Under holy orders: clerk of the scales Jeremy Lind dons cassock for church role
God moves in mysterious ways. Some might say racing runs a close second. But now the two ‘religions’ are being brought closer together by one man in the weighing room.
Step forward Jeremy Lind, for ten years a familiar face on racecourses serving as a clerk of the scales in the south and eastern region.
This summer he was ordained at Bury St Edmunds cathedral to add a dog collar and cassock to his wardrobe.
After a lifetime in racing, there is little the new assistant curate, who admits to being "bloody nosy", has not seen but much that still troubles him in his work.
“Occasionally if I see someone is struggling I will go and help them,” says Lind, who worked for Lord Porchester at Highclere in the days of Derby winner Troy standing at stud there.
“The obvious causes are weight problems and mental health, which is thankfully talked about now, and Graham Lee did everyone a great service when talking about his situation.
“There are money problems as well as drink, drugs and sex – a lot more below the surface than people understand.”
After six years of training to get to this point, most racing staff on the track are aware of Lind’s new role.
The dual-purpose performer has fittingly joined the team at Newmarket’s oldest churches, St Mary’s and St Agnes’, and is looking forward to working even closer with the racing family on and off the track.
While Dick Francis and Jilly Cooper might have given the impression that racing life is more like Sodom and Gomorrah, Lind is not the sort of cleric to bring fire and brimstone to bear at the racecourse scales.
“I don’t care what they say but a couple of words I don’t like and I tell them," he says. "I’m not going to change Ryan [Moore] and his effing and blinding. I don’t want to change him.
“I hope they don’t treat me any different – that would be awful. It's a big learning curve for everybody and me.”
The revelation that Lind, 62, had come under holy orders also brought out the usual banter and good humour in the weighing room.
Lind says: “The funniest moment was when one of the jockeys came up and said, ‘Sir will you marry me?!’ And I said I couldn’t as a) it was against the law and b) that would be bigamy as I was already married – but I knew what he meant!
"I've been asked to baptise some of the jockeys' babies and some have even asked to be baptised themselves."
Then there are the Catholics, lapsed or otherwise, and, although they might offer up prayers for a winner or two, the atheists.
Lind added: “Someone said how can you do this when there is betting in racing, but some of best Christians are atheists and some of the worst Christians are those that go to church, and I can really see that.”
But there is a serious and dangerous side that Lind is all too aware of in the multi-million pound industry.
“Racing is a peculiar industry and sport but I count myself lucky to work with some of the best sportsmen and women going and great teams of travelling staff," says Lind.
“The 'circus' moves around but I get used to dealing with the same people, get to understand when something isn't right.
“You notice when someone is looking like crap and invariably the answer is they haven’t eaten for a day or two and have just had a few ice cubes.
“I take my hat off to them with their sheer willpower, but it does worry me. But it worries me even more when they are flipping in the loos, doing themselves far more damage physically and mentally.
“I have a pastoral role within the community already, I know of things going on, problems jockeys and stable staff have, and luckily we have the Injured Jockeys Fund, Professional Jockeys Association, staff welfare and Racing Welfare, so if people ask for help I can point them in the right direction.”
Lind, who describes himself as a high Anglican Catholic, happy doing matins and evensong, adds: “I had a photo taken after mass and put it on Facebook and the response, you can imagine, was hilarious.
“But I got over 300 likes and I had to take a lot of abuse in the nicest possible way, and they take the mickey unmercifully. They asked if I was going to wear my dog collar all the time. There will be times I will and times I won’t.”
What is more certain is that Lind will soon become a familiar figure in Newmarket.
“The day I wear my cassock through the Newmarket streets after a service will be a real laugh, but I'm a firm believer – which I think the church has lost sight of – that we have to be seen to be believed," he says.
“If I'm working in Newmarket I fully intend to be in my cassock, to be recognised for what I am, and if anyone needs to talk I am there and can be approached.”
While others might be thinking of taking the slow lane to retirement Lind’s pace is picking up Battaash-like as he has his daily offices at Newmarket, with mass at 10am before leaping into his car to sprint off to racecourses such as Chelmsford, Yarmouth or Fakenham before returning to his Mendlesham home near Stowmarket.
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