Bill Williamson born William James Williamson (19 December 1922 – 28 January 1979) was an Australian jockey who enjoyed considerable success in Australia during the 1950s and in Europe during the 1960s. He was born in Williamstown Melbourne and named after his father William James Williamson, a machinist, and his wife Euphemia Agnes.
From a young age he showed considerable interest in horse racing and left Mordialloc-Chelsea High School aged 14 to take up a post as an apprentice jockey. He worked initially under trainer F. H. Lewis who was his great uncle who was the brother of Robert Lewis also a jockey. During this time he met Jack Holt the trainer.〔(Local History Kingston, Victoria )〕 He won his first race in 1937 at Lilirene.
On 5 January 1942 was called upon to serve in the military, where he worked as a driver with the 119th General Transport Company. Willamson was released two and a half years later on 30 October 1944, when he once again turned to developing his horseracing career.
He married Zelma Ava Dickman, a hairdresser on 17 January 1949 at St Paul's Church of England, in Caulfield, Melbourne. Willamson won his first Victorian jockey premiership in the 1951-52 season and rode the horse ''Dalray'' to a victory in the 1952 Melbourne Cup. He went on to win five more, and won the W. S. Cox Plate and Brisbane Cup in 1953, a season where he set a Victorian record with 67 and a half winners.〔Sydney ''Daily Mirror'', dated 21 October 1953〕 He later won the Duke of Edinburgh Australian Cup (1954) but faced a setback in October of that year when a fall nearly cost him his life and put him out of racing for nine months. Recovering from his injuries, he went on to win the Caulfield Cup in 1955 on the famous horse ''Rising Fast'' and Ilumquh in 1960 amongst others.
He moved to Ireland in 1960 and later to England which he won a number of important mainstream races throughout the 1960s such as the 1,000 Guineas in 1962 on ''Abermaid'' and ''Night Off'' in 1965. Williamson won the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp, Paris, in 1968 and 1969 which brought him significant praise, notably from Lester Piggott.〔(Australian Dictionary of Biography )〕 In total he won 8 Classic Races in Ireland, 2 Classic Races in England and 3 Classic Races in mainland Europe, including France in 1971.〔(Horsedirectory.com )〕
He retired from professional racing in 1973 when he took up a new job as a racing manager for the Indian shipping magnate Ravi Tikkoo.
He returned to his native Melbourne in 1977 but developed cancer, and died on 28 January 1979 in South Caulfield Melbourne. He is buried at the Cheltenham Memorial Park (Wangara Road).
''This entry has been based on personal recollections.''
What greater compliment than to be declared by Lester Piggot (a winner of 5,000+ races himself) as "The best big-race jockey in the world"? Bill Williamson was awarded that accolade after he defeated Piggot, the English maestro, for the second successive year in the Prix de L’Arc Triomphe. Williamson rode in the international race in 1968 on Vaguely Noble and the next year on Levmoss. Both times he defeated the favourite, which was ridden both times by Lester Piggot. The first time Piggot was on an impressive horse, Sir Ivor, whom Lester declared as the best horse he has even ridden and subsequently rode Parktop the following year.
Williamson enjoyed enormous success in Australia and overseas in the post war years and was recognised internationally as a true horseman with tremendous balance and style, and perhaps, most importantly, a true gentleman. Some of his notable achievements in Australia was winning a Melbourne Cup (Dalray, 1952), two Caulfield Cups (Rising Fast 1955 and Ilumquh 1960) also the Australian, Williamstown, Moonee Valley, Brisbane and Adelaide Cups. He was also Melbourne’s Premier Jockey six times 1951–52, 1957–58 and 1960.
Scobie Breasley had much to do with Williamson, first of all as a rival jockey, then as a trainer for whom Williamson rode in England. "When I went to England in 1950, I was number one rider in Victoria and Williamson was second on the list" Breasley said, "He knocked on my door the actual night before I left for England and asked that ,given that we were no longer rivals, could I please help him become a better jockey. I told him that he never seemed to try to get a good start with his horses and that he was also too content to sit four or five deep. I told him to concentrate on his starts, and to find the fence more often. He listened to my advice and became a better jockey. He had a great style, sat well in the saddle and was not a big whip user. He had good success in England and when I took up training there, I used him on many of my horses. We joined forces to win the Irish Sweeps Derby in 1972 on Steel Pulse ,for Indian shipping magnate, Ravi Tikkoo, for whom Williamson became racing manager after he retired (in association with Scobie Breasley as trainer).
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