On Lord Gordon, Bentley, royalty and football

Back in the early days of the Edmonton Eskimos it would have been difficult to find fans more enthusiastic than those in Lacombe.

HOWARD FREEDEEN

Back in the early days of the Edmonton Eskimos it would have been difficult to find fans more enthusiastic than those in Lacombe.

Every game day found them on the road to Edmonton, blankets (and jug?) in hand, to cheer on the likes of Spaghetti Legs Parker and his talented cohorts.

And among that group of fans none was more avid than Lord Roderick Gordon of Bentley.

Lord and Lady Gordon were well known in the Bentley area as owners of the ‘Shady Spring Farm,’ their 1,000-plus acre farm to the west across the Blindman River.

Here they raised high quality thoroughbreds, continuing a tradition of the Gordon aristocracy that predated 1834 when the family won the English Derby. They maintained a large stud of highly bred stallions under the watchful eye of Harry Churchill – the recently retired groom at the Lacombe Experimental Farm.

Lord Gordon also had an interest in cattle that dated back to his arrival in Canada. To tell that story in proper sequence we must go back to World War 2 when he served with British intelligence in central Europe.

He was a designated contact with the underground workers who were active in rescuing Allied flyers who had been grounded in enemy territory.

Among those workers was Baroness Joana Alexandra.

Stories were told (veterans vouch that they were not fanciful rumors) of the perils each faced during this hazardous period.

When hostilities ended he came to western Canada where he made the acquaintance of Sam Henderson, Knut Magnusson and others prominent in the cattle industry.

This probably initiated his involvement with the Canadian cattle industry for he was elected a director of the Alberta Cattle Breeders Association in 1952.

Lord Gordon married the Baroness in 1949.

That same year they purchased the property at Bentley.

They were among the first to import the Murray Gray breed of cattle from Australia and were prominent in developing that breed in Canada. By the 1970s their own herd numbered approximately 100 head.

They retired to Edmonton where he passed away at age 83 and she at age 81 but they left a rich legacy of memories in the Bentley community not least of which were the stories of an elusive red sports car.

It apparently appeared only during the football season, a red streak heading south down Hwy. 2, a streak that left pursuers in the dust.

No one ever noted from whence it came; its arrival must have been sedate. And no one ever took note of its departure.

That, too, must have been discreet.

It was only the officers on highway patrol who took note — but only after the image had vanished from their rear view mirror.

Eventually spotters were engaged and the noose of suspicion closed in around a destination west of Bentley.

There the patrol waited in hopeful anticipation one autumn night. They were not disappointed.

As for the Gordons, one might speculate that to them this was merely a sport akin to the annual running of the bulls down the streets of Barcelona, a sport that provided an adrenalin rush but without the deadly consequences associated with their underground experiences in Europe.