Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

de Mestre, Etienne Livingstone (1832–1916)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

Etienne Livingstone de Mestre (1832-1916), studmaster and turf identity, was born on 9 April 1832 at Sydney, the third son of Prosper de Mestre, merchant, and his wife Mary Ann, née Black. He was an excellent horseman and at 15 he won a main event at the Bathurst races on his own horse Sweetheart. His father had taken up land at Terara near the mouth of the Shoalhaven River, where in the 1850s Etienne established a horse stud, stable and racetrack. He soon proved himself a successful trainer and South Coast and Monaro squatters were eager to add their most promising horses to his 'string'.

In 1859 he trained Veno, the winner of the first intercolonial Champion Challenge race in Melbourne. In 1861 and 1862 de Mestre won the first two Melbourne Cups with his horse Archer. In 1863 de Mestre again planned to run Archer despite his weight of 11 stone 4 pounds, but the Victoria Racing Club scratched him because de Mestre's telegraphed acceptance arrived late. De Mestre said he would never race again in Victoria, and other owners scratched their horses in sympathy. However, in 1867 with Tim Whiffler de Mestre won again, but by 1876 his rival 'Honest' John Tait had four wins to de Mestre's three. In that year ill-fortune prevented him from squaring the score when the City of Melbourne, carrying his entry Robin Hood from Sydney to Melbourne, ran into a heavy gale and nine horses including de Mestre's champion perished. Next year he won with Chester, owned by James White, and his win in 1878 with Calamia gave him a record. De Mestre also won most of the other classic turf events in New South Wales and Victoria at least once.

He was closely associated with the brothers Charles Brown Fisher and Hurtle Fisher and acquired some good stock at the dispersal of the Maribyrnong stud in 1877. But many of his best mares died during their first winter at Terara and his stud's progeny proved disappointing. Drought ruined his pastoral investments in Queensland. He ran into financial difficulties and his health failed.

Well again, he tried to recoup his losses by coupling two of his horses, Navigator and Gudarz, for the 1882 Victorian Derby and Melbourne Cup in the biggest single bet ever laid in the colonies to that time. Navigator won but Gudarz ran third, and though de Mestre was the largest winner over the whole meeting he was ruined. Some minor wins at the Shoalhaven Club averted final disaster for a few months, but in 1883 Terara was auctioned and the all-black livery of the Terara stable disappeared from the colonial racing world.

Gifts and loans from his numerous friends together with the proceeds of a special race meeting, held at Randwick to mark his retirement from the turf, enabled him to take up a small farm, Garryowen, at Moss Vale, where he died on 22 October 1916. He was buried in the Church of England cemetery at Bong Bong.

At St Matthias's Church, Paddington, on 27 December 1873 he had married Clara Eliza, daughter of George T. Rowe and sister of George W. S. Rowe, secretary of the Rosehill Racing Club; they had five sons and five daughters. The eldest son Etienne George (b.1874) became a horse-trainer in England; the third son Hurtle Edwin (b.1881) went to the Boer war and later took up the management of a leading stud in South Africa; the fourth son Edward McKenzie (b.1887) settled at Binalong in New South Wales; the youngest son LeRoy Leveson Laurent Joseph (Roy de Maistre, 1894-1968) achieved much success as an artist.

Select Bibliography

  • N. J. de Mestre, ‘An Account of the de Mestre Family in Australia’, Descent, vol 3, part 3, 1967, pp 111-15 and vol 3, part 4, 1968, pp 131-37
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 13 Sept 1876, 8 Nov 1882, 23 Oct 1916, 29 Oct 1960
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 23 Oct 1916
  • Daily Mirror (Sydney), 25 June 1960.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'de Mestre, Etienne Livingstone (1832–1916)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/de-mestre-etienne-livingstone-3391/text5137, published in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 21 April 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014