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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Davies, Arthur Thomas (Clarence the Clocker) (1912–1984)

by Andrew Lemon

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Arthur Thomas (Clarence the Clocker) Davies (1912-1984), racecourse clocker and television personality, was born on 26 March 1912 at Rockdale, Sydney, fourth child of Ernest Edward Davies, a carpenter born in New South Wales, and his Victorian-born wife Constance, née Hall. Arthur grew up in Redfern and worked as a bread carter and a milkman in the 1930s.

A small man, barely five feet (153 cm) tall, Davies wanted to be a jockey but did not obtain a licence. Instead, in 1942 he formed a working association with the future champion horse-trainer Tommy Smith. Davies became a racecourse clocker, timing the pre-dawn gallops of horses in training for Smith and others. Sharp-eyed clockers were in demand from sporting newspapers and radio stations as tipsters. Davies’ prowess as pundit and his flair for the wry and telling phrase earned him a following on a racing preview program, ‘First with the Latest’, on radio 2KY. In 1957 he was co-opted into television for station TCN-9, owned by the racehorse owner and media entrepreneur Sir Frank Packer. Davies’ sobriquet ‘Clarence the Clocker’ came from Bing Crosby’s song The Horse Told Me, which was regularly used at the opening of the show.

Racing in the 1950s continued to attract wide media attention, and broadcasters—notably Ken Howard in Sydney, and Bert Bryant and Bill Collins in Melbourne—were celebrities. As with football broadcasting, racing gave an opportunity for the airing of untutored Australian accents, and Clarence’s earthy humour struck a chord. He soon became a great favourite in Sydney, appearing on Saturday morning television as ‘Clarence the Clocker’. His racing segment grew to be a half-hour program. He was the cheeky battler talking to ‘the girls’ or ‘the ladies’, his main audience. ‘Okay, girls, down with the brooms and up with the skirts’ was his opening sally. Howard and his successor as race-caller, Johnny Tapp, were regulars on Clarence’s show, with the former make-up artist Pam Burling (née Bunyan) his perfect foil.

In 1977 Davies suffered the first of two strokes that affected his movement and speech, but his television appearances continued until 1982. He was upset by his forced retirement. Clarence’s program was described as ‘the longest-running, locally-produced show in Australia’. He also wrote racing columns for newspapers.

Davies had married Edna May Mitchell, a machinist, on 8 December 1936 at St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Kogarah. They lived at Dolls Point (Sans Souci) until about 1970, when they separated. A journalist claimed that Edna ‘intensely disliked horse racing and every manner of person associated with it’. Davies dressed as the racecourse ‘spiv’, with sharp clothes and inevitable hat. Survived by his wife and their daughter and son, he died on 4 August 1984 at Kanwal and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Tapp, Tappy (1999)
  • Australian Women’s Weekly, 26 Oct 1960, p 70
  • Sunday Mirror (Sydney), 3 June 1975, p 27
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 6 Aug 1984, p 28
  • Sydney Review, May 1994, p 10.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Andrew Lemon, 'Davies, Arthur Thomas (Clarence the Clocker) (1912–1984)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 21 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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