Skuthorpe Accepts the Challenge

© Chris Woodland

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Probably the biggest and most well attended performance of Martini’s Buckjumping Show was on 16 March when the so-called Professor Skuthorpe accepted Martini’s £100 challenge to ride the notorious Bobs. Part of the agreement was a challenge between Waite and Skuthorpe. Both were to ride three horses each, Waite’s horses to be supplied by Skuthorpe and Skuthorpe’s to be from Martini’s mob, one of which was to be Bobs.

Unfortunately the proprietor of the show and Skuthorpe had not settled on the details of the event before the historic ride began. Most of the evening was taken up by a lack of agreement on the saddle Skuthorpe could use. Martini would not accept Skuthorpe’s own saddle as he claimed that the kneepads of the saddle were lined with steel and over the limit. While Martini informed the audience with his megaphone of these problems the spectators took sides. Some believed that the challenger was handicapped and others believed that Waite was handicapped because of the light, non-padded saddle he would be using.

The crowd was getting more restless as the argument progressed, eventually subsiding to some degree when Skuthorpe asked if there was a saddler present. A saddler emerged from the audience and he, Skuthorpe and one of Martini’s men caught a hansom cab to a saddlery in George Street, returning with one that had been made by a Bondi saddler.

According to author Jack Pollard, Skuthorpe returned with the approved saddle, sat the cabbie two seats away from the Governor, Sir Henry Rawson, and entered the ring wearing the cabbie’s cap to the delight of the audience. The light heartedness of the crowd was only temporary, as they soon resumed their anger as the time was getting late and most would miss their last transport home. A couple got into the ring with violent intentions but were quickly ejected by Martini’s men.

Eventually Waite entered the ring in his usual flamboyant manner, vaulting over the top sliprail. Of Waite, Sydney’s Evening News commented:

Waite, at 23 and about 13 stone [about 83 kilos], is in the heyday of his life, and as active as a panther, a gift he is never disposed to hide under a bushel as he distains to crawl through the sliprails and jumps from the ground into the saddle on a bucking horse. He is as clever as a fox terrier, a first-class horseman.

Waite rode the three horses that Skuthorpe had selected for the competition. The only trouble with the first horse, a yellow bay, was that it was touchy around the head as Jigger Lavell had trouble bridling the horse. Drawing on all the tactics of his experience Waite could not get the horse to buck and the second prad was little better. The third horse gave Waite troubles and provided the audience with some welcome excitement.

Then it was Skuthorpe’s turn, the famed rider who was renowned for his agility and balance in the pigskin was attempting to add to his already illustrious career. Yet again there was disagreement, this time Martini didn’t approve of Dick Skuthorpe, Lance’s younger brother, saddling the outlaw. This difference was soon settled and Bobs, the outlaw from Bryamine, was led into the ring.

The following complete text from the Referee of Wednesday March 21, (using incorrect spelling for the contestant’s name, as it was often spelt,) describes the event:

On Saturday evening there was great excitement over a contest in the riding of buckjumpers between Professor Skuthorp, a Queensland champion of the pigskin, and Billy Waite the clever rough-rider attached to Martini’s show, which has been running to good business for some weeks at Christ Church school grounds, opposite the new railway station entrance. It was a special draw, and the public gathered in force to see the contest. All the benches were full, and the crowd expected something lively.

After a lot of preliminary wrangling between the principals, Martini and Skuthorp, over the dimensions of Skuthorp’s saddle, and much waste of time, Martini eventually waived the point. Waite rode in his usual saddle of an ordinary hunting pattern, whilst Skuthorp’s was a light variety of the ordinary buckjumper’s saddle. Waite rode three horses supplied by his opponent. They were each varminty and wicked in their ways.

It took a long time to saddle and bridle them. Then they were found very ordinary actors in the bucking line. Billy Waite put them through in quite a comfortable manner, one after the other, and received an ovation. Then Bobs was produced, and Skuthorp duly got seated. The champion outlaw gave one of his finest performances, with varieties of high, twist and side screwing, but Professor Skuthorp never even lost a rather finished style of seat, and never looked like being shifted at any part of the bout.

When Bobs was tired he dismounted amid uproarious applause. He declined to ride the other two horses, and allowed Waite to claim the wager, depending on the verdict of three judges as to which was the best horseman. He said all he wanted to do was to ride Bobs, whilst Martini again made the claim that no man could ride his champion in a fair hunting saddle. It was an exciting show, marred only by long-winded delay over the terms mentioned.

To-night there is to be a novel contest between Captain Reynolds and Curley Jarvis on bucking mules.

It was almost 11.30 pm when the spectators emptied the crowded arena where the vanquished Bobs finally met his conqueror. One wonders how many had missed the last train, tram or ferry.

Four days after the riding of Bobs, Skuthorpe was quoted in the press as saying:

I rode Martini’s buckjumper Bobs on Saturday night easily in a saddle with 3-inch knee pads.

The two greatest of Australian buckjumpers, Skuthorpe and Waite, obviously shared a deep respect for each other; a mutual admiration that would last. It was apparent that Martini and Skuthorpe did not share the same friendliness, though the future would still see them combine for other events.

A typical advertisement in the Sydney Daily Telegraph during Martini’s protracted stay in Sydney.

By April Martini had been filling seats at the Christ Church venue for five months. Bobs was still attracting would-be riders, despite having been mastered by Professor Skuthorpe, whose fame had increased even further. Waites remained the star of the show.

Before his ATTRACTIVE EASTER PROGRAMME Martini introduced an amateur buckjumping competition, and began exhibiting the now crippled, but legendary, Dargan’s Grey, to reverent audiences, and reported that 17 boys were thrown from one pony one evening.

Martini was advertising widely for the coming Easter (Good Friday was on 13 April), including the news that Dargin’s Grey would be trucked by train down from Toowoomba along with a grey Arab buckjumper from the same area in Queensland. Tom O’Sullivan would be supplying three outlaws from the Kangaroo Valley.

Easter proved to be another huge triumph for Martini and the shows could not provide enough seating. It was stated that it was doubtful if any Easter Saturday held a better record for attendance and success.

Later in April it was advertised that a Miss Farrington, of Adelong, would be riding outlaws at Martin’s Buckjumping Show. Before that event a young lad by the name of Edward Hill, of Pyrmont, received concussion when a pony threw him to the ground. He was taken to the Sydney Hospital for treatment, but seems to have survived the injury as there was no follow up by the press.
Mrs Farrington performed in late April and:

… gave an excellent display of riding on Kruger. Bobs, as usual was supreme among the outlaws and threw all comers.

Astonishingly, Miss Farrington rode in a side-saddle. She featured many nights with Martini’s show, along with such renowned riders as the Dempsey brothers, Waite and Jack Prendergast. All in all, it was, as one correspondent noted:

Martin’s Buckjumping show is bucking along successfully.