A FORMER 30-year secretary of the Victorian Trotting and Racing Association (VT&RA) and one of the four members of the inaugural 1936 Inter Dominion organising committee, Sir Gilbert Dyett has been inducted into the Victorian Harness Racing Hall of Fame.
The Bendigo-born World War One Gallipoli veteran, who was badly wounded at Lone Pine, and influential administrator was one of six new inductees announced in a special online ceremony on TrotsVision.
He was joined by legendary horseman Peter Manning, Father Brian Glasheen, Lou Robertson, star pacer Shakamaker and the brilliant former Gordon Rothacker-trained and driven mare Angelique, while the champion pacer and two-time Inter Dominion winner Gammalite was inducted as a legend.
Sir Gilbert served as VT&RA secretary from 1919 to 1949, until proprietary racecourses, including Ascot, were closed down and night trotting started at the Melbourne Showgrounds.
He managed the consolidation of scattered trotting dates to the Bridge Road, Richmond track for controversial owner John Wren and promoted the former prestigious Richmond Thousand, known as the Melbourne Cup of trotting.
Sir Gilbert was instrumental in introducing reforms to Australian harness horse registrations and descriptions to prevent ring-ins and oversaw the central registry of horse naming for many years.
A man of many talents and titles, he acted - at times - as the starter, timekeeper, steward and judge at Wren's Richmond, Ascot and Fitzroy trotting tracks.
His great nephew, Bendigonian Ian Dyett was naturally chuffed to learn of the Hall of Fame honour and believed Sir Gilbert's immense contribution to harness racing had largely been overshadowed by his achievements in other areas of public life, in particular his veterans' rights activism and war service.
"It was not a before time thing, he died in 1964, but whilst he was around, he was the first Bendigo-born person to be knighted, the first Knight in harness racing, and was the federal president and known as the architect of the RSL," he said.
"He was for 26 years president of the Returned Sailors' Soldiers' and Airmens' Imperial League of Australia, which changed to the RSL.
"He was certainly innovative and was probably the most powerful man in Australia between the wars because he controlled the largest political lobby group Australia has ever had and that was 350,000 members of the RSL.
"As far as trotting goes, it was about 1920 when John Wren was having a lot of political trouble, mainly due to the old Catholics versus Protestants. He was a Catholic, but most of the wealth in Melbourne was Anglican and Presbyterian.
"He (Wren) owned three racecourses at the time and controlled them, which some people, particularly the VRC (Victoria Racing Club) didn't like, so he thought he would employ someone who was above reproach and could not be bought to administer trots racing and the tracks.
"That one man was Gilbert Dyett.
"So he asked him to come on board and Gilbert agreed to do that. But he was his own man - he was nobody's lackey and never had been."
Echoing his courage in battle, Sir Gilbert showed plenty more fortitude and strength and, above all, integrity when he ordered and warned off the notorious gangster 'Squizzy' Taylor from the Richmond racecourse.
"He made sure there were no ring-ins and the various other things that went on," Ian Dyett said.
"He learnt well from his father, who was a blacksmith in Queen Street (Bendigo).
"He knew if you were going to live life for a long time, you've got to know your rules and Gilbert would have known every rule."
A testament to his organisational skills, Sir Gilbert led the Australian delegation to the 1937 coronation of King George VI and his wife Elizabeth.
The chair King George VI sat in was later sent to Sir Gilbert as a gift.
"It would be fair to say Sir Gilbert's, I suppose, interest in horses has not been anywhere near publicised or gained the attention as him being architect and father of the RSL," Ian said.
"Whilst he did control all those things in racing that wasn't what got the news headlines.
"What did was what the returned men were doing, so he was a powerful man and a very busy man.
"But above all that he was a very humble man and a man of intense respect.
"It was that respect which stood him in great stead in the trotting world. He kept things straight and everyone knew it.
"He was a great man, but it was somewhat of a disappointment as a child that he was living in this flat, where I remember him as a very dignified fellow, but I couldn't believe he was a knight as there was nowhere to stable a horse and I couldn't find his suit of armour. The mind of a child."
Sir Gilbert was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1927 and was knighted in 1934.
He died in 1964, aged 73, after a long illness.
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