The Strapper (and the four days Phar Lap spent in Albury) – Write around the Murray Day 1 cont’d

One of the great aspects of the Write around the Murray festival is the surprising pieces of information that surface during the many and varied sessions.

A few festivals ago, Susan Duncan was the festival finale speaker. During her talk it emerged that, as a child, she had been at Bonegilla migrant camp outside Wodonga. That little piece of information was nowhere in her bio.

At last night’s event to launch the exhibition at the Albury LibraryMuseum, The Strapper, we found out that legendary racing horse Phar Lap had spent four days in Albury at Sodens Hotel at the corner of Swift and David Streets.

Under instruction from the trainer, Harry Telford, Woodcock travelled to Albury by train and during the four days he was here walked the horse around the streets of Albury.

“No one in Albury asked who the horse was,” Woodcock said. “They wouldn’t know a good horse if they seen one.”

And how do we know that this is what Woodcock said? Because after he retired, Woodcock moved to Yarrawonga, and after a chance meeting with Jan ‘Yarn’ Wositzky, he sat with ‘Yarn’ and recorded the story of his unique relationship with the horse.


Jan ‘Yarn’ Wositzky with the photo he took of Tommy Woodcock. The photo is part of The Strapper exhibition at the LibraryMuseum until September 15.

His words are also echoed in this 2009 interview by ABC Goulburn Murray’s Allison Jess and the then licensee of Sodens Hotel, Nick Willoughby. You can read more about the hotel as a popular stop off point for horses and listen to the interview here.

As part of the launch, ‘Yarn’ retold that story interspersing it with audio of Woodcock. Woodcosk’s retelling of Phar Lap’s last hours was incredibly emotional.

There were also a number of firsts for the Albury LibraryMuseum, when the beautiful quarter horse, Perkins, was led in by Wayne Hinchliffe, then through poetry and song we heard Australian Voices present and past in the words of Banjo Paterson and a song about their town by Mitta Mitta’s ‘The Smith Sisters’. Maddie Smith had earlier lead the audience in singing Advance Australia Fair – the first and second verses (The voices from the audience trailed off during verse 2.)

Maddie and Emma Smith (Emma on Horse)

Mitta Mitta’s The Smith Sisters sang of their home town.

Wayne Hinchliffe related his life story, including his time with Tommy Woodcock. Hinchliffe had aspirations to be a footballer or a boxer, but ended up being a strapper to many horses including Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane Cup winner, Reckless.

The Hinchliffe family run The Stockyard near Yarrawonga aimed at giving people an experience of an iconic country way of life.   The Strapper, is an exhibition of memorabilia and photographs of the mighty Phar Lap, bequeathed to the Hinchcliffe family by Phar Lap’s strapper, Tommy Woodcock. You can find out more about the exhibition here.

It continues at the LibraryMuseum until 15 September, 2013.

the Write around the Murray Festival continues until Sunday, 8 September. Download a program here.


About Robyne Young

Writer, creative writing teacher, editor, columnist. Literary lover. Short story collections, The Only Constant and The Basket and the Briefcase available via website.
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4 Responses to The Strapper (and the four days Phar Lap spent in Albury) – Write around the Murray Day 1 cont’d

  1. Jo says:

    Hi Robyne,
    I was in the audience at the WAM event when Susan Duncan spoke.
    She was so generous about her information on her background and writing experiences but I agree with you – the surprise in her talk were her memories of Albury growing up – and her stories about having problems at the borders with fruit. As an audience member it was hard to believe that she hadn’t been selected to come to the festival because of her connections with Albury…

  2. Hi Jo 🙂
    I was in the audience too and as the coordinator of the festival at the time and the person who invited her was a bit embarrassed. As you know I pride myself on doing my homework, but there was nothing in her bio, nor did she mention it during any of our many chats. She was such a delight to have here.
    Will we see you this festival? I’m having a great time blogging the events and tonight and going to read a poem or two (or maybe three) at The Poets’ Loft. Looking forward to seeing some of the Wagga gang. Just writing up last night’s events. I hope you’re enjoying ‘visiting’ the festival.
    Robyne x

  3. Margaret McDonald says:

    Hi Robyne, I wasn’t able to make it to WAM this year. A big disappointment. It is very pleasing to read your blog and know that the Festival is thriving and growing. Hopefully, next year family events won’t prevent me from attending. Good to hear from you.
    Margaret McDonald

    • Hello Margaret, How lovely to hear from you. I did notice you weren’t there and have had every intention of emailing you. I’m glad you enjoyed the blog. As I was going to be there I thought it would be fun to do – and it was. I’m happily living in Sydney and seven weeks away from completing an MA in Cultural and Creative Practice. I’ll drop you an email in the next few days to catch you up with news. All the best, Robyne

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