Farewell Phar Lap

Title:
Farewell Phar Lap
NFSA ID:
9125
Year:
1932
Category:
Access fees

This newsreel, His Last Post, made the year of Phar Lap's death, was probably made to give people a chance to grieve 'Australia's greatest horse'. Unemployment was at an all-time high and the worst of The Great Depression was taking its toll on Australians. The whole nation was bereft at the loss of their lucky Phar Lap of whom they were so proud.

If the music doesn't make you tear up, the sequence where Phar Lap plays chasey with his beloved strapper-cum-trainer Tommy Woodcock might. Many of the shots were taken from Paulette McDonagh's The Mighty Conqueror (1931). 

Since Phar Lap's death on 5 April 1932 there have been numerous theories surrounding his death. The notion that he died from an equine virus has since been disproved; in 2006, scientists discovered that it was almost certain Phar Lap was poisoned with arsenic. Whether that arsenic came from a feed additive, a tonic for horses which contained arsenic, a pest spray used at the stables where he was staying, or whether he was poisoned by gangsters feeling threatened by his prowess, we will most probably never know for sure.

At the conclusion of the newsreel the narrator says with great feeling:

'Farewell Phar Lap. You've entered on the last and farthest lap of all. The mightiest horse ever to come out of Australia has gone to the same dust as that of the lowliest hackney of the hansom cab. In a few months he would have topped the prize lists of the world. Now he has gone to a happy hunting ground where the jockey's whip is never raised and where the grass is always green. Soon he will have become just a tradition of the turf and those red devil's legs, those extraordinary engines of power and beauty which carried him to 37 wins, will flash down the straight only in men's memories. 

'But Phar Lap, the inspiration and the memory will live forever in the world of horses wherever a flying chestnut stirs the blood of human beings. He took it like a gentleman and he died like a thoroughbred. That is the epitaph his stable has given him. Farewell Phar Lap, you have passed the last winning post of all. The great judge has hoisted up your number and we in the grandstand can only say one thing and - the simplest and proudest thing of all - "he was a good horse".'

Sad music is shown over images of Phar Lap while he was alive. Close-ups of his sleek, muscly body, and images of him playing with his strapper-cum-trainer Tommy Woodcock.

The narrator says with great feeling:

'Farewell Phar Lap. You've entered on the last and farthest lap of all. The mightiest horse ever to come out of Australia has gone to the same dust as that of the lowliest hackney of the hansom cab.

In a few months he would have topped the prize lists of the world. Now he has gone to a happy hunting ground where the jockey's whip is never made and where the grass is always green.

Soon he will have become just a tradition of the turf and those red devil's legs, those extraordinary engines of power and beauty which carried him to 37 wins will flash down the straight only in men's memories.

But Phar Lap, the inspiration and the memory will live forever in the world of horses wherever a flying chestnut stirs the blood of human beings.

He took it like a gentleman and he died like a thoroughbred. That is the epitaph his stable has given him.

Farewell Phar Lap, you have passed the last winning post of all. The great judge has hoisted up your number and we in the grandstand can only say one thing and - the simplest and proudest thing of all - 'he was a good horse''.