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When Clare played Polo

Updated: Aug 27, 2021

Polo was in a flourishing state at Clare between the wars

Northern Polo Team (1895) Lord Denman's Team (1912)History of Polo Polo at Clare (1920)Adelaide Vs Clare (1920) The Melrose Cup (1923) Clare Polo Week (1923) Clare Polo Week (1924) Flourishing at Clare (1925) Clare Polo Club (1926) Polo at Clare (1928) Polo in the West (1929) Polo Trials at Clare (1930)Polo in the Vines (2021)

Left: Edmund Bowman, junior, riding his pony 'Powder' for polo at Strathalbyn, 1905

Above: 'The Northern polo team'. Approximately 1895 - Studio view of the three Bowman brothers and W. Murray dressed for polo. Left-right: C.W. Bowman; H. Bowman; W. Murray; E. Bowman (captain).

Polo in South Australia was first conceived in 1874 when a young graduate from Cambridge University returned home to South Australia carrying with him some polo sticks and balls.

  • The first polo match was played in South Australia on Montefiore Hill in 1876.

  • Robert Barr Smith, W. Gilbert, W.H. Horn, Major Godwin and Stirling were listed as the initial participants.

  • So it was that in 1879 the Adelaide Polo Club was officially formed, seemingly at the instigation of W.H. Horn.

Martindale Hall was built in 1879 – 1880 for Edmund Bowman Jr. who surrounded the home with a polo ground, a racecourse, a boating lake and a cricket pitch where the English 11 played at least once.

Express and Telegraph (Adelaide, SA), Tuesday 10 December 1912, page 2 POLO.


His Excellency, since his arrival in Australia, has been creating a lot of interest in the polo world.

His side of players showed the Sydney public at Easter time some very dashing polo—his team won the final in brilliant style. As a horseman. Lord Denman excels amongst a team of dashing riders.

Lord Denman's 1912 Team:

G.C.S. Stephen, H.E Gov-Gen Lord Denman, Capt H.S. Nutting, ADC, Capt.G.LeR.Burnham,ADC.

Played for and won THE COUNTESS OF DUDLEY CUP 1912, Presented to the Polo Association of NSW by the Countess of Dudley, 1910 (illustrated at right)

Army Origins

Most of the best English and Indian teams learn the game in the army.

Polo is comparatively a young game, as far as it is connected with the English-speaking race.

Colonel Henry Lloyd Howard, C.B., recently had a word or two to say regarding the starting of polo by his Lancer regiment in India in 1874.

Below: A Polo Match played at Albert Park, Melbourne, 8th Nov. 1875

Colonel Henry Lloyd Howard says of the first polo games in India:

  • The play was of a primitive character,

  • Balls were slightly smaller than those now in service were used;

  • the sticks were shorter, and the heads were made out of old artillery wheel felloes, a dark red wood and very tough.

His Excellency, Lord Denman, generally "follows," that is, plays No. 2, is a fast galloper and a hard hitter, being responsible for most of the goals scored by his side.

  • The value of hard hitting, combined with a due control of the ball, is exemplified in the American team which in 1909 beat All England at Hurlingham

  • and last year proved victorious in America against the Britishers.

The game has become, on the whole, much faster. Not, perhaps, that men gallop from one end of the ground to the other in a run more rapidly than before, but the pace is more continuous, more sustained.

Below: Lord and Lady Denman: The Denmans (front row, centre) arrived in Melbourne with their entourage in 1911.

Above: Thomas Denman (1874–1954) was a Boer War veteran and Australia's first non-Tory

Governor-General; his wife Gertrude, or Trudie, (1884–1954) was an outdoor-loving feminist who supported women's suffrage.

On March 12, 1913, the vice-regal couple presided over the laying of the national capital's foundation stones.

Lady Denman revealed Canberra's name at the foundation ceremony, March 12, 1913.

Above right): Lady Denman read out the name of the fledgling city from a bit of paper in a gold cigarette case made especially for her which she kept for the rest of her life.

Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 - 1954), Saturday 18 December 1920, page 22 POLO.

Polo at Clare

Polo is beginning to recover from the break caused by the war.

At several country centres in South Australia signs are visible of an increasing interest.

Clare is the latest. Here a body of kindred spirits are getting together what might soon be the strongest club in the State.

  • This happy state of affairs is largely due to Mr. Neville Colley, assisted by his brother Lister, the genial Mr. 'Billy' Wood, and Mr. Sidney Ayers.

  • They have already had several practice frames, and have secured a nice ground on the Stanley Flat Racecourse.

  • Clare will be farther strengthened by the fact that Major Gilbert Lewis— a son of the Hon. John Lewis— will play for them. Major Lewis has done a lot of polo in India, and is well up in the handicap list there.

Blyth Agriculturist (SA : 1908 - 1954), Friday 24 December 1920, page 2 Polo.


On Saturday last a polo match was played on the Stanley Flat racecourse between a team of visitors from Adelaide and members of the newly formed Clare Club.

  • This being the first match played at Clare, much interest was taken in it, and a representative gathering assembled to watch the play.

  • Adelaide was represented by C T Bray (capt). C L Colley, H C Downer, and M J Noonan;

  • and Clare by Major Lewis, N L Colley, K L Colley, and E Melrose.

Both teams were well mounted, and towards the end the play was of an exciting nature. The visitors had the best of matters up to the end of the third quarter, but in the last quarter the Clare men rallied, and put up three goals to one.

The results were :—

Adelaide—1, 1, 3, 1; total, 6. Clare—0, 0, 0, 3; total 3.

The goals for Adelaide were hit by Noonan 2, H C Downer 2, CL Colley 1, and C T Bray 1; and for Clare by Neville Colley, and Major Lewis, one each.

Register (Adelaide, SA), Friday 30 March 1923, page 5

The Melrose Cup

The semi-final for the Melrose Cup took place at Birkalla on Thursday afternoon.

The second match — for the Consolation Stakes— was between

Clare A— O. V. Roberts, I. B. Roberts, Nev. and Lister Colley,


Clare B— C. L. Colley, G. T. Hawker, S. H. Ayers, and F. F. Chomley.

They started off with the scoring board reading thus, taking handicaps in: —

Clare A, 9 goals; Clare B, 14 goals.

  • In the first chukker neither side scored, but in No. 2 Nev. Colley added one for A's, while Ayers did some rather good defence work for B's.

  • In the next chukker the A's took another, which made the tally at half-time 11 to 14— B's leading.

  • The A's managed to get ahead in the fourth chukker, and apparently chukker 5 was not very good polo, if I do not misread the somewhat illegible notes in my friend.

  • In the final bout, the A captain lifted a ball, and it landed on his No. 2 helmet, who 'took the count,' and fell upon the sword. A jug of ice water righted matters sufficiently for the game to be finished.

  • Clare A therefore will fight Adelaide B on Saturday for the consolation prize, while Victoria and Adelaide A will struggle for the Melrose Cup.

The Mail (Adelaide, SA) Sat 3 Feb 1923 Page 17

Clare Polo Week, 1923

Clare's Polo Week, lasting from January 22 to 27, had its every minute taken up with festivities of some kind.

As the genial and enthusiastic secretary (Mr. Sidney Ayers) said, 'It was a wonderful week, and everything went off with a bang. The weather was ideal.'

Polo matches, dances, joyous house parties, and the culminating event, the great polo ball on the Thursday evening, were part of the daily and nightly programme.

The stage management, so to speak, was excellent, and everyone did the right thing, even to Miss Gypsy Good, winning a race on Sir, Pat Colley's pony!

All the leading hosts and hostesses filled their homes with cheery parties, the hotels accommodated many more, and still more squeezed in wherever there was a corner big enough to sleep in.

The Polo Club Ball was held on Thursday, January 25, and it was the most

successful and cheery dance ever given in Clare. The hall and marquee were decorated in black-and-white — the Clare Polo Club colours— and polo sticks were arranged round the room. Hundreds of balloons were suspended from the ceiling, and at midnight they were lowered, and caused much fun.

  • The programmes struck a note of originality— they were circular— representing a polo ball, and the dances were called 'chukkers'.

  • The names of the various homesteads and places associated with polo were used to describe the chukkers, and guests booked partners for the Bungaree waltz, the Cappeedee flutter, The Shack's dream, Collingrove step, GeeBung's chance, Hurlingham glide, Birkalla step, Warenda waltz, &c.

A legend at the bottom read, 'Dance and be merry, for tomorrow we' — then you looked on the other side, expecting to see the word 'die,' but instead there was a picture of two mounted men and the legend concluded, 'play polo.'

  • Dancing continued until 5 in the morning, so that it was not surprising that many of the polo players found three chukkers quite enough on Friday!

  • Everybody wore fantastic paper caps, and streamers were ubiquitous. The supper table looked charming with its bowls of pink carnations and larkspurs, and pink candle-shades lent a soft glow.

Above: Staying with Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Ayers at Warenda were Mr. and Mrs. Fred Porter, Miss Phyllis Bray, Miss Hopewell (England), Miss Toohey (Sydney), and Mr. Andrew Tennant.

​Observer (Adelaide, SA : 1905 - 1931), Saturday 2 February 1924, page 34


Above: Winning Team (L-R), Lister Colley, F.F. Chomley, Neville Colley and G.S. Hawker.

Below: Exciting incident during important contest

Register (Adelaide, SA ), Tuesday 8 December 1925, page 3 POLO. By Pavilion.

Polo appears to be in a flourishing state at Clare,

where they were found out for play on Saturday; notwithstanding the adverse weather conditions, which, at times, were most trying.

  • A new player, Clifford Reid, made his first appearance for the season, and he will be out regularly in future.

  • W. J. Naish, who has been out of action for some time, had his first game of the year. The following comprised the Red team -

  • G. S. Hawker, Peter Armstrong, O.V. Roberts, W. J. Naish, and K. L. Colley, and they, with a score, of 4, more than held their own against the Whites.

  • These latter were: - C. L. Colley, C. A. Reid, F. F. Chomley,