“Roy the Boy” forever in our memories

Roy Higgins deserves – and will receive – grander tributes than what I can provide, but every Australian sports site should acknowledge the lifetime achievements and impact of “The Professor”, who passed away at the weekend.

Les Carlyon, eminently qualified, provided some background and colour with his piece, appropriately in the “little paper”, yesterday……… (http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/superracing/all-jockeys-can-ride-but-few-of-them-can-think-roy-higgins-had-that-rare-gift-a-race-brain-he-could-lift-a-horse/story-fnibcgg5-1226849710756

Even growing up in SA, “Higgs” was a larger than life star to me, with his feats at faraway Flemington and Caulfield crackling over the transistor, invariably via the dulcet tones of “The Accurate One”… “and here’s the winner returning to scale. Number 1 (insert name, invariably fav), ridden by R. Higgins.” Down the wire you could sense Bill’s relief as he ashed a cigar and patted a winning brief!

Higgins and Collins became the articulate face of racing in Melbourne thanks to World Of Sport exposure, crossing in to the general sporting, even societal, landscape. They were the best in the business and now there are only old tapes to commemorate those halcyon days.

Roy’s record as a jockey speaks for itself. The affection felt towards him within the”game” shouted even louder. Well after retiring from the rigours or racing and wasting, a waddling Higgins was heralded as he made his way around racecourses – good judge and good bloke.

His passing is a shock. A loss. A reminder of time’s inexorable march. For those of us at a certain age, it triggers memories of fresh faces and high hopes.

I glanced at a soundless TV bulletin on Sunday. There was Higgins riding through my childhood – Light Fingers, Leilani, Taj Rossi, Gunsynd.

Wonderful and sad. The good old days are long gone and now, too, is the irreplaceable Professor.

A memorial service is to be held in the mounting yard (they’d do worse than rename it in his honour) on Thursday morning. The hearse will then do a final circuit of the course, hopefully saving ground on the circle and finding a half-length at the clocktower. The crowds can cheer again as Higgins returns past the roses, bowing out a winner. R.I.P.


  1. Wonderful Crio. Beautifully put. My childhood and adolescent memories of Roy are much as yours. He was racing in Melbourne. And Melbourne was the pinnacle of all sport, as even Adelaide kids had to reluctantly acknowledge.
    But as you say he was more than racing. The quick witted Higgins and the Accurate One doing their “Willem Who? Willem 2” shtick on World of Sport.
    My vague memories of him as a jockey are of grace and power. He rode long like maybe only Robert Thompson still does, kicking out a horse so that hands AND heels means something in a way it doesn’t today when they are all perched on the horse’s neck.
    As the wonderful Les Carlyon article says he hit them hard, but with a grace that fitted in with the horses stride. He wasn’t a standover man, bash artist like a Dittman or a Letts.
    Thanks for writing this Crio. I thought about it the other night when I heard of his passing. I don’t write much about racing because of the past perils of the punt, but I can’t think of a bad thing to say about Roy the Boy. And there’s not many I could say that about in racing.

  2. cowshedend says

    Beautiful tribute Crio, encapsulated how many of us remember the prof. He is a colossus of sport, not just racing, and an absolute gentleman to boot.
    Vale Roy

  3. Crio, well written as always. There was a bit said at Corowa races on Sunday re Roy. He’d had a long history of riding for the Freyer family of trainers, having ridden for both Jack, and Richard. This includes two Albury Cups, with Roy riding Glow Whirl for Jack Freyer, back in the mid 1960’s.

    Roy came from a tiny speck on the map called Kondrook, between Gunbower and Kerang. I drove past the turn off there a few weeks ago, but have never been there. From his early days ,riding his first winner in Deniliquin, just after turning 15, there was plenty to like about Roy. Aged just 20 he finished second in the Southern Districts Riding Association premiership back in 1957-58, from there to Melbourne and as they say, “the rest is history.”

    Vale Roy Higgins,


  4. Loved it Crio. Captured the time and sentiment perfectly.
    At least he outlived his nemesis Hyperno!
    Really like the idea of commemorating Higgs by naming the mounting yard after him.
    Bill Collins would have been eagerly awaiting Roy to join him for a cigar, a red and a few good yarns.
    RIP a true champion.

  5. Thanks Budge.
    I am never in favour of knee-jerk commemorations, but, in time, how about the rose garlanded yards back from the track down to the mounting yard being “The Professor’s Parade”?

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