My Yorkshire

Harvey Smith (b.1938)

Yorkshire-born Harvey Smith was a renowned showjumping champion who stood out from the ranks of showjumpers because of his broad accent and blunt manner.

His career was often controversial. At Hickstead in 1971 an almost perfect round on his horse Mattie Brown won him the British Show Jumping Derby for the second year in succession. Following his win, he thrust two fingers upwards in the direction of the judge's balcony. As a result of this the judges attempted to disqualified him, but Smith successfully appealed against the judgement and his victory was reinstated.

In 1972 Smith published his autobiography which he titled V for Victory. In this book he gave his own explanation of why he had made the sign:

“Absolutely on the spur of the moment, I raised two fingers... It was a V for victory; it was meant to show how delighted I was that Mattie Brown had become the only horse ever to win the British Jumping Derby on successive years. If it was also interpreted as an 'up you' to those on the balcony who wanted Mattie Brown to lose, then all well and good... But above all, the gesture was meant to be light-hearted and the crowd received it as such.”

The fame resulting from this incident enabled Smith to embark on a brief, but unsuccessful, careers as a singer and as a wrestler. In 1975 Smith made a record titled "True Love". He made his wrestling debut in the Royal Hall in Harrogate, fighting Cockey Kaye, the "Lancashire Thunderbolt". Billed as a "battle of the Pennines", the fight drew 1,300 spectators.

On the radio programme Desert Island Discs, Smith refused to name a book he would take to a desert island, not even Shakespeare or the Bible, declaring to the presenter Roy Plomley: “I've never read a book in my life and don't intend to start for you, sir”.

In 1989 Smith was honoured for being the first man to have jumped in 100 Volvo World Cup Qualifying Rounds.

With his wife, Sue, Harvey Smith now trains racehorses on his farm and stables at Craiglands Farm, High Eldwick, Bingley. Interviewed in the Independent in April 2006, he summed up his tempestuous career: “Aye the press. I've had 50 years of them. They build you up one day and they knock you down the next. I've been up and down so many times I feel like a yo-yo.”


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