THE COSY ambience of the Jockey Club rooms was guaranteed to be violently disturbed every Friday morning, the day David Llewellyn penned his weekly 'Jack Logan' column in the Sporting Life, writes Julian Muscat. For here was an Eton and Cambridge graduate who had positively rounded on the club's privileged inhabitants with a venom they had never experienced. Many of them were never to forgive him, a fact which Llewellyn seemed to enjoy.
His journalistic contribution to the affairs of the industry marked the moment that successive generations of racing writers abandoned their inhibitions in criticising the all-powerful Jockey Club, which has now been cornered into diluting much of its previously unchallenged and complacent authority. In that respect Llewellyn was undisputedly the most significant racing commentator since the war.
As in his political career, he championed the cause of those on the floor of racing's pyramid, particularly stable lads, who have him largely to thank both for their improved working conditions and the annual mechanism for their pay settlement. Yet in spite of recent advances in that field, stable staff remain hugely underpaid when it is considered that their specialist skills are the basis for horses achieving valuations into seven figures.
Llewellyn took over the Jack Logan column in 1965 and established a style that made him obligatory reading. He enjoyed nothing better than to irritate those in clubland, but there was never anything vindictive in his criticism. His campaigns often centred on the safety of those participating in the sport, such as the replacement of concrete posts at racecourses with plastic alternatives and the compulsory wearing of hard hats when on horseback. He once publicly admonished the Queen when a picture was published of her in the saddle with no protective headgear.
Llewellyn was, in a sense, racing's only watchdog, and he went about his task with great modesty. In 27 years he never accepted the offer of a press badge, which would have allowed him free admission to the races. Nor did he once visit the press room, keeping a healthy distance from everyone connected with the sport. But perhaps the best illustration of his loathing of attention came when his colleagues at the Sporting Life forwarded his name as a candidate for the accolade of Racing Journalist of the Year. On hearing of this, Llewellyn exploded with fury at the perpetrators in a manner they had never witnessed - before or since.
Naturally, his abrasive pen made him many enemies, but he never wavered from the task. He said he found his career as a writer about racing child's play compared to his political life, finding his adversaries less endearing. Unpopular causes appealed to him even if he could be repetitive to the point of nagging. Yet his persistence was the key to many a successful cause, to the benefit of the underprivileged in racing.
There is no doubt Llewellyn etched out the cracks in what had been the sheer stone wall of the Jockey Club. That some of it has now come away is undoubtedly healthy for the future of the sport; the disturbing thing is that there is no obvious successor to his cause.
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