A BUGLE in Kempsey Museum which was used on the Armidale-Port Macquarie Mail Coach is linked to Tommy Woodcock, the strapper of Australia's most famous racehorse, Phar Lap.
The bugle was donated to our collection in 2014 and was used on the Armidale-Port Macquarie Mail Coach in the early 1900's.
The bugle was owned by Aaron Treve Woodcock, a mail coach driver who lived at Bellbrook.
Aaron was the driver of the Armidale to Port Macquarie mail coach which passed through the Bellbrook relay station before stopping at Kempsey then Port Macquarie.
Aaron Treve Woodcock was born in Ryde, Sydney around 1873.
His presence on the Upper Macleay might be explained by the marriage in 1896 of his elder sister Mary Gaden Woodcock to Alfred ('App') Davis, the licensee of the Merriwa (later Uralgurra Hotel) and afterwards the Bellbrook Hotel.
Aaron married Annie Smith in Sydney also in 1896 and had moved to the Macleay by 1905 when Aaron Junior was born there, the third of their four children.
He was better known as Tommy, the handler of the racehorse Phar Lap.
App's father, Henry Davis, had established a hotel four miles (eight kilometres) downstream from Bellbrook at Uralgurra in 1888 which became a staging post and centre of a thriving village.
The importance of Uralgurra waned with improvements to the road between Kempsey and Armidale, ironically made by Henry Davis who had the contract to put in the cuttings.
Bellbrook then became the major population centre on the Upper Macleay.Aaron was injured when a heavy piece of luggage fell on him and injured his shoulder, according to his grandson, John.
He was unable to continue his occupation as coach driver and moved his family to Port Macquarie around 1911, where he became involved in the fishing industry.
He passed away there in 1952.
The bugle was used in the event of problems such as robbery, and also as a signal coming into relay stations that fresh horses were required.
Inns or change stations were located along coach routes where fresh horses replaced tired ones.
A bugle carried on the coach was always blown as the coach approached the inn or change station and was a familiar sound as the coach approached the town.
Change stations were usually fifteen to thirty miles apart, where fresh horses replaced tired ones. Every driver had his own call, so the groom knew which team of horses to have ready.
This system meant that changeovers could occur as quickly as possible and the coach could continue on its way.
Tommy Woodcock started up a career as a jockey in Port Macquarie and later in Sydney but became a groom when he could not keep to his weight commitments.
Tommy was working for Randwick trainer Harry Telford in 1928 when he took an interest in a yearling Telford had purchased named Phar Lap.
Tommy established a strong bond with Phar Lap and was appointed his full time stable foreman and strapper.
After a succession of spectacular wins in Australia including the 1930 Melbourne Cup, Phar Lap was taken to the United States to race there with Tommy Woodcock as his trainer.
It was there in 1932 that the horse tragically sickened and died.
Tommy Woodcock passed away at Yarrawonga in Victoria in 1985.
Also making the news:
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: