(1942 - 2019)
Image copyright: Fairfax Syndication
Les Carlyon has long been recognised as an outstanding journalist and historian. Apart from his interest in the history of Australians at war, his passion in life has been thoroughbred horseracing.
Carlyon has filled some of the highest positions in the Australian newspaper world – Editor of The Age and Editor-in-Chief of The Herald and Weekly Times. He has twice won the Walkley Award for journalism, and in 1993 won the Graham Perkins Australian Journalist of the Year Award. For three successive years, from 1996 to 1998, he won the award for the best published sporting story of the year. Among those stories were “Schillaci – Farewell to a Warrior” and “Sir Tristram, the Horse Who Hated People”.
His writing on Australian racing has been featured nation-wide in newspapers and journals such as the Bulletin. In 2002 he produced True Grit, a collection of colourful stories about the characters, equine and human, who make up the sport. As the publisher said in his introduction to the book, “no one sees the magic and heartbreak in the world of racing with quite the poetry of Les Carlyon”. Its popularity with the reading public led it to being reprinted in 2013. In 2011 he published “The Master”, a portrait of Bart Cummings which chronicles his amazing career. Like all Carlyon’s work the book is characterised by meticulous research and vivid, evocative language.
One of Carlyon’s themes in all his writing is that the horse is central to the sport of racing, and that there is a danger that this is being overlooked in the modern, mechanised age. He set out his philosophy very clearly in his speech at the Asian Racing Conference in July, 2012: “The horse is everything in our world and we should never forget it. Take away the horse, take away those who look after him, and you’ve just got gambling, and no one makes heroes of those who hang around casino tables or betting shops”.
In the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, Carlyon was made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), the nation’s highest civilian award. The citation stated that he was being honoured for “eminent service to literature through the promotion of the national identity as an author, editor and journalist, to the understanding and appreciation of Australia’s war history, and to the horseracing industry".
Carlyon has an unsurpassed ability to combine humour and irreverence with incisive, intelligent analysis” (Gary Linnell).