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Title Image: The Legend

 Letters to Harry Telford

More than sixty people wrote to Harry Telford, Phar Lap's trainer, expressing their feelings about the horse and his death. The sadness was palpable, and all those who wrote, even the poorly educated, expressed themselves fluently and emotionally.

Many wrote to express a personal sorrow, confessing their feeling that Phar Lap had been like part of their family. They described how they wept when they heard the news: 'I felt as if I had lost my only child', wrote one man, while a woman wrote 'My sorrow today is as tho' I had lost my dearest friend'.

They told Telford how they were 'broken up' by the news, how everyone was talking of 'dear old Phar Lap', and how women, men and children all loved him. They identified Phar Lap as a personal hero, and they felt he belonged to them.

Many Australians seemed to view the horse as a supernatural being who was immortal. 'We are only working people but we thought he was an angel from the sky' wrote a couple from Launceston.

Mrs Copping from Hobart wrote in sympathy to Telford, suggesting that the heavens themselves had joined in the universal mourning, and comforting him with the idea that the spirit of Phar Lap would live on: 'It rained for a whole week, and I feel quite sure the skies even "wept for him"'.

The intensity of this correspondence, and the range of concerns expressed within it, indicate the extent to which Phar Lap's life had become the stuff of legend, and suggest reasons why the horse's memory is still honoured over seventy years later.

© Museum Victoria Australia