News from 1924: Death of Bower Ismay

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Mark Baber

The Times (London), 26 May 1924


Mr. Charles Bower Ismay, of Hazelbeech Hall, Northampton, who had been
ill for some weeks, died yesterday morning. He was well known on the
Turf, and was the owner of Craganour, which ran in the famous Derby of
1913. His grandfather, Joseph Ismay was a builder of small boats at
Maryport, in Cumberland, and his father, Thomas Ismay, joining a firm of
Liverpool shipowners, ultimately founded the White Star Line. He was
born on January 24, 1874, the third son of T. H. Ismay, and first began
to take an active interest in racing about the beginning of this
century, and he ran a horse in the Grand National of 1905. His
Bloodstone finished second to Jerry M. in 1912, and in Ally Sloper's
year, Jacobus, his second string, came in second. With Balscadden Mr.
Ismay won among other races the Grand Auteuil Hurdle Race, the
Lancashire Steeplechase, the Prince Edward Handicap, and the Newbury
Autumn Cup Twice, also the Welsh Grand National with Jacobus.

But by far his most famous horse was Craganour, which as a colt he
bought for 3,200 guineas from Sir Tatton Sykes. The horse won the New
Stakes at Ascot and the Exeter Stakes at Newmarket, but was beaten at
Goodwood by Rock Flint. That proved to be his only defeat as a two-year
old, and he took the Prince of Wales' Plate at York, the Champagne
Stakes at Doncaster, and the Middle Park Plate at Newmarket, and became
the winter favourite for the Derby. As a three-year old he began with a
defeat at Liverpool, and finished second in the Two Thousand to Louvois.
A fortnight later he easily beat Louvois in the Newmarket Stakes. As
the Derby of 1913 drew near Craganour became a strong public favourite.
There were two sensational incidents in the race, for not only was the
King's horse, Anmer, brought down by a suffragist at Tattenham Corner
and his jockey carried in bleeding and unconscious, but Craganour's
number was hoisted as the winner, only to be followed by his
disqualification, the race being awarded to Aboyeur.

The Stewards, curiously enough, included the late Major Eustace Loder,
who had bred the colt and sold him and his dam, Veneration II.,
half-sister to Pretty Polly, to the Sledmere stud. The disqualification
aroused a vast amount of discussion, but none of the Stewards ever gave
any explanation of the grounds on which the decision was arrived at.
After the race Mr. Ismay accepted an offer of £30,000 from Señor
Martinez de Hoz for Craganour, who went to the Argentine, where he did
well as a sire.

Mr. Ismay was fond of hunting, and was often seen with the Pytchley and
Mr. Fernie's, as well as the Bedale and the Hurworth. He had also done
a good deal of big game shooting, chiefly in East Africa and the Sudan.
In the South African war he served as a trooper in the Northumberland
Yeomanry. During the war he was attached to the 12th Lancers in France
from January, 1915, to November, 1916, and was then transferred to the
Remount service.

He married in 1900 Matilda Constance, daughter of George R. Schieffelin,
of New York; her elder sister had married his brother, Mr. J. B. Ismay,
some 12 years before.

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Mark Baber

The New York Times, 26 May 1924

British Shipping and Racing Man Succumbs to Sleeping Sickness
LONDON, May 25---Captain Bower Ismay, the shipowner and racehorse fancier, died today at Hazel Beech Hall, Northamptonshire. He had been ill since Feb. 8 with sleeping sickness.

The disease, according to medical authorities, has become increasingly prevalent recently in England, especially at Birmingham, where there is said to be an epidemic and where numerous deaths have occurred.

Mr. Ismay's wife was Matilda C. Schieffelin of New York.


Inger Sheil

I'm shocked - shocked to the core, I tell you - that Sen would write about something like horseracing...


I once absconded from from a Titanic convention with him to find a pub that was showing the Grand National live. I suspect I was invited on the strength of the fact that my grandfather was an Irish SP bookie who worked near Randwick in Sydney, and who counted among his mates the owner and jockey of Phar Lap...or perhaps the fact that one of my Gee Gees was an ex-racehorse influenced my inclusion.

Great piece, and those articles you posted dovetail very nicely, MAB. It evokes an era and class that appreciated fine horseflesh and which long remembered a good juicy scandal. Cause of death is interesting.
Trypanosomiasis. The insect vector is the tsetse fly which transmits the trypanosomes from cattle to humans.

The main reservoir of the disease is East Africa. The quoted report must be awry on some facts - you won't find many tsetse flies in Birmingham!

>>The main reservoir of the disease is East Africa. The quoted report must be awry on some facts - you won't find many tsetse flies in Birmingham!<<

Hmmmmmmmmm...I can see why Inger called the cause of death "interesting."

Inger Sheil

Yes - that's why I queried it as 'interesting'. I wasn't aware of an epidemic of trypanosomiasis caused by the trypanosome parasite had broken out in Birmingham in 1924! There are two forms of the illness caused by two parasites. One, Trypanosoma brucei gambiense, causes a chronic infection that develops over years. It is predominately found in the countries of western and central Africa. The other, Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense, causes acute illness that develops over several weeks. It is predominantly found in the countries of eastern and southern Africa. If untreated in either case, the resulting condition, human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) can prove fatal.

It would be interesting to know when Ismay's last trip hunting game in 'East Africa and the Sudan' was prior to his death.

Mark Baber

Thanks, Martin. In addition to the NYT's "Hazel Beech" and The Times' "Hazelbeech," I also have a July 1924 White Star Magazine article which gives the name as "Hasselbech."

As for the sleeping sickness issue, I know that somewhere in my files I have at least one article from The Times reporting on Ismay's final illness. I'll try to dig it (or them) out over the weekend; I distinctly remember that The Times also referred to "sleeping sickness," but don't recall if it gave any info about how he might have come down with it.
I recently purchased a copy of Charles Bower Ismay's death certificate as I was curious about the "sleeping sickness" from which he was reported to have died.

The answer is that "sleeping sickness" is ambiguous. In modern usage I think that it would almost always be taken to mean the disease that is caused by the trypanosome for which the tsetse fly is the vector. As has been discussed previously on this thread, this simply couldn't have been the cause of an epidemic in Birmingham which is nowhere near to the tsetse's home range in Africa.

In 1924, however, there was another condition known as "sleeping sickness" (or "sleepy sickness") which was encephalitis lethargica. This was then something of a medical mystery and has subsequently been largely forgotten because its rate of incidence declined significantly after 1927. There was, so far as I am aware, no specific prevention or cure that would account for the disappearance of the disease. For further information see, for example,

The death certificate states that Charles Bower Ismay did indeed die of encephalitis lethargica from which he had been suffering for some three and a half months.

The informant who notified the registrar of the death was Charles's brother Bruce Ismay who had been in attendance at the time of the death. His address is given as 15 Hill Street, London W.

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