This story about Guy Haydon and Midnight the War Horse has been kindly provided by one of Guy's descendants, Peter Haydon.
Midnight the Warhorse
by Peter Haydon
As the clock struck 12 midnight, the much- awaited foal bounced awkwardly but strongly to her feet for the first time. The crystal clear waters of the Pages River flowed around the big bend with its high side cut well into the bank, while the new foal stood on the level, rich alluvial flat on the homestead side of the river.
It was the 31 October 1905, the same day twelve years later she would come to a courageous end in a foreign land in a foreign war. In doing so, she would save the life of her rider, Guy Haydon. They had been coupled for life, they were a partnership, as he had been born just across the flat in the old homestead sixteen years earlier than her.
There she stood, black like the night as she nudged towards her mother. On her forehead was a small white star with three little peaks like the petals of a tiara pointing upwards. There was a distinctive white triangular peak on the front of her near hind coronet, standing all alone, matching the upward peaks on her star. She also had a small piece of white on the back of each hind coronet. Her feet were hard, solid black which were prized by bushmen for their strength, durability and toughness as opposed to feet which were white and soft.
It was Moonlight’s first foal and she had been retired to strengthen the broodmare band at Haydon Horse Stud, following her career excelling in all the things that had been asked of her. From chasing brumbies in the high country to days mustering cattle and a long hard droving trip to the Gulf. She was ridden between properties and to town as horses were then the only means of transport. Frequent rides were made to Maitland to do the family banking and to catch the ship at Morpeth to Sydney.
She had been bred by Thomas Haydon who had sailed to the Colony in 1836 to join his brother Peter who arrived in Sydney in 1828. Peter lived at Tivoli in Rose Bay grazing cattle along the foreshores of Sydney Harbour, with a wonderful view across the expanse of water to the natural undeveloped harbour foreshores. He was one of the early pioneers of the Upper Hunter and became the original landholder of Bloomfield in 1832. Peter had written requesting Thomas and his sister Matilda travel to the new colony to help Peter run his rural enterprises, which were expanding north from the Hunter Valley.
Thomas settled at Bloomfield and built the homestead from local sandstone. With his wife, Margaret, he raised five boys and two girls.
Dover, imported 1836
He spent most of his life in the saddle riding, managing the sprawling properties as more were added. Matilda married Peter Brodie who had settled the property Glenalvon further up the Pages Rivers past Murrurundi.
In 1840, Thomas purchased the well-bred stallion Young Dover, who was by Dover, from the Scott brothers of Glendon at Singleton.
Thomas would ride the 92 miles on Young Dover to Maitland, with gold he had purchased from the early gold prospectors from around Nundle and other monies to deposit in at the ANZ bank.
The Haydon family are still the bank’s oldest continual clients in Australia. The old ledgers with the original entries have been retained all these years by the bank. While there he would enter Young Dover in the Maitland races and on occasions, winning three races in the one day before riding him home again back up the valley to Blandford.
Moonlight was by a son of Young Dover and Thomas’s son Bernard loved riding the mare. He would frequently ride her into Murrurundi to visit and have dinner with the Wakeford family.
Below and centre: The bank's original ledger
Right: Bloomfield Homestead, Blandford
William Wakeford had come to help build the new railway tunnel through the Liverpool Range to enable rail transport into the developing areas of the north west of the State. He later built the Prospect Dam for Sydney’s water supply. With his wife Elizabeth, he travelled to the colony where his engineering skills were in high demand. However, it was their daughter Blanche that Bernard was keen to see. He had many trips during the courtship before marrying her in 1879.
Bernard further built a strong association with Moonlight when he rode her on the long droving trip all the way to their properties in the Gulf. Bullocks were then walked down from Normanton back to Bloomfield where they were fattened and then driven down over the Hawkesbury River to the Homebush market in Sydney. These were well-travelled bullocks, seeing a lot of Australia from the Gulf, through Queensland across the border into NSW and then on to Sydney.
Moonlight was joined to the Haydon’s top sire Tester who was never beaten on the track and became the leading sire of his time. His stock were the undisputed champions of the then-popular short distance “Bridle Spurts” when the winner received a bridle. Many were unbeaten like their sire, winning numerous bridles for the family. Midnight luckily inherited her father’s speed combined with the stamina of her mother.
Moonlight had a strong place in Bernard’s heart carrying him during his courting days to the long distances, endurance and hardships of the Gulf.
For her now to produce this lovely black filly by his prized stallion Tester was cause for celebration. Given the hour and her colour he named her Midnight. Little did he know and it would have been incomprehensible at the time, that this filly would even travel further and achieve more accolades then her mother.
Tester - leading stallion at Bloomfield 1888-1904 and sire of Midnight held by Combo Bloomfield
Left: The Droving Team at Normanton 1887