Pioneer of Newmarket's racing tours, Jean Bucknell, dies aged 81
Newmarket’s racing community has been mourning the death of Jean Bucknell, who pioneered the idea of taking visitors round the town’s world famous training grounds.
Jean, who was 81, died in West Suffolk Hospital on Tuesday after a short illness. Her long-time partner, Dave Goodwin, said at the end she had told him: “No tears. I have had a long happy life, been everywhere I wanted to go and done everything I wanted to do.”
The couple met when they were both working at Brian Swift’s Epsom stable in the 1970s, Dave as a work rider and Jean as a housekeeper and event organiser for the trainer.
“Brian’s wife heard Julie Cecil was looking for someone to look after her two children and suggested she speak to Jean,” said Dave. “She didn’t really want to do it but eventually curiosity killed the cat and in 1978 she moved to Newmarket. It was the best thing she ever did and I followed her.”
Jean loved the town and the heath and when her two young charges, Katie and Noel, went off to boarding school, she looked for something else to do and started Hoofbeats Newmarket Thoroughbred Tours.
“She recruited Willie Snaith who had just retired as a work rider and for 10 years they took people round the town and on to the Heath. She loved it and so did Willie,” said Dave. Eventually Jean handed over the business to Julia Fielden.
“She did all her own correspondence by hand and couldn’t deal with computers so she called it a day.”
But Jean remained a familiar face on the Heath watching horses at exercise, chatting to trainers, and introducing countless private visitors to her favourite place.
“She loved Newmarket and the heath and thought it should be promoted,” said Dave, “and she got a huge amount of pleasure from seeing horses which might one day be stars. I remember months before he ran when she first saw Frankel she told me: ‘I think Henry (Cecil) has got something very special.”
Dave, who also worked at Warren Place, looked after two Derby winners, Slip Anchor and Commander in Chief. “Whichever horses I did she was the owner and we had some very special days together,” he said.