To say Harley Walden is a passionate racing identity is an understatement - he is more than that.
Harley has only missed three meets at Scone Race Club since it moved to the current track 18 years ago, he spent his whole working career as a key player of thoroughbred horse studs and he has never missed a Scone Cup since the very first one at the original White Park race track which he wagged school to watch in 1947.
To most these days Harley’s love for the race horse industry is well known as he spent about six years writing columns for The Scone Advocate from November 1997 and he is still a valuable contributor writing the odd article for print today.
The Scone Race Club life member has also written for publications such as Australian Thoroughbred.
Harley is like a living book, he can enlighten you with thoroughbred racing history most only dream of knowing and he still has every column he has written tucked away in what he calls his “den”.
A born and bred Scone man, Harley was proudly involved in the official visit of the Melbourne Cup to Scone in 2010 after which he received a letter from Federal Member for Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon congratulating him on the work he does for the local community.
Being an only child to Darcy and Doris Walden, Harley has pondered a love for horses his whole life.
Over the years Harley has built strong bonds with some the greats including Peter Snowden and his family, Roy Greenwood, Ray Selkrig, Tommy Smith and Peter Lawson.
After attending school at the Old Scone Convent - next to the White Park race course - where he was taught by the Sisters of Mercy, Harley knew all too well the value of good discipline.
He said in those days discipline was a great thing.
“I copped a few canes, but I deserved them.
“The way of life has changed now but I think discipline has been taken away and that’s not such a good thing,” he said.
When he was a boy Scone boasted three butchers, three barbers, four bakeries, six cafes, about six garages and a picture show with a full house six nights a week.
“Campbell’s Corner was like an emporium, you could buy everything you needed from there,” Harley said.
Harley’s family moved to Sledmere Stud when he was three-years-old as his father worked on the place and as a five-year-old Harley learnt to ride.
Following in the footsteps of his dad, Harley left school when he was 15 and started working alongside his father at Sledmere, where he continued to work for the next 27 years.
In this time, Harley enjoyed the annual voyage to Sydney to the yearling sales and showing thoroughbreds at the Sydney Royal Easter Show at Moore Park.
In 1980, Harley and his wife Heather (nee Nunn) made his only ever move away from Scone when he moved to Tamworth to set up Stratheden Stud for John Parke, however when his father fell ill he transferred back to Scone.
From then Harley worked for Major James Mitchell as the stallion man at Yarraman Park, then worked at Alabama for Andrew Bowcock before being forced to retire due to health reasons.
Harley said he has always enjoyed working with horses and has loved racing history for as long as he can remember.
“In my years we had to make our own fun so I used to jump on my horse and go up into the bush chasing kangaroos,” he said.
Harley rode in Scone Pony Club and enjoyed rodeos, but said racing has always been his main objective.
Harley has witnessed many changes in Scone over the years – where we sat on his verandah for his interview used to be the original Scone Saleyard.
He and Heather have raised two children – Grant and Tracy – in Scone and are proud grandparents of Joseph.
“I’ve seen a fair bit of water flow under the bridge, but one thing I do hope is that in my lifetime I never see the mines encroach on this area.”
But the 76-year-old said some things never change.
“I’ve always enjoyed living in Scone, it’s a town that hardly ever changes – the people you meet in Scone are good country people who are always willing to put their shoulder to the wheel and help out when someone’s in need,” he said.
“Scone is a real country town with a country atmosphere.”