My Life with The


by John Sparks

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Copyright © 2020 John Sparks. All Rights Reserved

Story of Gracie

When I started in 1961 at the Garrett Street stable I was told many stories from the old boys working in the stable and horse drivers, one really caught my attention, it was the one of the Whitbread shire that had saved the life of its driver, it happened in 1953, the drivers name was Charlie Gardner and his horse was a mare called Gracie.

He was delivering to the Whitbread public houses in the Shoreditch area in the east end of London with Gracie a bay shire mare bought in July 1940 at the age of six and a ten year old gelding called Quota, on completion of his work Charlie mounting the dickie seat to start their journey home as he put the dickie seat strap on Charlie suffered a stroke which partially paralysed him.

After a few minutes Gracie not hearing any command from Charlie realised that something was wrong, she walked off taking full command of Quota, the dray and the semi - conscious Charlie on the two mile journey back through the busy streets of London, observing three set of traffic lights correctly she finally arrived at the Whitbread stable in Garrett Street outside the stables she whinnied and scraped the floor until help arrived from the stable.

Charlie made a full recovery and went back to work driving Gracie on deliveries to the Whitbread pubs around London.

"Gracie's" name is now included in the P.D.S.A animal Roll of Honour. She is the first horse ever to have achieved this distinction.

She was also awarded a " Blue Cross Medal "

A photo of the medal can be seen at the bottom of the page

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  Old Gracie knew the way home


It was lucky for brewer's drayman Charlie Gardner that his lead-horse, Gracie, knew the road home. If she had not, he admitted last night, he might not be alive today.

Charlie-who lives in Morgan Road, Holloway, London. N. 7. had just finished delivering his barrels of ale at the White Horse in Shoreditch. He clambered up to his driving perch-and collapsed from a sudden seizure.

His whip fell from his hand.
There was no one around. The street was empty. And he was too weak to call for help.

Only old Gracie a brown shire mare, sensed that something was wrong. For nearly 13 years they had been together delivering beer around London. She waited for his usual command ;
 " Come on gal, lets go "

  Limp reins

When it didn't come she pricked up her ears and strained on the traces.

Along side her was Quota an inexperienced, nettlesome gelding.
She gave him a signal known only to horses.
With the reins hanging limp over her harness, her driver in his chocolate- brown tunic and sugar-loaf hat lying slumped in his seat and the barrels rattling round on the back. Gracie and Quota trundled the three ton dray down the street.
The brewery was more than two miles away through busy City streets. But Gracie knew the way - for all three of them.
At three sets of traffic lights she stopped - and made Quota stop too - when the lights turned red. Unaided , she picked her way through a maze of traffic, turning from one street into another until she reached Whitbread's brewery in Chiswell Street.

    ' I 'm proud of you '

Outside, she whinned and rattled her hooves on the roadway - and kept it up until help came.
While an ambulance took the drayman to hospital Gracie, unharnessed, led Quota back to their stalls.

Yesterday, recovering from his stroke. Charlie Gardner reported back to work. He made straight for the stables.
As he stroked and patted Gracie's mane he whispered in her ear :

" I'm proud of you gal. You saved my life "

From his tunic pocket he produced her reward - an extra large slice of currant cake and a carrot.