Schoolteacher takes a fatal horse ride

1904 – “A strange incident” declared the Bunbury Herald’s headline when Darradup schoolteacher John Bowler died while exercising a race horse.

The South Australian boarded with the Longbottom family at their home about 240 kilometres from Perth, and had gone to the exercise track with two male members of the family, keen to give the racing mare Roseleaf a canter.

He had gone around the track twice with her, and she seems to have been a flighty horse,  as racehorses tend to be.

She was fighting for her head when one of the stirrup leathers slipped, causing John to lurch to one side, nearly bringing the mare down.

He struck his head and shoulder against a banksia tree-

 “with such force that his neck was broken; his collar bone and his jaw were also broken and one ear nearly cut off.

bunbury herald

The mare galloped straight home to the Longbottoms, where Mrs Longbottom and her daughter, to whom John was engaged, noticed she was riderless and went out to her.

“Here a strange thing happened. The mare is generally rather averse to being caught but this morning she kept neighing and walking around Mrs Longbottom and her daughter; finally she walked up to Miss Longbottom and laid her nose upon her shoulder,” reported the newspaper.

They hurried to the racecourse, but it was too late for the 29-year-old John and his dreams of a married life.

He is buried in the fascinating Old Busselton cemetery, where one can find a later headstone of the victim of a horse ride, James O’ Donnell.

James O’Donnell’s headstone in the Old Busselton cemetery is broken and difficult to read. Image: Sharyn Moodie

He was a  50-year-old farmer from Quindalup, who was found dead in one of his paddocks late on a November morning in 1927.

Sources: Bunbury Herald, Friday 26 February 1904 , p3

 The South-Western News, Friday 26 February 1904, p2

The West Australian, Wednesday 30 November 1927, p13

Published by Sharyn Moodie

Travelling around Australia for work, I've found so many amazing headstones. But what is more amazing is the stories behind some of these deaths, and the way newspapers of the day reported them.

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