Obituary: Sir Harry Llewellyn Bt
Wednesday 17 November 1999
The disastrous first round that morning, in which Foxhunter incurred 16.75 faults and at one stage became perilously close to losing his jockey, was forgotten in the euphoria of victory - except by Harry Llewellyn himself. Many years later he was to recall his anguish after that first-round disappointment in his autobiography, Passports to Life (1980). "I had failed to warm up Foxhunter adequately . . . we were lying only sixth in the Grand Prix des Nations - and it was all my fault. I was shattered."
Afterwards he managed to sleep for an hour (the equable Foxhunter also slumbered peacefully between rounds) before returning to the Finnish arena, thoroughly warmed up and "raring to go", to complete their second round clear, which gave Britain victory.
He insisted that the praise which was heaped upon him during the celebrations which followed was undeserved - for, as he told everyone he met, his two team-mates had achieved better overall scores in the two rounds: Wilf White for a total of eight faults and Duggie Stewart with 16. But it would be the celebrated Welshman's heroic retrieval of a seemingly lost cause that was to go down in equestrian history.
Llewellyn had bought Foxhunter as a six-year-old and went on to win a team bronze medal with him at the Olympic Games in London in 1948. Together they were to win a remarkable total of 78 international competitions (including three victories in the King George V Gold Cup in 1948, 1950 and 1953) before the horse retired in 1956. They remain one of the greatest and best-loved partnerships ever to grace the British show-jumping scene. Foxhunter's name has lived on through the annual championship for novice horses at the Horse of the Year Show (which, in terms of the numbers competing in the preliminary rounds) is the biggest show-jumping contest in the world.
Llewellyn's first great achievements in the horse world were gained as an amateur steeplechase jockey. He won 60 races under National Hunt rules between 1931 and 1950, as well as having two memorable rides in the Grand National on Ego with whom he finished second in 1936 and fourth in 1937.
On the latter occasion he had (as usual) to do battle with his weight, reducing it from 12 stone to 10 stone 4lb with the help of running and dieting. After sweating the last pounds off during a three-mile run on the day before the race (while zipped up in an airman's suit with many layers beneath it) he finally made the weight. Ego, who started favourite, had looked the likely winner until a riderless horse ran across him at the last open ditch, causing him to plunge right through the fence and be brought back to a standstill. It was no mean achievement to finish fourth after that debacle.
In October 1939, shortly after the start of the Second World War, Llewellyn secured a commission in the Warwickshire Yeomanry - mainly, he believed, as the result of the reputation he had gained during his steeplechasing exploits with Ego. He was to take part in several major campaigns and was on General Montgomery's staff from November 1942 until the end of the war in Europe, part of that time as Senior Liaison Officer at Eighth Army headquarters.
He rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, was twice mentioned in Dispatches, and was decorated with the US Legion of Merit and appointed OBE. His services to Wales were later to be rewarded with a knighthood in 1977.
Always debonair and charming, Harry Llewellyn played many roles in the administration of show jumping - among them Chairman of International Affairs, chef d'equipe of the British team, Chairman of the British Show Jumping Association (from 1967 to 1969) and more recently the Honorary Vice-President of the association.
He was chef d'equipe during the Mexico Olympics of 1968, where David Broome appreciated his diplomacy in keeping the team happy. "Once or twice he must have felt like squaring the lot of us, but he resisted the temptation and took the diplomatic way out instead. I've admired him for this ever since."
"Sir Harry was a legend in his own lifetime," says Andrew Finding, the current chief executive of the BSJA. "His was an era of show jumping that to this day we aspire to emulate. His knowledge and experience were second to none."
Henry Morton Llewellyn, show jumper and jockey; born Aberdare, Glamorgan 18 July 1911; OBE 1944, CBE 1953; Kt 1977; succeeded 1978 as third Bt; Chairman, British Show Jumping Association 1967-69; married 1944 The Hon Christine Saumarez (died 1998; two sons, one daughter); died Llanarth, Monmouthshire 15 November 1999.
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 2 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 3 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
- 4 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
- 5 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
Better Call Saul creator Peter Gould on the creative concerns of a prequel, season 2 and the mind-numbing realities of the small courts
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Doctor Who film will definitely happen, leaked Sony emails reveal
Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens trailer: Luke Skywalker's bionic hand sends fans into a frenzy
The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer has leaked – watch
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
General Election 2015: Polish prince challenges Nigel Farage to a duel over immigration question