She was much, much more than a good deed in a naughty world. Doreen Rackham was as near a saint as our little universe is likely to provide.
In the last few weeks scores of us have filed into her bedroom at Oaksey House in search of one last glimpse of that very special smile. To think of Doreen is to sense that smile and all the goodness that it carried in its wake. Politicians can talk of The Big Society. In Lambourn, Doreen Rackham lived it.
Never can a village postmistress have so perfectly fitted the stage ideal. Doreen knew everyone and cared for them all, most especially those least able to care for themselves. In Lambourn this meant stable staff and her own experience made her appreciate how easy it was for depression to bite when those first jockey dreams began to founder. Few professions anywhere can have had a hutch mother so devoted as Doreen was for those who worked in racing, and no hotshot was ever such a certainty as she was for an honour at the inaugural “Pride of Racing Awards” six years ago.
But she never worked for fame and certainly not for money. She did it for the simple satisfaction of making someone else’s lot a happier one. By its very nature our game has a generous supply of attention seekers but here was someone who did not want you to bandy her name around, she wanted you to try and join her in helping others.
It meant that meeting her was not just a pleasure but an inspiration. This little bird like figure flitting from spot to spot at those original “Lambourn Superstars”, coming on the phone for help at one of her Christmas dinners, or trotting up in the village with news of someone in trouble. When she came to live in Oaksey House in the last year, her cancer operation meant that talking was very difficult. But her hands and smile would still sing a song that all of us will remember.
It was 6 days ago that I saw her for the last time. She looked like my mother had just before the end so many years ago. Her friend Jackie Porter called out that I had come and from somewhere deep in her journey Doreen’s eyes flickered open and that lovely smile very briefly lit the room. I held her hand but the moment was through and just the breathing kept us on. Her mothering days would soon be over.
Afterwards I went to ex jockey Aly Branford’s flat across the way and let the tears run as we remembered her. There will be a lot of tears in Lambourn this week. They will be to mourn Doreen Rackham’s passing but most of all they will be in tribute to the love she brought and the good she did. May all the saints do the honours now.