A Dewsbury Great.
One of a select group of individuals born, bred or living in Dewsbury who have made their mark on their town and country. The Dewsbury Greats have featured in various exhibitions and publications since they were first researched and published in 1992.
Westtown's four stone weakling who raced his way to the top
THE name of Tommy Weston may not ring a bell in the minds of most people today — but in the early 1900s it rang loud and clear throughout the world of horse racing.
It was a name that demanded the attention of kings and queens and earned the respect and admiration of millions of working men throughout the country.
For Dewsbury born Tommy Weston, product of a working-class background, was the local lad who made good in a big, big way.
The four stone weakling from Westtown became a world famous jockey, rubbed shoulders with royalty, mixed with millionaires, earned a fortune and made the old rags to-riches story really come true.
Tommy, who stamped his name many times in sporting books, is best known for his two famous Derby wins - in 1924 on Sansovino and in 1933 on Hyperion.
These were two wins which load punters and bookmakers never forgot. Nearly everyone in the town backed Weston, and one bookie was reputed to have been put out of business by having to pay out so much.
In his heyday Tommy lived in luxury In a large detached house in beautiful surroundings, in Newmarket, not far from the spot where stands a life-sized statue of the world famous Hyperion. Later, Tommy sold his house and moved into a small flat.
Weston and Hyperion are two names which will always be linked In horse racing circles and Tommy’s name will live forever in that part of the world, for a road in Newmarket was named Tommy Weston Way.
Tommy used to be a regular visitor to his home town, staying with his sister, the late Mrs Evelyn Clough, former landlady of the Crackenedge Hotel, or his nephews, Mr Gordon Clough of Bywell Road, and Mr Derek Clough of Bennett Lane.
Old age and failing health did not dim his memories of triumphant victories — the Derby, the St Leger, the Gold Cup. the Oaks, the Ebor Handicap and the 2,000 Guineas.
Ten years of Classic victories
TOMMY left Dewsbury at 14 to try his luck at the Middleham stables and after a month’s trial he signed his indentures. Three months later, he was appointed first jockey to Ned McCormack's stables. At 15 he made his racing debut on Black Crag, but he didn't win — well, not officially.
Tommy later recalled how a cocky young apprentice next to him at the starting gate had boasted that he might not be able to win the race, but at least he would beat Weston.
“How much do you bet?“ Weston asked. “A packet of Woodbines." came the confident reply. Tommy beat him by a neck and claimed his first sporting prize — ten Woodbines!
Shortly afterwards, he attracted the attention of southern racegoers by his handling of Arion to win the “Jubilee" at Kempton Park in 1919.
Four years later came the great turning point in his career. He was given the opportunity to ride for the 17th Earl of Derby and became the leading jockey for the famous House of Stanley. In 1923 he won the St Leger on Tranquil and the Derby the following year on Sansovino.
In the next ten years he rode Classic winners in the famous black and white Derby colours — Colorado. Fairway, Toboggan. Fair Isle — and most famous of all. Hyperion.
Tommy became Champion Jockey in 1926 and could have achieved the title many times over if he had not interrupted his racing career to do war service. He volunteered for the Navy on the first day war broke out in 1939. when he was in his racing prime, and was made a chief petty officer. He was in charge of a motor torpedo boat looking for submarines and narrowly missed death on a number of occasions. While serving in Egypt his boat was sunk and the
wounded Tommy spent days in the water, his body mutilated with fish bites, waiting to be rescued. He faced another ordeal shortly afterwards when the hospital ship taking him home was also sunk.
THE young Tommy Weston, who left St Paulinus school at 13, had to leave his first job at a foundry because he was loo small and not strong enough for the heavy work.
Hopes of becoming an ordinary jockey would have been enough for most boys from his background but Tommy had a certain dash, a determination and natural talent which were to get him to the top in double quick time.
He won his first race at 15 and the Derby when he was 21. In one season alone he won an astonishing 119 races and was placed second or third in more than 200.
He won every Classic race in the calendar, and every Classic race he entered he won first time — a rare achievement.
Tommy's love of horses stemmed from his childhood. His father, Mr Edward Weston, was a drayman in the local railway yards, and Tommy used to help.
Later, he became a chainboy working among the horses himself. He was so small and the horses so big that he could not reach to harness them himself and so his father had to do it.
Getting off a horse was trickier still. He couldn’t get down except by holding on to its tail and sliding down that end — not a good start for a prospective jockey — but Tommy persevered.
ALTHOUGH he counted among his friends millionaires and film stars like the late Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, George Formby and many more. Tommy regularly came back to Dewsbury to visit his old pals.
He would buy a round at his two 'locals', The Irish National Club and the “Sawdust", or to give it its proper name. The Trades and Friendly Club.
He always travelled in a chauffeur driven limousine in an era when only royalty and the very rich travelled that way.
He always made sure he visited the church of his childhood, St Paulinus in Westtown, and tried to make it every Christmas for Midnight Mass
Although Tommy earned a fortune and would almost certainly have been a millionaire if he had been racing today, he shared his wealth to the point of giving nearly all of it away.
But he enjoyed life and gave generously and at the height of his career he spent £2,000 — an impressive sum in the 1920s — on ten paintings, “The Stations of the Cross”, for St Paulinus Church, Dewsbury.
Although his name may be forgotten and his achievements fade into history, this part of Tommy Weston will live on as a silent tribute to one of the world's greatest sports personalities.