IT is with great sadness we report Harley Walden passed away in the early hours of this morning aged 79 at the Scott Memorial Hospital after a short illness with brain cancer.
Related story: Sconeite Snippet – Harley Walden.
Harley’s contribution to and knowledge of the history of the Upper Hunter thoroughbred industry can’t be overstated.
He left school at the age of 15 to work alongside his father at Sledmere stud and remained excited and interested in developments in the thoroughbred industry throughout his life.
He published three books on the local thoroughbred industry and his writing, for someone who left school at the age of 15, was remarkable.
For decades Harley wrote a column for the Scone Advocate and I remember as a cadet Harley cracking a joke to the all female staff that it was appropriate the paper was sponsoring a maiden race in Scone, but on second thought said he wouldn’t describe any of us as maidens!
He had plenty of stories about the thoroughbred industry new and old and had a genuine love for many people in the industry and enjoyed their success.
‘A great leveler’ was how he often described racing and Harley was someone who appreciated the egalitarian aspect of the industry.
He spoke about many people with affection and one of my favourite stories was when he was chatting with Gai Waterhouse at the Scone races; they walked to the stable to check on the staff and when Gai learned a worker had not had lunch she sent them for a break, took of her high heels and with her stockings still on hosed out the stable.
Still chatting with Harley, Gai then put her shoes back on and they returned to the tent, but Harley said if you looked closely you could see the water mark around her ankles; he admired her greatly.
Harley would walk down my street most days on his way to the supermarket and I was surprised when he dropped by one day to ask if he could write a column for scone.com.au, which we were rapt for him to do and he loved the idea that I didn’t give him a word count as a web page could scroll for days.
Readers of Harley’s column logged to scone.com.au from around the world, we’d regularly see people in London, Ireland, Hong Kong and America reading his stories on the local industry.
While there are plenty of people writing about the current developments in the thoroughbred industry, there was no one with Harley’s historical knowledge of the local industry, so he turned his focus to sharing that knowledge.
Just before Christmas he decided to take a short break from writing as he was feeling unwell, but he has left a treasure trove of writing behind and we will share excerpts from his books.
His passing is a great loss to not just the thoroughbred industry, but the whole Scone community.
Harley is survived by his wife Heather, son Grant, daughter Tracy, daughter-in-law Tanya and grandson Joey.
The funeral will be held at the St Mary’s Catholic Church in Scone at 10am on Monday and the wake will be held afterwards at the Royal Hotel, Scone.
Rest in peace Harley xx