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F C THOMAS: Pioneer Racing Journalist


Born in Christchurch, Mr Fredrick Charles Thomas, writer of the series of articles, "Importations from the Beginning," is today probably the oldest sporting journalist in the Dominion.

As a youth the glamour of the sea, stimulated by a fondness of Clark Russell's thrilling sea stories, influenced him in making a trip to England and back under sail, but the wretched conditions then prevailing on old-fashioned "windjammers" made one round voyage more than sufficient.

In the mid 'eighties, young Thomas joined the commercial staff of the Christchurch Press Company, whose business premises were then situated in a diapidated wooden building in Cashel Street. A fondness for all classes of sport, especially racing and trotting, resulted in his taking a position as assistant sporting writer on "The Press and Referee," under the coaching of that doyen of sporting journalists, the late Joseph Chadwick. At that time the sport of trotting received little attention in the columns of local papers, and Mr Thomas was the first to bring it into prominence by devoting a special column to its development.

Writing under the nom de plume of "Templar," his articles did much to increase interest in the sport. In 1913 Mr Thomas severed his connection with "The Press" with the idea of seeing what scope the American papers offered for journalists. During four months travel throughout the States he attended several grand curcuit meetings, and saw most of America's show places. On returning to New Zealand, Mr Thomas joined up with "The Sun" when it first started, and remained until the early 1920's. Since then he has contributed many 'specials' to different papers, not only in the Dominion, but also in America and Australia.

Early in his journalistic career, Mr Thomas, at a moments notice, had the position of handicapper to the Canterbury Park (then Plumpton Park) Trotting Club, almost forced upon him through an unfortunate disagreement between the Club and its former official during the progress of a meeting. For about 30 years he continued to officiate for the club, and he was still acting when the new system of handicapping came into force. Other Clubs that Mr Thomas officiated for were the Methven Trotting Club, New Brighton Trotting Club, Marlborough Trotting Club, Hawera Trotting Club, Wellington Trotting Club and the South Wairarapa Trotting Club. He has also handicapped for several galloping clubs, including 17 years service to the Geraldine Racing Club.

From his youth Mr Thomas was a keen participant in many outdoor sports, notably yachting, football, rowing, and tennis, while today he is a regular player of bowls at the United Club's green.

Mr Thomas's name will probably be remembered by future generations of light-harness breeders through his compiling of the earliest Trotting Stud Books. This work, which he carried on for over 20 years, was a tough proposition, as records of early importations were scanty and unreliable. His lengthy efforts in this direction laid a solid foundation on which the present compilers have been enabled to bring out a more complete work.

Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 20Sep44

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