Saturday, September 18, 2021

My hero: Sefton, by Jilly Cooper


Sefton in 1984.

My hero: 


 by Jylly Cooper

'He became a national symbol of courage and stoicism'

Saturday 18 December 2010


n July 1982 the Blues and Royals Mounted Squadron rode out from Hyde Park barracks – and what a magnificent sight those shiny black horses were. As they were approaching Hyde Park Corner an IRA nail bomb was detonated; it killed four soldiers and seven horses and left others with appalling injuries. At 19, Sefton was the oldest of the horses and the worst injured: his jugular vein was severed and a six-inch nail went through his bridle. But after 28 pieces of shrapnel were removed from his body, he made a slow but complete recovery and, miraculously, was back on parade the following November.

He became a national symbol of courage and stoicism. I went down to see him at Melton Mowbray when he was recovering. All the other horses were jumpy and nervy – biting and kicking people – but Sefton was completely calm and phlegmatic. I gave him lots of barley sugar and he was getting sack-loads of fan mail. He was absolutely gorgeous.

The following year, the "Animals in War" exhibition was staged at the Imperial War Museum, and Sefton went along as one of the stars. Barbara Woodhouse and Joanna Lumley were there: Sefton fell madly in love with Joanna, but totally ignored Barbara Woodhouse, who kept trying to boss him around. But, most blissfully of all, he insisted on sticking his cock out the whole time – so the hundreds of waiting photographers had great difficulty getting any pictures. Such style! He was a star, and nobody was going to tell him what to do. When he died – years later at 30 – the trooper who was looking after him was in floods of tears, like so many of us, and uttered the immortal line: "St Peter won't need to open the pearly gates, because old Sefton will fly over them."


001 My hero / Oscar Wilde by Michael Holroyd
002 My hero / Harley Granville-Barker by Richard Eyre
003 My hero / Edward Goldsmith by Zac Goldsmith
004 My hero / Fridtjof Nansen by Sara Wheeler 
005 My hero / Mother Mercedes Lawler IBVM by Antonia Fraser

007 My hero / Ernest Shepard by Richard Holmes
008 My hero / JG Ballard by Will Self
009 My hero / Alan Ross by William Boyd
010 My hero / Ben the labrador by John Banville

011 My hero / Vicent van Gogh by Margaret Drabble
012 My hero / Franz Marek by Eric Hobsbawm


017 My hero / Jack Yeats by Colm Tóibín
018 My hero / Francisco Goya by Diana Athill
019 My hero / Max Stafford-Clark by Sebastian Barry
020 My hero / Arthur Holmes by Richard Fortey

036 My hero / Robert Lowell by Jonathan Raban
037 My hero / Beryl Bainbridge by Michael Holroyd
038 My hero / Charles Schulz by Jenny Colgan
039 My hero / Oliver Knussen by Adam Foulds
040 My hero / Annie Proulx by Alan Warner

041 My hero / David Lynch by Paul Murray
042 My hero / Edwin Morgan by Robert Crawford
043 My hero / Anne Lister by Emma Donoghue
044 My hero / Jane Helen Harrinson by Mary Beard
045 My hero / Edmund Burke by David Marquand
046 My hero / Shelagh Deleaney by Jeanette Winterson
047 My hero / Christopher Marlowe by Val McDermid
048 My hero / Gwen John by Anne Enright
049 My hero / Michael Mayne by Susan Hill
050 My hero / Stanley Spencer by Howard Jacobson

051 My hero / William Beveridge by Will Hutton
052 My hero / Jean McConville by Amanda Foreman
053 My hero / Alexander Pushkin by Elaine Feinstein
058 My hero / Cy Twombly by Edmund de Waal

079 My hero / Gene Wolfe by Neil Gaiman
087 My hero / Alberto Moravia by John Burnside
096 My hero / Isaac Babel by AD Miller
097 Lucian Freud by Esi Edugyan
100 Thomas Tranströmer by Robin Robertson
102 My hero / David Hockney by Susan Hill


190 My hero / Iris Murdoch by Charlotte Mendelson
194 My hero / René Descartes by James Kelman
199 My hero / Albert Camus by Geoff Dyer


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