Unsung hero remembered for Gift win
By AIDEN LEE
01 Apr, 2011
STAWELL - Australia's premier and richest footrace, the Stawell Gift, will again be held this Easter at Central Park with one special unsung hero set to be remembered by locals.
Last weekend marked 100 years since a young local by the name of Darcy Devine won the famous Gift in his first attempt. This young star from Boggabri in New South Wales proceeded to be a regular competitor and winner at Stawell over the next ten years.
Darcy Henry Devine was born in 1890 at Boggabri and later moved to Stawell. His parents were among the first settlers in the district, where his father Oliver worked on Therribri Station, and later went on to become very involved in the local district politics.
It was Devine's first attempt in 1911 when he won the major event at Stawell, the 130 yard Easter Gift.
As documented in the Stawell Athletics Club centenary booklet, "Devine went to the front shortly after the start. Crow challenged him 40 yards from the tape, but Devine made a great effort and shook him off, winning by three-quarters of a yard in a time of 11 seconds."
His time is still one of the fastest in the history of the race, even without starting blocks and the clothes worn today.
World champions Arthur Postle (the 'Crimson Flash') and Jack Donaldson (the 'Blue Streak') also competed, though Devine believed both Donaldson and Postle didn't have a chance as they were so heavily handicapped, being off two and three yards compared to his 13 yards. Both were eliminated in the heats and never raced against Devine.
Devine made a small fortune that year at Stawell, as he added the 130 yard Encourage Stakes to his Stawell Gift win and was placed second in the 75 yard Sprint Handicap. His total prize money that year was 92 pounds, a small fortune in 1911 considering he would probably have also made money betting on himself as he was backed as favourite at three to one odds.
His reputation as a great runner and his successes at Stawell are well documented, with Percy Mason's 'Professional Athletics in Australia' describing Devine as "a magnificent athlete (who) competed regularly for six years, during which period he won four events and placed in seven others."
Contrary to Mason's description, Devine actually competed at Stawell on eight occasions between 1911 and 1920 inclusive. Devine competed in the Easter Gift at all the subsequent Stawell meetings he attended, but never made the final again.
In 1912 he won the 440 yard Pleasant Creek Handicap by 10 yards in 46.6 seconds and the 75 yard Sprint Handicap in 1914. In 1916 Devine was placed in an event final at Stawell for the last time, despite competing in 1919 and 1920.
Devine's Gift handicap dropped from eight yards in 1916 to two in 1919, making it tough for him to again claim success.
His brother Oliver was also a good runner, winning a Rockhampton Hundred and the principle events at the annual Launceston and Christchurch Exhibitions. When Devine's father Oliver was asked why his sons were such good runners he replied "We were a very poor family with 11 children living and working on Therribri Station. We didn't have enough chairs to go around, and after the girls were seated there was only one chair left and Darcy never missed out."
Devine never married and later went to Queensland with his brother Oliver and Arthur Postle, who became one of Australia's best known bookmakers. He worked with Postle in the bookmaking business for most of his life and died in Brisbane in 1969. His legend still lives on as Stawell's last remaining Gift winner.