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27 January 2013

Vale William Stephen (Bill) Tindale. 23 January 2013.

William Stephen (Bill) Tindale was a former newspaper photographer and then picture editor, and the Tindale family was a little bit synonymous with news photography in Melbourne.  He died early on Wednesday 23 January 2013.  He was 84 years old.  I knew his youngest son Darren Tindale pretty well.

It must be said that I can take a few attempts and a day or two to fully finish a post. I'm trying not to spend too much time on this one. Not because I think Bill wasn't worthy of the effort but because my energy needs to be redirected somewhat.  I think it's finished now.  And ok, it's now taken 3 days....

I liked Bill Tindale, even though sadly he was nearing the end of his life when I finally got to meet him.  Darren took me to meet him for the first time on 26 October 2012, which is almost 3 months before he died, then again during the first half of November .  His wit was still keen, and his eyes were still sharp.  I think Bill would have been fun and engaging, and I would have had things in common with him, and probably lots to talk and probably argue about with Bill.  I don't doubt that we could have grown close.  And of course, there would have been loads to learn from him.  Bill obviously liked pretty things.  He commented a number of times about my hair and eyes being pretty, and those sharp eyes also picked out the Special Pony Charm which he asked about.  Darren explained its significance to him.  We didn't think he'd remembered our visit, but on a later visit he asked a question which indicated he did have some recall of meeting me.  There were a couple of photographers talking about Bill's death in the Press Room at Caulfield on Saturday, so his memory had not disappeared from the world of press photography. 

This image of Bill Tindale was taken in 1961 and lives in the Victorian State Library.  I don't have a larger version.
Bill Tindale, and his son, and my friend, Darren Tindale.  I took this picture on 26 October 2012, which was the first day I met Bill .  Everyone who saw it this loved this image.  Two great photographers together.  I thought that they were keenly alike, which was probably why I liked Bill so much.  I agree that quality wise it's not up to my usual standards, but then snobs like me all know that iPhones are NOT real cameras!

I am not sure whether I have any examples of Bill's photographic work. One of a photographer's great legacies are the images they leave behind. If you are lucky, as a photographer, you can be responsible for creating 'defining images' of your subjects.

About a month ago I  sat down, cross legged, on my floor and went through all my racing books trying to find some of his photographs. But I came up empty handed, leading to cursing and muttering about stupid and disrespectful book editors, who had an infuriating habit of crediting a writer but not the photographer in a book!! We photographers, quite rightly, think this was bollocks!  Thankfully this practice is no longer as common due to changes in copyright law.  I always maintain that, unless you are Les Carlyon, it is the images you remember about a particular subject before you remember the words, and that photographs and photographers are important!  Well, that is, unless you are Martin Luther King ("I have a Dream") or John Fitzergerald Kennedy ("Ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man") whose words are part of folklore!  There is the image Bill took of Light Fingers and her 1973 foal, which I refer to later in this post, that I have seen.  We put a laminated copy on Bill's room door on the Nursing Home, but I have no copy, and apparently it has vanished.

Bill was responsible for some famous images of a mud splattered Van Der Hum returning to scale after winning the 1976 Melbourne Cup.  Apparently the one of Bob Skelton after winning the race was one of Bill's favourites.  Flemington was of course famously flooded on Cup Day 1976, and Bill kept a camera and 35mm lens dry for the cup. 

Having received confirmation that it was indeed Van Der Hum, I executed another raid through my library of horse racing books, again sitting cross legged on my lounge room floor with my cup of tea next to me (braving the mad kitty), and again, went searching for this image.  Again, no stupid photo credits.  But I am wondering whether this is Bill Tindale's photograph.  It looks to me like it is taken in the right spot?

Van Der Hum returning to scale. We think that there is a better than even chance that Bill Tindale took this, but we aren't 100% sure.
Bob Skelton after unsaddling Van Der Hum.  This is definitely Bill Tindale's image

I found these images in my book called "The Melbourne Cup:  1861-2000", by Maurice Cavanough, with Rhett Kirkwood and Brian Meldrum.  Brian worked with Bill, and later Darren, in his role as racing writer for the Sun News Pictorial and later Managing Editor - Racing at the Herald and Weekly Times.  Kirkwood and Meldrum completed the book after Cavanagh's death in July 2001, before the book went to print. The book credits do say the photographs are from the HWT.  Ironically, if this is indeed the book that I have located one of Bill Tindale's favourite photographs from, it was the earlier versions of Cavanagh's Melbourne Cup bibles that drew me in to horse racing so thoroughly.  My uncle Murray owned both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cup books.  I used to read them from cover to cover, then start over again!  I think he ended up giving me his copies.

"The rain held off until 2.10pm, a half hour before the scheduled starting time of the Cup.  A deceptively light few spots of rain heralded the extraordinary storm that descended on Flemington at 2.15pm.  First came flashes of zigzag lightning, followed a few seconds later by thunder of Wagnerian intensity.  Then it seemed that all heaven - or hell - broke loose  The clouds seemed to sit on top of the grandstand, nd the rain cascaded down with a force and volume rarely seen outside the tropic zones; and not often there.  Still to the accompaniment of lightning and thunder, the rain fell left to right, right to left, and it times it billowed in circles.  Mention has been made to the instant swimming pools which were formed on Flemington's Law.  There were similar pools in the betting ring, several metres wide and in places half a metre deep. At 2.26pm the course announced informed those who could hear him that the Stewards had postponed the start of the Cup to a time to be decided.  Almost as soon as this announcement was made, the rain began to ease.   The starting gates opened at 2.47 precisely"
We photographers often joke that our journalist mates are Great Big Pansies!!!!  Because when the heavens open they get to watch the race under shelter.  We photographers though, MUST be made out of tougher stuff, and our job is to capture the moment for the record books and for the public record.  Darren and I photographed in similar conditions on Derby Day, where the rain was torrential for over 4 hours.  Working in conditions like this is tough and arduous, what's even tougher though, is still managing to produce the goods when the weather god is being utterly bloody.  Only another photographer would understand this pressure.  Perhaps it is why we bond together a little bit?  So I included that text (a little bit abridged with just what I needed) to show the conditions that Bill worked under.  I like to hope that the images I found this morning are his.

I often wonder if I have disappointed my own parents by pursuing a career as a photographer, despite my upbringing and university education.  Perhaps they thought I would achieve more?  They are both clever and have significant academic achievements between them.  My Dad is probably the smartest person I know.  He has had a highly distinguished career as General Counsel for CSIRO, and is responsible for the success of the CSIRO Wireless LAN patent defense and lawsuit.  But photography, and horses, is what I loved the best, and for this reason, I could so get and understand a person like Bill.  I think photographers tend to be drawn to each other.  We (well, the good ones are!) speak the same language and our minds think and see in images.  There is a constant viewfinder attached to us.   I guess these are all reasons why it was so important for me to meet Bill.  I kept wishing and hoping he would live longer so I could get to know him better, but he's at peace now which is better for him.   
Bill loved thoroughbred horses and horse racing too, and what's not to like about that!  Even though his mind was prone to wandering when I did finally meet him, we did manage a talk about an image he took of the 1965 Melbourne Cup winner Light Fingers with her 1973 filly foal.  

I'd done a little bit of research on the foal before I got there, but I wasn't sure exactly which one it was, because I'd been told of the story and of courses horses and bloodlines are my thing.  We were pretty sure though that the filly foal of Light Fingers that Bill photographed (I was shown the preserved clipping) was by Galilee's sire Alcimedes (GB), and was foaled in 1973.  I would have only been 5 years old when Bill took that image. That breeding represented the matching of a potential champion, and I of course always get excited about these possibilities.  Although Galilee raced in the same era as Light Fingers (she ran 2nd to him in the 1966 Melbourne Cup), he was was of course a gelding, and therefore not a candidate for her at stud!  So the alternative was of course his sire Alcimedes. Alcimedes also sired the 1971 Melbourne Cup winner Silver Knight and was still current all the way up to 1981, as his sired No Peer, who won the 1981 Turnbull Stakes and was a favourite for the Melbourne Cup himself which was won that year by Just a Dash.

I will not be able to go to the funeral.  It's upsetting.  So this is my little goodbye to someone I thought was pretty ace, and who I'd have loved to have gotten to know a little bit better.  Timing is everything, they say, in life. 

Darren Tindale, on his last day working at the track as a Herald Sun photographer.  I took this image on 8 September 2012 at Flemington Racecourse.

It's in the blood.  Darren Tindale's great image of Saintly dreaming of winning the Melbourne Cup.  Darren took this the day before the 1996 Cup, and a large copy of it hangs in the Flemington Press Room.


Just out of interest, this is the studbook pedigree of Bill's filly who was named Nimble Fingers. 

Bill's Filly
Nimble Fingers (NZ) 1973

 Aust.Id.: 105397mareDate of Birth: 00/00/1973 

 by Alcimedes (GB) 1954
 from Light Fingers (NZ) 1961
Official Australian Stud Book Pedigree

Alycidon (GB) 1945
Donatello II (FR) 1934
Aurora (GB) 1936

Alcimedes (GB) 1954
Foal ref: 33:324

Honey Hill (GB) 1944
Panorama (GB) 1936
Calgary (GB) 1936
Nimble Fingers (NZ) 1973
Foal ref: 23:981

Le Filou (FR) 1946
Vatellor (FR) 1933
Fileuse (FR) 1941

Light Fingers (NZ) 1961
Foal ref: 20:217

Cuddlesome (NZ) 1948
Red Mars (GB) 1941
Fondle (NZ) 1927
Family: 20A



  1. Hi Bronwyn, just came across you fabulous blog today. Had been watching some old films from the NZ archives on Sir Tristram and one thing led to another and I found your blog, through Alcimedes a sire I was obsessed with as a kid, and luckily got to visit at Trelawney a few years before his death. Now I see this pedigree and I'm rapt as I remember when Light Fingers was put to Alcy thinking this horse is going to be a Melbourne Cup winner, not sure if much came of her or her progeny, but it was a good idea! Warm wishes x

    1. Hi Lise.. I got a bit excited when I researched the foal's potential pedigree too, although I have to say that I recall Bill Tindale with bittersweet reservations seeing the way things turned out for me there. It would have been a very exciting moment to photograph such a foal. It didn't appear to have done anything of note though despite it's illustrious pedigree.

  2. Hi Bronwen, thanks for the reply. Love reading your blog, I love seeing your family and that gorgeous kitty of yours who has such an outgoing personality to be travelling so much in the car! And you've moved down to Balnarring, fantastic! I guess you've visited Lee's place 'just around the corner' Markdel, though I'm not sure how much is going on down there? You know seeing your beautiful pics has taken me back to that young girl who was obsessed with thoroughbred breeding; well I still am actually. Those memories of the 70s are so strong right now! I'm sure you're looking forward to Nelly's baby, I think the whole of Australia will be! Was rapt to see her up close and personal a few years ago at Caulfield. Walking, walking and walking for ages as she needed to do. Oh gods I could go on and on, its fab connecting with people who understand the passion for thoroughbreds! Thanks for a fantastic blog! Sorry writing so personally, I do feel like I know you now! Warm wishes, Lise x