My Life with The


by John Sparks

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 I joined Whitbread in 1971. After personnel appointments in Luton, Cheltenham, and Sheffield, I was appointed General Manager of Chiswell Street. This covered the Conference and Banqueting Centre, the HQ Office Services, and the Horses.
Though John Lawless was not in my management team, I liked his enthusiasm, and dedication to the horses, so I decided to give him direct support. It was a lucky decision. I really enjoyed the involvement. I had no experience of horses other than almost doing the splits on the back of a shire coming in from harvest, or taking the reins of a pony and trap, to escape from a rabies injection, as a small boy in the 40s.
I saw the horses as important for Whitbread. They were part of the country’s history, just as is The Trooping of the Colour, or cathedrals. It seems a shame that some think we should move on from these values of life.
I enjoyed the banter of the staff. Having meetings with them in the stables, and getting all sorts of “advice”, including from Fred Burrows that I might fall over on my green acre, was challenging to say the least.
During this time, the team won the Champion Shire (Albert), and the Champion Fours at Peterborough. Albert was the arrogant one. He had his own mind. I remember when we entertained the Spanish Riding School. John Lawless was showing off the horses on the first floor, and our guests were so impressed. But I could see John was going to deliver the punch. He asked John Sparks to get Albert out into the yard. When we all went down to see him, I could see that John was holding another horse. Apparently Albert did not want to come out!
The Lord Mayor’s Show was a great event. On Wednesdays we had the rehearsal with the coach in the early hours of the morning. On one occasion I looked into the coach, and sitting inside were two retired army officers, who were now on the Lord Mayor’s staff. I had served under both of them in the army!
All the men were different characters, and so were the horses. Johnny Walker was a brilliant farrier. He was like a plant. It seemed he needed to be full of liquid in order to stand up. In his case it was beer! I had a go at driving a pair in London, under the guidance of John Lawless and Danny Hunt. Danny’s instructions on how to harness the horse were brilliant. I also spent a day delivering beer with John Cook. Then there was Maureen Raine. Her job was to control them all!
A great time, and one I shall always treasure.

Peter Shaw being taught to drive by John Lawless and Danny Hunt

Below : Billy Sheen, Ray Charlesworth and Peter Shaw
at the Harness Horse Parade in Regents Park

Below : John Lakin, Peter Shaw and  Reg Porter in the
Chiswell Street brewery before the Lord Mayors Show

Peter Shaw 6