Man of the Soil
by Mike Goddard
(A tribute written in August, 1984)
At the Barbados Turf Club circa 1970, Tony Archer receiving a prize from
Sir Winston Scott, the first native Governor General of Barbados
People from all walks of life are mourning the death of Tony Archer, a man who during his lifetime became a friend of all. The large crowd which overflowed the Roman Catholic Cathedral at Jemmotts Lane was indicative of the respect and love which followed this man throughout his lifetime.
The sudden death of John Anthony Keith “Tony” Archer last month, left a shocking numbness which will take sometime to wear off. However, those of us who were fortunate to come into contact with him will always remember his pleasant personality and his constant willingness to help.
In the world of horse racing, Tony Archer made his mark not only as a much respected steward, but as a forward thinking person always ready to adopt new ideas. He introduced sponsorship to horse racing in Barbados when his company J.A.K. Archer & Co. Ltd. launched the Martini Vermouth St. Leger back in 1966.
Since that first sponsored event this phenomenon has grown to tremendous heights in Barbados, but few remember the input of Tony Archer. When the Martini Vermouth St. Leger failed to develop into the type of race that Tony envisaged, he abandoned the event, but returned some years later, this time with a new sponsor for the island’s most historic event.
The Mackeson Derby was the brainchild of Tony Archer and before the introduction of the rich Cockspur Gold Cup was the race of the year in Barbados. Tony had only one way of doing things and that was the best. With this in mind, he turned what used to be an ordinary classic into the most prestigious creole race in Barbados. He assisted in increasing the stakes, putting a valuable trophy and staging a crowd pleasing event worthy of any of the major racing centers in the world. With the backing of Tony Archer, race sponsorship reached new heights.
Tony Archer had one pet peeve and that was the poor standard of riding in Barbados. He therefore in his own way set out to correct what he saw as a major stumbling block to the development of horse racing Barbados. He was the driving force behind the establishment of the Jockey School, and one of his major disappointments came when this establishment closed its doors a few years ago. Just before his untimely death, Tony Archer had once again set out towards having this school reopened as a means of improving the standard of riding.
Jockeys at the Garrison will not hesitate to tell you that as long as Tony was a sitting steward for a particular day, they could expect to be summoned to be told in no uncertain way that they must be at the top of their profession. In addition, if they made a mistake during the course of that day, they would be recalled on the very next day to be shown their faults and asked to correct them. So committed was Tony to this that on several occasions when most people had missed things in a race he came up with something.
For instance, toward the end of the last racing season two jockeys were fined, one for handing his whip to his colleague during the course of a race and the other for receiving it. Not only did he call up the two jockeys, but he also found the appropriate rule that they had infringed.
Tony Archer served for several years as a steward of the Barbados Turf Club, and he geared himself for this learning all the rules and reading every scrap of information that would improve his capabilities.
He was also an open man and was always ready to explain why he had taken a particular decision. He was a hard but fair steward and his one aim was to ensure the highest standards in the sport of horse racing.
He was also one of the people responsible for introducing the filming of racing in Barbados, a move which made it easier for the stewards to review a race and see particular incidents. He made sure they got the appropriate equipment and he used it to the fullest.
Tony Archer has passed on and will surely be missed, but he has left behind an excellent example for us to follow. He was a perfectionist and one must realize that his path would be a hard one to walk. However, he has shown us that to aim for the best should be our main objective, no matter what we do.
For my part, I feel that I had lost not only a friend, but a confidant and one who I could always turn to for advice and support. In fact, just days before his death we had discussed a project that I was planning and I was on my way home to call him when news of his death reached me. Tony . . . rest in peace. You have done your part and all that’s left is for us to emulate you.
The author of this tribute, Michael L. (Mike) Goddard, has been dubbed
"the voice of horse racing in Barbados".
Mike is a multi-award-winning Caribbean journalist who has been inducted into the
Barbados Association of Journalists’ Hall of Fame.
Tony Archer died on 14 July, 1984 at the age of 45. In March 2006, he was inducted into The Barbados Turf Club's Hall of Fame in recognition of his significant contributions to the sport of horse racing in Barbados.
I am pictured here with our eldest and youngest children, Paul (left)) and Philip (right)
having received the certificate of induction.
The occasion was reported in the Barbados Sunday Advocate of March 19, 2006