A moving service for Michael and Mary Scudamore


Brough Scott joins the throng at the moving service for Michael and Mary Scudamore in Herefordshire on Tuesday

JULY 2014

THEY carried the coffins. Peter locked in at the back of his father Michael’s. Tom and young Michael, bound together, followed with their grandmother Mary. The sun shone hot on the Herefordshire graveyard. It was as it should be.

From the very beginning you could see this was going to be much, much more than a mere racing celebration for a great and Grand National-winning jockey. This was an affirmation of the country roots of both Michael’s and Mary’s families and a challenge to anyone who gainsayed the timeless values they represent.

The first hymn was All Things Bright and Beautiful. A cabbage-white butterfly flittered by the gravestone of one Hannah Powell who had died on June 27, 1858, aged 74.

Mary Scudamore was 79 when she left us this month on the fourth of July, Michael 81 when he died just three days later. To borrow a line from the Bible, “and in their death they were not divided”.

St David’s, Much Dewchurch, was so full many stood outside in the sunshine or in the yew tree’s blessed shade.

Michael’s great contemporary Stan Mellor was a silver-haired tribute to moments when “men were men and fences were fences”.

Bob Davies, Ken White and John Buckingham would have been others who had viewed Michael as a much-admired older brother, almost an uncle in the saddle.

Graham Thorner rode in that last face-smashing race at Wolverhampton on November 1, 1966, and remembers Terry Biddlecombe shouting to him, “Scu’s had a bad one, a real bad one”.

Jonjo O’Neill, an impressively dark-spectacled Neale Doughty, and certainly Richard Johnson, would probably have missed out on Scudamore the jockey, but they, like all of us, were there to pay respects to the man, and to the woman who stuck beside him.

Tom Scudamore read Rudyard Kipling’s The Glory of the Garden, with its magnificently admonishing couplet: “Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh how beautiful!’ and sitting in the shade.”

In recognition of Wales, we sang “Guide me, O thou great Redeemer.” Nephew James Duffield read from the Hereford-raised poet laureate John Masefield’s famous address on being given the Freedom of the City. ‘Young’ (does he lose that tag now?) Michael started on Ronald Duncan’s poem The Horse, but choked up at the words “nobility without pride, friendship without envy, or beauty without vanity”. They described his grandfather exactly.

It was a reminder of the grief that still engulfed him. On the church wall was a reminder of the triumph of Michael and Mary’s longevity.

For it recorded the fate of the three children of Thomas and Elizabeth Symons in the 1820s. In1823 Frederick died aged seven months, in 1824 Raymond died aged four months and then in 1826 poor little Anna Symons died aged six years four months. When John Williams stepped up to do the eulogy he reminded us quite what a life-force Michael was, and how important Mary had been in keeping him afloat.

John even suggested – what a thought – that “Mary would have already got hold of the keys to the heavenly cellar to stop Biddlecombe and Michael getting out on the loose”.

He spoke of the Scudamores down the ages, back even further than the square Norman towers of St David’s itself. He told of Mary’s early days at Cheltenham Ladies’ College before she was led astray by the dashing cavalier.

He modestly left until last the tale of how he, no midget then or now, had won a two-mile chase on Michael’s Fortina’s Palace at Ascot and afterwards repaired to a tycoon’s house at Ascot where M Scudamore was immediately hailed as a folk hero – and yet treated everyone just the same.

When it was over and our poignant little pilgrimages had been made to the graveside, we repaired up the hill to the Scudamore farm still run by Michael’s older brother Hanley.

At the edge of the marquee Peter waved a hand out at the Black Mountains on the sunlit horizon and said: “This is where I wanted them to be. I am very proud.”

Looking around, he was not the only one.

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