Search

Mustard video: Norfolk MP buys back father’s Grand National trophy

12:13 17 February 2013

MP George Freeman

MP George Freeman's father clears the last fence on his way to winning the 1958 Grand National on Mr What. Photograph Simon Parker

Archant

It stands a foot high, dates from 1958 and records a famous Grand National victory, but for one Norfolk politician it signifies something much deeper – a physical link to the dad he did not know as a child.

So when Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman heard the trophy commemorating his father Arthur’s triumph in the world’s most famous horse race was about to be auctioned – and could end up being melted down – he decided he had to save it.

Arthur Freeman was born in 1926 and came from a long line of huntsmen. He rode for the Queen Mother for several years in the 1950s – a role inherited by Dick Francis – but 1958 was the year of greatest triumph. He had previously taken part in six Nationals but did not have a ride that year until he was drafted in at the last minute to ride Mr What.

The race was dramatic, and one newspaper report said: “It was well that a strong and accomplished jockey had been chosen, for Mr What hit the last fence hard. His hind legs went up into the air and he was twisted awkwardly.

“The crowd on the stands gasped and roared as they saw it, but Freeman, a survivor of hundreds of such incidents, balanced himself in the air and braced back, never losing the contact between the saddle and his boots.

“Mr What, a courageous, natural jumper, took the shock on his forelegs, pricked his ears, and galloped on.”

He went on to win by 30 lengths, a stunning margin. But the day was also memorable for more personal reasons, as he and his wife-to-be became engaged that evening.

George was born in 1967, the youngest of three brothers.

He said: “After my parents divorced shortly after I was born, I grew up not knowing my father. For years, my only contact was the Letts Sporting Diary list of sporting winners which I looked forward to every year until his name passed off the bottom of the list.”

Mr Freeman was 16 when he met his father again, at Kempton Park, to watch his eldest brother, Edward, in his first race. His father died in 1988, but 20 years later his family and friends gathered at Aintree to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his most famous achievement.

George said: “Like so many jockeys of the generation when jump jockeys took their lives in their hands every afternoon, and in particular when the Grand National fences were much bigger and tougher obstacles than today, he suffered from many bad falls and like many jockeys was wonderfully looked after by the Injured Jockeys Fund.”

The MP has since been collecting memorabilia from his father’s career, and a photograph of him and Mr What clearing the final fence of the 1958 Grand National is one of many that line the corridor of his home.

Mr Freeman said: “When Marcus Armytage, the Telegraph’s racing correspondent, who himself won the race as an amateur, told me that the trophy from father’s race was up for auction I initially

put in a reserve bid to ensure the trophy did not go, as so many do, for smelting.

“But then the heart took over the head and I ended up in a bidding auction to buy it back. I have never done an auction before, and the bids seemed to fly by.

“It was a very nice and rather special feeling to hear the auctioneer beat the gavel and announce ‘Sold to the Freemans. It’s coming home’.

“It may prove to be a terrible investment, but for me it’s a priceless chance to re-connect with my absent father’s greatest triumph.”

He added: “Now, with two children of my own, I want them to grow up with a sense of their heritage, and I am always on the lookout for any memorabilia of dad’s career.”

COMMENT – Page 34

martin.george@archant.co.uk

4 comments

  • Is there no limit to the talents of this tedious bore's family? And why is the EDP giving column inches to this sort of non-story? What's next, Chloe Smith's life story? God help us!

    Report this comment

    Police Commissioner ???

    Sunday, February 17, 2013

  • Is there no limit to the talents of this tedious bore's family? And why is the EDP giving column inches to this sort of non-story? What's next, Chloe Smith's life story? God help us!

    Report this comment

    Police Commissioner ???

    Sunday, February 17, 2013

  • I wonder how much he paid? His party aren't short on cash. One Tory paid £100,000 last week for a portrait of David Cameron!

    Report this comment

    JO

    Sunday, February 17, 2013

  • What a nice story. He almost seems human. So different to his nauseating lunge for the front page by cynically exploiting a fatal road traffic accident on the A47 last week.

    Report this comment

    Mr Cameron Isaliar

    Monday, February 18, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

Other news

Yesterday, 16:21
John Cheketts with one of the wardens' new radios.

Flood wardens in Wells took to the streets today try out new equipment.

Yesterday, 12:04
Brian Sayer with his J69 engine at the exhibition. Picture: Matthew Usher.

The show, which was the first to be organised by the Friends of Dereham Memorial Hall, filled the venue with layouts of all shapes and sizes and stalls selling second hand trains and other essentials.

Saturday, February 28, 2015
Norman Lamb MP visited Alderman Peel High School in Wells. Picture: Ian Burt

Education chiefs have agreed to fund a therapist for children suffering mental health problems at a north Norfolk high school, while money from the government’s pupil premium is increasing opportunities for those from poorer backgrounds.

Saturday, February 28, 2015
Starry skies pics by Steve Burbidge - Binham

A spinning starry sky swirls like a giant vinyl record behind a north Norfolk landmark.

Most Read

Thursday, February 19, 2015
An Abellio Greater Anglia train at Norwich railway station. 
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The competition to find the next operator of East Anglia’s railways officially began today, with bidders being asked to cut journey times between London and Norwich to 90 minutes.

Read more
Thursday, February 5, 2015
A further £15.4m could be spent to improve cycling in Norwich. Photo: Tim Ireland/PA

A further £15.4m could be spent to transform another 20 miles of cycle paths in and around Norwich, after council officers lodged a bid to secure government cash.

Read more
Yesterday, 16:21
John Cheketts with one of the wardens' new radios.

Flood wardens in Wells took to the streets today try out new equipment.

Read more
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Ian Westbrook from 3D Creations with part of the custom made scenery they are going to install on new super holiday cruise ship in Venice.

Picture: James Bass

Staff at Gorleston-based 3D Creations have been involved in a race against time to complete a £150,000 contract to fit out the theatre of a new £500m cruise liner.

Read more
Friday, February 27, 2015
Police would like to speak to this man about the theft of alcohol from Morrisons in Fakenham.

They’ve released a CCTV image of a man they would like to speak to in connection with the theft of alcohol from a supermarket in the town.

Read more

Local Weather

Sunny

Sunny

max temp: 5°C

min temp: 2°C

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Fakenham and Wells Times e-edition today E-edition