When I was a child my late Father would show me worn VHS tapes of Red Rum’s three Grand Nationals. He would speak with admiration of Ginger McCain; the man who epitomised the jumping game by going from taxi driver to a household name. I would listen to a wonderful tale of how he turned a once something of a lame cast off into the greatest Grand National horse ever by winning the world’s greatest steeplechase three times. I became hooked on horse racing which in turn led to Ginger along with Rummy, Dessie, Dawn Run and Dunwoody being filed firmly under ‘childhood heroes’.
Fast forward to 1999; I’m a naïve student working racedays for Haydock Park and I get to come face to face with the great man himself. So there we are, he’s won three Grand Nationals and famous not only in our tiny pond but out in the vast ocean of society. Then there’s me; full of the folly of youth and falling over myself with excitement of actually being involved in ‘the game’! Over the season that followed and beyond Ginger always made time to speak to me and in true Ginger fashion we would always have a laugh and a joke. I feel privileged to have had those few moments in time.
I could not thank him enough when whilst I working the Chester May meeting in 2002 he signed a racecard for my Dad which read ‘To Bertie, be lucky, all the best, Ginger McCain’. I will never forget the smile that beamed forth from Dad’s face when on a trip home I produced it from my case like a precious stone.
Ginger, you proved fairytales come true with Rummy and that lightening can indeed strike the same place four times with Amberleigh House in 2004. We now know that it was fate when Ballabriggs won the National this year for Donald Jnr. On that glorious unusually sun kissed April day you were the proudest man in L9 if not the world! Rest in peace Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain; a gentleman who was genuine, controversial, kind hearted, amusing, something of a genius and forever Mr Aintree. May you roam those golden paddocks in the sky with your beloved Rummy. Thank you for making my Dad my own hero and the man that introduced me to this great game smile so broadly.
To Beryl, Joanne and Donald Jnr, my deepest sympathies are with you at this sad time. Know that to me Ginger totally disproved the old adage of ‘never meet your heroes’ as I consider it an honour that our paths crossed and Aintree 2012 will not be same without a wink from Ginger.
I’ll leave you with this, ‘Its hats off and a tremendous reception, you’ve never heard one like it at Liverpool…Red Rum wins the National’ – Sir Peter O’Sullivan, commentating on Red Rum’s third Grand National Aintree April 1977.
Cathryn Fry – 20 September 2011
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