When former jockey Michael Jenkins got to know Mary Fritchley through Newmarket’s Befriending Service he had no idea the former stable girl had such a story to tell.
But as every visit to her Ashley home revealed yet another tale of an extraordinary life, Michael said “Why don’t we write your book” and now the pair have put together her life story Oh! Mary.
Now 75, Mary has recently moved to Racing Welfare’s Childwick House in Newmarket the town where against her father’s wishes she had begun her career as a stable girl in a racing yard, working for Royal trainer Cecil, Boyd-Rochfort. The girl who had been born in back seat of a taxi found herself looking after horses owned by the Queen and became one of a growing number of girls riding out regularly on the Heath.
But Mary’s gregarious nature was to take her way beyond Newmarket and saw her and her late husband George, become personal friends of the late Muhammad Ali.
Having always been great fans of the former World Heavyweight Champion, while on holiday in the United States in 1971 the couple had decided to try to find their hero and, thanks to a bit of detective work and help from a local newspaper, they found his home in New Jersey and knocked on the door.
“It opened and there he was,” Mary remembered. “I nearly passed out.”
Her lasting friendship with The Greatest, is just one of the stories in the 40-page booklet.
“If you watched Mary shuffling along the High Street in Ashley, using a walking frame to cover the 200 yards from her house to the local shop, you would not imagine she was a close friend of Muhammad Ali, had sworn roundly and loudly in front of the Queen, painted more than 200 pictures and published illustrations, and trained her horse to impersonate Esther Rantzen live on television,” said Michael.
“Mary is a wonderful character and she really loves the book .”
Amanda Larcombe, befriending co-ordinator, said: “The book is testament to Michael’s efforts and commitment to his befriending client.
“Apparently his booklet has made Mary feel 30 years younger and given her a new lease of life.” To find out more about the befriending service call 01638 608048 or email: email@example.com .