A Carriage to Heaven

By John Gavin

 

Each year in August in the southeast of Queensland the Gold Coast Show is staged over three days. For over thirty years, Stanley Victor John Hinton’s name has been synonymous with the show. Eastern Perspective accompanied Stan and his sons, Wayne and Grant, to the 2003 event.

Assistant Ringmaster of the show

Stan told Eastern Perspective. This was between solving problems for show officials and constantly greeting regular attendees. On the final day, Saturday, he confirmed, “The numbers are up by 20% for Thursday this year and Friday was up by 10%.”

“The show has been staged for 97 years,” Stan explained. “It was originally a one day event, growing to two days and is now three days with a public holiday on Friday, the Show Day.”

Three months later, Stan passed away. His friends and family knew he was slowly fading so the end was not unexpected. As mourners filed into the Church, the organist played the popular music of the thirties and forties. The one-hour-forty-five minute send-off would be a reflection of his life. So many in the congregation, including the Mayor of the Gold Coast, wanted to talk about Stan.

Before the altar, bales of hay were scattered. Timber posts and slip-rails stood at the head of the coffin. Draped over the posts and rails a saddle, bridles, halters; even a horse collar. Carelessly slung on another post was Stan’s trademark white hat.

Family members carried the coffin from the Church. Stan’s sons, Wayne and Grant, were at the foot of coffin; his granddaughters, Sarah and a very pregnant Nicole, took the centre and grandsons Darren and Kim carried the head of the coffin.

Wattle Glen Royal Hope, a fifteen year old, 17.1-hand Bay Clydesdale mare answering to the name of Georgie, belongs to David and Wendy Look. The mare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

from 1971 to 1981, Stan was Ringmaster until his retirement in 2000, when he was made a Show Patron. A prominent sheep and wheat farmer in the western district of Victoria, Stan and his late wife Freda retired to sunny Queensland. For a further thirty years he contributed to the community, the Show Society and many other organizations, particularly those where his immense knowledge of horses could be put to use.

The 2003 show was to be Stan’s last. Sadly, he passed away peacefully on November 27, 2003, not quite two-months

after celebrating his 90th birthday on September 4.

 On the first day of the show, Stan had barely taken Eastern Perspective through the gates when we were invited to a beer tasting. A head brewer with Australia’s famous Carlton United Breweries presented nine individual beers. They were accompanied by an excellently prepared luncheon. The huge windows of the dining hall overlooked the exhibitions and judging in the main ring, a reminder of why we were there.

Lunch over, we were back in the maelstrom of the seething crowds still thronging through the gates as we dodged pedestrians, young and old, prams containing infants, wheel chairs carrying the elderly and infirm, all heading for side-show alley. The blaring of loudspeakers, screeching music and spruikers urging patrons to visit this or that sideshow created an atmosphere all of its own.

The show train loaded with children and adults competed with the miniature fire truck while the three camels sedately placed their great feet close to the toes of show visitors. Did we say camels? Coke, the lead camel, stopped to guzzle a plastic bottle of chocolate flavoured milk.

His head held high the drink trickled down the camel’s long throat. Coke’s placid personality gained him numerous pats, tickles and rubs from young and old, alike.

“The Show keeps on getting better,”

waited patiently as the funeral directors placed the coffin in position on the carriage.  Many years ago Stan helped train Georgie, who was brought out of retirement for the funeral. The Clydesdale was dressed for mourning, her mane platted in black ribbon, tack glistening black with silver trappings flashing in the sun.

The carriage, a simple four wheel spring half-ton lorry had originally been used for hauling sugar cane in North

Queensland. It was built between 1915 and 1920. Its bell was muffled and the deck was draped in black velvet. On this rested Stan's coffin.

Seated high on the funeral carriage, Wendy Look wore a black suit with a fine stripe, an equestrian hat with black gloves; no flesh other than her face was revealed. She carried an ornate carriage whip. Her husband, David, dressed in a black suit topped with a black bowler hat in the style a hundred years gone, waited to lead the small procession away from the church.

At the appropriate signal, David Look walked slowly about twenty feet ahead of the horse and carriage. With her head respectfully bowed, the magnificently groomed Clydesdale sedately carried Stan away from the Church bringing traffic on the main road to a stop.

Someone suggested that as Ringmaster, Stan could not have wished for or arranged better. The send-off for a fine Australian was very fitting and most appropriate.

On January 7, 2004, Stan’s granddaughter Nicole gave birth to a baby boy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editorial Note: A Carriage to Heaven has been published so as to reflect the layout on page 28 of Issue 3-4 of the Eastern Perspective, Oregon USA, the publication in which the story first appeared. 

 

 

 

 

Obituary:

 

William Marion Clifton

(Bill Clifton)

1943-2007

 

Publisher of The Eastern Perspective, The Washington Wine Monthy and other periodicals.

Born California USA August 23, 1944; Died in Athena, Oregon, USA on April 27, 2007.