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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Colin "Chicka" Pearson - a racing legend

In the lead up to the Batemans Bay and Districts Past and Present Town Reunion being held on May 6th Leah Burke brings us the story of Chicka Pearson....a real Character Colin "Chicka" Pearson was born in Sydney to parents Charlie and Florence Pearson. At the age of four the family left Sydney and moved to Batemans Bay. Charlie, like many men, found work at Mitchells Mill. Chicka can remember his father after work fishing off the sand bar and always getting a good feed.They had 7 children, Florrie, Cath (Sebbens) Peggy (Connaughton) Merv and Billy, with Chicka the youngest. He attended school on Beach Road, where Mr Jenkins was headmaster. School wasn’t what Chicka was about. He was doing the odd jobs about the school, doing the shopping for Mrs Jenkins, cleaning the school and cleaning the toilets with Phenol and lighting the fires in winter. Chicka was Captain of the school football team and Ian Barclay was Captain of the Convent team. He remembers these games being a real “grudge match”. He played barefooted as did most of the boys. On sports day Chicka had a special sign on the front of his sports uniform saying he could only go in the running races as he always mucked up the team games. He remembers Joey Chapman as being the fastest runner. At this time the Publican Percy Bill was training racehorses and asked Chicka's Mum if he would like to become a jockey, which they said yes, and so a fabulous career and friendship began. Chicka would get up before daylight, see to the horses then go to school sometimes not getting there till after 11.00. Often falling asleep at his desk. Mr. Jenkins realised Chicka wasn’t going to achieve anything by finishing school so he was given a special exemption and he left school at 11 years old and was apprenticed to Percy Bill.

Percy would be Chicka’s lifetime friend and Mentor. He would soon be riding for Percy at the races, travelling to Canberra, Wagga Nowra and Moruya. He would work for Percy until the age of 17 when he went to Sydney to the Stan Lamond stables. The work was hard and tedious. He confronted Mr. Lamond about getting a ride. Stan gave him a ride on a horse called Tap Toe at Rosehill and Chicka bought home his first metropolitan winner. The Following Saturday at Randwick he had 7 rides. At the age of 21 Chicka finished his apprenticeship and became a Fully Fledged Jockey. It was at this time in Sydney his mother dies in a fatal accident. She was visiting Chicka to watch him ride. Florence was very proud of her son. Chicka's next move was to Brisbane where he raced for Fred Best the No 1 trainer. One of his rides was for the Duke of Norfolk. He won the British Commonwealth Handicap at Eagle Farm in 1960 aboard Melroy.

He then returned to Sydney where he continued to ride. Chicka started to have trouble maintaining a racing weight and left Sydney to race in the country. Then a remarkable offer was made to Chicka to ride in Milan Italy. This included free Pan Am flights, chauffeur, valet to assist with all his racing gear and a new car and 1000 pounds and 10% of the first five winners. Yes he accepted. One of the colours he raced for was Prince Ali Khan who was married to Rita Hayworth.He also rode in France where one of his races was riding in the Queen's colours. All up Chicka would ride 1024 winners.

Colin "Chicka" Pearson

Returning to Australia Chicka continued to race the country circuit and it was at a dance in Bega where he met a remarkable lady, Shirley Cochrane who he would marry in 1973. They have four children Cindy, Greg, Neville and William. Greg is now a Steward in England. Willy was the top NSW country apprentice in 2004, Cindy is married to jockey Neil Berriman and is a constant support to Chika and Shirley. Chicka turned to training horses and trained for Jim Bell, head of the AJC. He returned to Batemans Bay where he has remained ever since, still training horses. He and Shirley make a remarkable team in the racing family still getting winners up. His racing colours of black with an orange sash was Percy Bill’s original colours. In Chicka's words "he’s started around the home turn towards retirement". The family is united in their love of racing and all that goes with it. .

The Batemans Bay and Districts Past and Present Town Reunion being held on May 6th and the Batemans Bay Soldiers Club is handling all ticket sales and they say tickets are selling fast. Those living out of town can ring the club on 44724117 to organise tickets.

The reunion is open to anyone who has lived in the area forever or those who have lived here for a short time, or those who lived here but have moved away.There are no invitations as such, just get your ticket and go along. The night has a focus to relive the rich past of the area and to celebrate the future. The Clyde River and Batemans Bay Historical Society will also have a display on the night. The following day the organisers continue the reunion at Korners Park on the northern side of the Batemans Bay bridge for a picnic (bring your own food, drinks, blankets chairs), in case you missed someone. For further information you are invited to follow the Facebook page of History of Batemans Bay and Districts Past and Present

For those who have have a Past and Present in Batemans Bay you might also enjoy a Face Book group called History of Batemans Bay and Districts Past and Present - it is a closed group so you will need to request to join.

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