Gordon Brown: Sam Morshead touched the lives of so many

Thu 27 Sep 2018

By Gordon Brown

Even in such a sad time it's hard to think of Sam Morshead without raising a smile.

His passing, at the all-too-young age of 63, was no surprise as he had been battling serious illness for several years.

But he touched the lives of so many people and the Perth management reckon the attendance at Wednesday's fixture, less than 24 hours after his death, was boosted substantially due to so many racing fans wanting to come and pay their respects.

It was fitting, also, because he had done so much for Perth where he totally transformed the fortunes of Britain's most northernly venue during a 27-year tenure as general manager.

And it was a day, too, when his old chairman and close ally David Whitaker, the man that rubber-stamped Sam's visions, was remembered with the third renewal of his own memorial race.

 Fomer Jumps jockey and Perth general manager Sam Morshead has died, aged 63
Fomer Jumps jockey and Perth general manager Sam Morshead has died, aged 63

My own first encounter with the maverick former jump jockey, with over 400 winners this name, came 30 years ago when he was a trainee clerk of the course at Ayr.

He admitted himself it involved a steep learning curve but this was a not-to-be underestimated Irishman determined to make a real fist of his new career.

One of his early brainchilds at Perth was the conception of a three-day festival in April and I well recall the celebratory cartwheel he performed in the old winners' enclosure in the aftermath of its successful conclusion back in 1989.

He used to tell me he "played at being a jockey" thinking he could do it but "obviously couldn't." Crucially he added that when he arrived at Perth he didn't think that he would be able to manage the job but soon found that he was blessed with the ability to get others to do things for him. "I could 'talk the talk'!" he explained.

And that gift of the gab wasn't confined to epic Perth family day commentaries of duck or ferret races, as an understandably subdued BHA chairman Steve Harman related to me at the races on Wednesday.

"After being recently appointed I got a letter from Sam and the first two or three sentences welcomed me into the new job," he said. "But then there were four or five pages telling me what he wanted done!

"He subsequently checked up on what had and hadn't been attended to and was an inspirational figure that will be sorely missed."

Sam clearly knew he was gravely ill and a source reveals he recently went into an eatery to book a meal for a dozen or so people. He wanted a proper feast with fresh lobster and all the trimmings. However, when the manager asked for a date for the occasion Sam replied: "I'm not quite sure as it’s for my own wake!"

He also loved telling the tale of one fog-shrouded day at Chepstow during his riding days.

"Visibility was almost nil and we didn't want to ride but the officials said the show must go on,” he recalled with relish.

“We got away with murder that day as we by-passed all the fences down the back and everything in the home straight except the last! The time was pretty fast but no one was any the wiser and we had a great chuckle afterwards.”

As I said on the mic in the paddock on the day after his death: ‘Sam Morshead, gone but not forgotten - especially at Perth’

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