Obituary: Jamie Douglas-Home, racehorse trainer and journalist

Jamie Douglas-Hume: Racehorse trainer, journalist, nephew of former prime minister, 28th Baron Dacre
Jamie Douglas-Hume: Racehorse trainer, journalist, nephew of former prime minister, 28th Baron Dacre
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Born: 16 May, 1952, in Edinburgh. Died: 8 May, 2014, in Lockinge, Oxfordshire, aged 61

JAMIE Douglas-Home, nephew of the former British prime minister Sir Alec, was a racehorse trainer in the 1970s and 80s before becoming one of the UK’s most-respected racing correspondents, notably for the Racing Post and Country Life magazine.

Latterly, he was a popular writer for The Field and The Oldie magazine. From his stables outside the village of East Hendred, Oxfordshire, he trained mostly National Hunt horses but also had success on the flat with the handicap sprinter Lochtillum.

Although educated in England, Jamie spent most summers on the family estate in Berwickshire riding, hunting and shooting.

“Guns, beaters, everyone loved him because he always had a cheerful word for everyone,” said his friend, Christopher Wills.

“He was an incredibly good shot. No pomposity, always rather understated in his tweeds, always accompanied by his greatest loves outside his late wife Christine and their daughter Emily – his cocker spaniels Mabel and Martha.”

Jamie Douglas-Home never quite made it to the top as a trainer. Colleagues say his yard suffered from a serious virus in his first year and his string of horses did not recover in time to make his yard profitable. But he was widely loved in the profession by big names such as James Fanshawe and Henrietta Knight, three-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner with Best Mate.

His father was William Douglas-Home – Sir Alec’s younger brother – a politician who ran as Liberal Party candidate for Glasgow Cathcart during the war and for Edinburgh South in the post-war years.

Controversial as a politician – he opposed Churchill’s determination for an unconditional surrender by Hitler – William later became known as a playwright, writing mostly comedies in an upper-class setting.

He was descended from the Earls of Home and the Lambtons, Earls of Durham. Jamie’s mother was Rachel Brand, 27th Baroness Dacre and daughter of the 4th Viscount Hampden. Hence, Jamie took on the title 28th Baron Dacre when his mother died.

James Thomas Archibald Douglas-Home was born in Edinburgh. After his family moved south to Hampshire, he went to Eton and later to Bristol University.

There he maintained his love of horses and began “riding out” – warming up and training thoroughbreds – for trainer Bill Wightman at Upham, near Southampton.

Jamie’s feel for horses won him a job as assistant to one of the UK’s most famous trainers, Peter Walwyn, based in Lambourn, Berkshire, who was twice champion flat racing trainer.

In the late 1970s, Jamie set up his own stables at East Hendred, Oxfordshire, and in 1979 married Christine Stephenson, daughter of trainer Willie Stephenson, the only trainer in the 20th century to have saddled the winners of both the Derby and the Grand National as well as triple Champion Hurdles winner Sir Ken.

Christine became the personal secretary and “right-hand woman” to Henrietta Knight for more than 27 years.

“He was a kind, much-liked, fun-loving man,” Ms Knight said. “Jamie mixed so well with people, was very intelligent and was a very good writer.

He had a very good sense of humour and was a very good friend. I know he was quite affected by his wife Christine’s death. He was devoted to her.”

Another friend, trainer James Fanshawe, wrote on his website: “So sad to hear that a good friend, Jamie Douglas-Home, from my younger days, has died.

“We all used to have such fun with him and his wife Christine, especially during Royal Ascot week when a gang of us used to stay with them. He was very amusing and the best host and he will be missed by all his friends and [especially] so by his daughter Emily. He and Christine were a fantastic couple. He was also a very talented writer.”

Jamie Douglas-Home wrote several books, on horseracing and on stately homes. They included Horse Racing in Berkshire and Watching Monty, the latter written with the late Johnny Henderson.

One of his best-known books was Stately Passions: The Scandals of Britain’s Great Houses, which detailed royal and aristocratic scandals, predominantly sexual, which took place in Britain’s stately homes from the 16th Century until the present.

Jamie’s wife Christine died in 2008, aged 60. Friends said he never really got over her death.

He is survived by their daughter, Emily, 31, heiress presumptive to the title Baroness Dacre. Emily ran the Edinburgh marathon to raise money for the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford where her mother was cared for before passing away.