Queen visited Bourbon County twice…
PAT CONLEY | Citizen Staff
Canadian native Dr. Murray West of Paris vividly remembers the first time he ever saw Queen Elizabeth, II of England. “I was six years old, in Vancouver,” he described in an interview last week, only a few days after the passing of the monarch beloved by so many, all around the world.
“They gave us all Douglas Fir tree saplings to plant in commemoration of the occasion,” West remembers. Imagine West’s delight when The Queen visited Paris, Kentucky, not once, but twice after he and his family settled here back in 1980.
“We all went out and lined Main Street,” West said. “In front of the medical offices there next to Wilson’s Drug.” West remembers that a lady, “Judy”, from (the late) Dr. Fred Echiverri’s office was reluctant to participate. “I’m not British, she’s not my queen,” Judy reportedly had said. According to West, The Queen had a practice of focusing on individual people along a parade route. “And sure enough, she picked Judy!,” West chuckled. “She looked right at me,” Judy happily exclaimed, according to Murray. “She smiled at me!” “I thought Judy (Judy Gray) was gonna pee her pants,” West laughed.
As far as all the fanfare about the British monarchy, West said: “I’ve never really been a royalist, I’m more of just a loyalist’. In truth, West’s interest in Queen Elizabeth has much more to do with her well-known interest in thoroughbred breeding and racing than with any English royal tradition and pageantry.
“She presented the trophy at Keeneland’s inaugural ‘Queen Elizabeth, II Challenge Cup’, in 1984,” West said. “Which is now a Grade I stakes race. It started on dirt, a mile, and 1/16th, but now is the premiere turf race in America for three-year-old fillies, every October. And it all started with Queen Elizabeth in 1984!”, West attests.
Bourbon County native Bob Thompson was at that race in 1984. Then 35 years old, Thompson clearly remembers what it was like when “…that dapper Ted Bassett (former Keeneland president and CEO) led her (Queen Elizabeth) into the paddock before the big race. According to Thompson, it was a beautiful fall day, and the spirits were high. “That race was up in the afternoon, so people had had plenty to drink by then,” Thompson chuckled. “But then everybody got real quiet—I’ve never, ever heard it that quiet at Keeneland—I mean, the whole place went quiet, the second they saw The Queen enter the paddock.”
“I’ve never seen anybody have that kind of presence before,” describes Thompson, who though he’s been an Episcopalian for most of his adult life, said he did not grow up particularly interested in the British Crown and all its pomp and circumstance.
Thompson noted that the inaugural Queen Elizabeth race was won by a Bourbon County horse, “Sintra,” bred by Seth Hancock at Cherry Valley Farm. Thompson had lunch last week with Hancock, his lifelong friend, and of course, they reminisced about The Queen’s visits to Claiborne Farm.
In a phone interview with The Citizen, Hancock recounted some of his specific memories of the royal visits, specifically the 1984 trip. “I remember her people made a preliminary visit here, to make sure we knew how to address her, how to act, three or four things we could call her, and so forth,” Hancock recalls. “I finally said, you’re just gonna confuse me, can I just call her ‘Ma’am’?” Hancock chuckled.
“She had a real interest in ‘Round Table’. She told me that my father (A.B. “Bull” Hancock, Jr.) had bought the sire of Round Table from her family,” he added. “But she kept referring to him in the past tense. Finally, I said, ‘Ma’am, he’s still with us, very nearby, at The Marchmont barn, would you like to see him?’” Hancock remembers her staff expressing concern about The Queen’s schedule. The schedule was immediately rearranged, Hancock remembers.
For the readership less familiar with The Sport of Kings, Round Table (1954-1987) was considered one of the most exceptional turf racers in thoroughbred racing history. His 66 starts would be almost unheard of today. He was U.S. Horse of the Year in 1958, leading sire nationally in 1972, and inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame, also in 1972.
Edmond Boyle of Paris grew up on Claiborne Farm, retiring in 2012 after 72 years of service. He was manager of maintenance at the time of The Queen’s 1984 visit. In an interview, Boyle explained he had followed in the footsteps of his father, Dudley Boyle, one of A.B. Hancock Sr.’s most trusted employees and friends. Boyle has keen memories of The Queen’s first visit to Claiborne.
“She had a big entourage,” Boyle remembers, with a lot of law enforcement presence. “I was warned, if her car stops, you’d better get flat on the ground,” he laughed. “I remember Nathan Brooks was the butler at Marchmont, where Mrs. Hancock lived,” Boyle added. “Miss Hancock had instructed him on how to answer the door”. But according to Boyle, Nathan was worried about how exactly to greet Queen Elizabeth. “But what’s her name?”, Brooks reportedly kept asking. “So when she arrived, he (Nathan) just said, ‘Well come right on in, Miss Queen, we’ve been expecting you!’”, Boyle laughed.
So what does a queen have for lunch in Bourbon County, anyway? Best Boyle remembers it was Kentucky country ham. Boyle echoes Seth Hancock’s recollection of the famous luncheon. “One of her security men asked me, ‘What’s so special about a round table, anyway,” Boyle laughed.
“Now when we went to see Round Table, he was pretty up there in age, and his teeth were worn down a bit,” Boyle recalls. “So Queen Elizabeth picked up the tub and held it up to him so he could get at it better!”
Boyle’s second wife, Mary Adele Gorey Boyle, can’t remember the exact year Queen Elizabeth came to Paris the second time. For many years a beloved first-grade teacher at St. Mary School, she does remember having the SMS students line up on Main Street to wave at The Queen’s motorcade. “But it seems like for some reason, she was running late, and we ended up sending the children home,” Mary Adele explains. “I’ll never forget it. Later that afternoon, I was standing in front of my house, on Winchester Street, and there came The Queen. Her car window was open, and she looked right at me and waved. I didn’t curtsy or anything—I may have even had a broom in my hand!”, Mary Adele laughed.
Tim Thornton grew up on Threave Main Stud on Hutchison Road. But he was working as general manager at Brereton Jones’s Airdrie Stud in Woodford County when Queen Elizabeth visited there in 1991. “It was a whole lot of fun,” he recalls of her two hours inspecting stallions at Airdrie. “She was lovin’ it!” Thornton remembers. “She was particularly interested in ‘Silver Hawk’—she bred some mares to him.” Thornton remembers The Queen as “…an extremely knowledgeable horsewoman.” He said she called him by name several times during her visit. “Once I got to talkin’ with her, she couldn’t have been nicer. Very down to earth, very sweet,” he added. It was Thornton’s one and only experience with Queen Elizabeth. “I had seen her from a distance, once, at Churchill, when I believe she was staying at Will Farish’s (Lane’s End) farm.”
Legendary Bourbon County equine veterinarian Dr. Robert Copelan will never forget when he sat side by side with Queen Elizabeth, the time she visited Overbrook Farm in Fayette County. “I remember she showed up in a black SUV, that looked like it could’ve used a good washing, especially since The Queen of England was gonna ride in it,” he chuckled. “She got out of the back door by herself,” he distinctly recalls. “When we were in the living room later, my wife (the late Pat Copelan) had wanted me to check out her (Queen Elizabeth’s) necklace, her rings, and all that,” he chuckled. “The Queen asked me, ‘Do you have any women in your (veterinary) practice?”, Copelan distinctly remembers. “Without thinking, I said, no, my wife would never sit still for a stunt like that!,” said Copelan, now 96 years old. “I worried about how that might’ve translated,” he laughed.
In over 70 years on the throne, Elizabeth served as “queen regnant” of 32 sovereign states–including 15 at the time of her death—all over the globe. So she had plenty of choices of places to spend her free time. Queen Elizabeth visited Kentucky five times. So was Seth Hancock surprised that she chose to include Bourbon County on two of those Kentucky visits? “Not really,” Hancock said. “Because she loved horses, and she wanted to breed to the best. And (Claiborne stallions) Danzig and Mr. Prospector were doing very well by then,” he explained.
“A lot of people have asked me what she was like,” Hancock said. “I’ve been around a lot of regal ladies in my life, like my mother and others. She (Queen Elizabeth) was royalty, but she was just a real nice lady, too.”
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Paula Ott of Millersburg serves as “Reverend Deacon Paula Ott” at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church here in Paris. Ott said the Sunday after Queen Elizabeth’s passing, St. Peter’s parish priest, Mother Keila C. Thomas, led the congregation in a special prayer for The Queen. According to Ott, the Episcopal denomination is “in communion” with the Anglican Church, also called “The Church of England”. “And The Queen was known as ‘The Guardian of the Faith’ or ‘The Guardian of the Church’, which includes other denominations within The Commonwealth of The United Kingdom,” Ott explains. “So The Queen was also known as ‘The Guardian of the Church of Scotland,” Ott adds, “Which is Presbyterian–which is interesting—I bet most people don’t know that.” Though all of the St. Peter’s membership is aware of their religion’s special relationship with The Church of England, and as such, are of course thusly interested and appreciative of Queen Elizabeth’s long reign of dignified service and loyalty to the faith. Ott acknowledged that some local Episcopalians, like many Americans in general, are generally fascinated with the British Royal Family, certainly including the ever-popular Queen Elizabeth. “Some much more than others, of course,” she chuckled.
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“ALL THE QUEEN’S HORSES…”
British-born Trevor Conway of Paris is probably the Bourbon Countian most directly familiar with the late Queen Elizabeth II.
That’s because for four years, back in the ’70s, he worked directly with The Queen, often one-on-one, when she would come to Hampton Court (25 miles from Windsor Castle) to visit her thoroughbred yearlings.
Though many folks here in Paris associate Conway with “Travel on Broadway”, the travel agency he owned and operated (2010-2020) in downtown Paris, his real passion lies with horses.
Trevor, who grew up just outside London, was amazed and delighted when he was hired, over the phone, to join a team of just four men charged with the care of The Queen’s prized horses in a stable, built in 1428, and used by King Henry VIII and countless royals ever since.
“Michael Oswald, now known as ‘Lord Porchester’, hired me,” Conway recalls. “His father was the Lord Porchester, the man who found King Tutankhamun’s grave—I loved that old man,” Trevor claims. “I had to have MI5 (security) clearance, because I saw The Royal Family every week, mostly on the weekends,” Conway explained in an interview this past Sunday. “Queen Elizabeth would often come with her mother, The Queen Mother,” he describes. “They would spend ages there (at the stables),” Conway reminisces. “One of my favorite memories would be hearing her (Queen Elizabeth) say, “Oh do come on, Mummy!”
But many times, Trevor admits, it was just he and Queen Elizabeth, with no security personnel at all. “I can only tell all this now, after her death, because I had to sign ‘Official Secrets Act’ paperwork back then.”
Conway remembers Queen Elizabeth as “…a fabulous, fabulous horsewoman”. He recalls the time he and his co-workers were trying to “hide” a slightly lame horse (“I believe it had some sort of abscess”), just as The Queen was arriving at the stables. “She immediately spotted it, from two hundred yards away!”.
Conway said The Queen called him often by his first name. He considered it a tremendous honor to care for the “big, Burmese Drum horse” she would ride on ceremonial occasions. He remembers that Princess Anne, the only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, for years kept her international champion show jumpers at Hampton Court.
Conway said for a time, his closest neighbor at Hampton Court was Lady Baden-Powell, the founder of the Girl Scouts program in England. Trevor said it was a sad day when he eventually left Hampton Court, “But I moved into a house with six British Airways flight attendants, so that helped the transition somewhat”, he laughed.
Conway, who first started coming to Kentucky in the 80s to work at Mineola Farm on Bryan Station Road, has just one major regret from his time with The Royal Family. “For years it was my dream to see ‘The Royal Ascot’ (a special week of races each June) in person,” Trevor describes. “But one must be invited to attend—top hat and tails and all that—by at least two members, in order to be seated in ‘The Members Enclosure’.” “If only I’d kept a copy of my application form, signed by Queen Elizabeth and her mother, themselves!”