Tributes to Eric, the ‘great all-rounder’

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Tributes have been paid to a long serving Newmarket head lad by members of the racing world and his family following his funeral service on Friday.

More than 120 people, including many from the racing industry, gathered at All Saints Church, at the end of the week to remember the life of Eric Campbell, who died at Kingfisher House nursing home in Newmarket on Saturday, March 29.

Following the service Mr Campbell, who was 83 at the time of his death was cremated at West Suffolk Crematorium in Risby.

“He lived and breathed racing,” said Christine Phipps, daughter.

“Any talk in the house was about horses.

“We all know he will have died a happy man as he enjoyed life to the full and if he is up there looking down on us I am sure he will not be sitting on a cloud but a on a horse.”

Born in Barton-on-Humber, Mr Campbell’s first job in racing came at the age of 14 when he joined Tom Hall as an apprentice jockey.

He moved to Charlie Hall’s yard following the death of Tom. It was there he rode his first winner, aged 16 on a horse called Middling at Carlisle.

After spending two years aboard HMS Windrush doing his national service, Mr Campbell returned to Middleham for a short stint with Major Berwick as a flat jockey.

Marrying his wife Jean in 1955, Mr Campbell switched codes to become a National Hunt jockey where he worked for George Todd at Manton for three years before he linked up with Greystroke trainer Tom Robson.

It was during this time he set a track record at the now defunct Manchester when landing the two-mile Victory Hurdle aboard Miserable Monk.

After Mr Robson was forced to stop training Mr Campbell took out a training license of his own, where he employed now Newmarket trainer Tom Keddy as an apprentice jockey.

“He was a legend in his own right,” said Mr Keddy.

“Even though I had ridden before I joined Eric when I got there he taught me the finer points of riding. He was one of the best horsemen I have seen.

“He was a hard man but a fair man and he was the sort of guy who would tell you what he thought it was like.”

Although training around 30 winners Mr Campbell, who also rode over 200 winners, quit being a trainer and headed down to Newmarket in 1971 where he joined up with then trainer Ryan Jarvis, father of current Newmarket handler William Jarvis.

“My dad and Eric shared some great times together. He was a wonderful man who had a lovely family,” said Mr Jarvis.

“Like Mark Tompkins said at the funeral they broke the mould when they made Eric.

“He could turn his hand to anything. If you had a difficult horse in the yard he was the man to turn to. He was a great all-rounder and I can’t speak highly enough of him.”

It was during his time with Mr Jarvis that he struck up a working relationship with town trainer Mark Tompkins, who at that time was assistant trainer to Mr Jarvis.

“He was a marvellous head lad and a great horseman,” said Mr Tompkins.

“He was one of the proper old fashioned head lads who type are long gone.

“Eric got on with everyone and he nurtured the apprentices that came into the yard and the staff. He was a very genuine man who helped everybody.

“Eric was one of those who had a myriad of stories that you would never stop listening to. Even if you had heard them 20 times you would still enjoy them. Away from racing he was very family orientated and supported them in whatever they did.

“I am sure if he was still bale to he would be riding out today and he was a completely fearless and unique man who was a great help to me.”

Upon Mr Jarvis’ retirement Mr Campbell moved on to work for Robert Williams, where he spent 15 years as head lad before retiring.

During his retirement Mr Campbell stayed close to the industry helping to break in yearlings along with riding out for trainers including Giles Bravery until he was 78, when a stroke put an end to his riding days.

In 2007 he was commemorated for his time in racing, which including his work during retirement, totalled nearly 65 years in the sport, with a Lifetime in Racing award which was presented to him at Towcester racecourse.

Mr Campbell leaves behind his wife Jean, his sons Ian and Ross, daughter Christine, and six grandsons.