1851(?) - 13 August 1894
Tom Corrigan was the greatest Australian jockey of his day. His record speaks for itself. From 788 starts, Corrigan achieved
- 238 wins including 7 Grand Nationals, 3 VRC Grand National Steeplechases and one VRC Grand National Hurdle
- 135 seconds
- 95 thirds
Even in the late nineteenth century, Melbourne was sports mad and the Irish-born Corrigan with his distinctive moustache and aggressive riding style was a popular hero. Other jockeys did not get to see the moustache much during a race - just the back of his green and white jacket
In the depression of the 1890s, betting on the horses provided a faint glimmer of hope to those doing it tough that one day they might just 'win up big' on the horses. In this atmosphere Tom Corrigan was to become a hero of the masses in the same way that Pharlap would in later tough times.
Corrigan fell to his death while riding 'Waiter' in the Grand National Steeplechase at Caulfield. His funeral was a large public occasion and the newspapers of the day tell us that the procession was two miles long and was led by 100 jockeys and trainers. Maybe not all those jockeys were sad to see him go.
Tom Corrigan memorabilia including his riding whip can be viewed in the Australian Racing Museum in Melbourne.
YOU talk of riders on the flat, of nerve and pluck and paceï¿½
Not one in fifty has the nerve to ride a steeplechase.
Itï¿½s right enough, while horses pull and take their fences strong,
To rush a flier to the front and bring the field along;
But what about the last half-mile, with horses blown and beatï¿½
When every jump means all you know to keep him on his feet.
When any slip means sudden deathï¿½with wife and child to keepï¿½
It needs some nerve to draw the whip and flog him at the leapï¿½
But Corrigan would ride them out, by danger undismayed,
He never flinched at fence or wall, he never was afraid;
With easy seat and nerve of steel, light hand and smiling face,
He held the rushing horses back, and made the sluggards race.
He gave the shirkers extra heart, he steadied down the rash,
He rode great clumsy boring brutes, and chanced a fatal smash;
He got the rushing Wymlet home that never jumped at allï¿½
But clambered over every fence and clouted every wall.
You should have heard the cheers, my boys, that shook the membersï¿½ stand
Whenever Tommy Corrigan weighed out to ride Lone Hand.
They were, indeed, a glorious pairï¿½the great upstanding horse,
The gamest jockey on his back that ever faced a course.
Though weight was big and pace was hot and fences stiff and tall,
ï¿½You follow Tommy Corriganï¿½ was passed to one and all.
And every man on Ballarat raised all he could command
To put on Tommy Corrigan when riding old Lone Hand.
But now weï¿½ll keep his memory green while horsemen come and go;
We may not see his like again where silks and satins glow.
Weï¿½ll drink to him in silence, boysï¿½heï¿½s followed down the track
Where many a good man went before, but never one came back.
And, let us hope, in that far land where the shades of brave men reign,
The gallant Tommy Corrigan will ride Lone Hand again.
- The text of Tommy Corrigan and many other Banjo Paterson poems can be found on the excellent website WORDS.
- John Ritchie, 'Corrigan, Tom (1851? - 1894)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, Melbourne University Press, 1969, pp 465-466.