come from and their backgrounds.”

While racing and thoroughbred horses were a significant part of Gordon’s life – the code was not everything to him as he had other deep loves and passions.

The Cairns Show Association, where he was a patron and had the arena named in his honour, was one of his great interests, as well as equestrian and show jumping events.

Edwards was involved in the pony club in Port Moresby as a youngster and when he grew closer to Gordon, the duo shared their love of the discipline.

On one occasion, Gordon organised for the North Queensland jockeys to compete in a local show jumping event, which Edwards won.

“We spoke a lot, not only about racing, which was a small part of his involvement in horses, but in several other aspects as well,” Edwards said.

“It was with great sadness when I learnt of his passing.”

The grassroots of the sport were vital to Gordon but he also was connected to the highest levels of racing in Australia.

The late Frank Reys, a legend jockey from FNQ who won the prestigious Melbourne Cup in 1973 aboard Gala Supreme, was a childhood friend of Gordon’s.

“We grew up as kids together, we rode kids’ ponies,” Gordon said in an interview in 2019.

“It was big when he won the Cup. He rode his first winner at Gordonvale in 1949 for Alfred Baker. He went to Brisbane, then to Sydney and down to Melbourne.”

Racing Queensland extends its condolences to the Gordon family.

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