Protgs and fans mourn Peter Lovemore

CAPE TOWN - Peter Lovemore, who died of a suspected heart attack in Cape Town on Monday morning, has been described as an "auctioneer, racing writer and commentator supreme, but undoubtedly his best skill was people - discovering them, engaging them and mentoring and nurturing them. The Zimbabwean was 65.

Two of his protgs were Robin Bruss, one of the best known and respected bloodstock experts in South Africa, and Brian Makwabarara with whom he owned Harare-based Hammer And Tongs Auctioneers. Both men thought the world of Peter and their admiration was mirrored by his many fans, who loved going to thoroughbred or tobacco auctions to see him perform. Says Robin: “Before Peter, thoroughbred auctions were run by Arthur Meikle and Company. They were dry and conversational. Peter introduced machine-gun auctioneering and then added spice and fun. He turned selling into theatre and was the star of the show. Hed sing, cajole, charm and entertain. People loved coming to the sales, just to listen to him auction. He made the sales a fun place to be. He commanded the stage and set a tone and style that ran for 33 years.

Peter and Robin hooked up in the early 1970s when Robin was still a teenager. Peter started out at the Harare tobacco auctioneers and started selling horses when the Rhodesian TBA was formed. They met at a TBA meeting in 1970 and shortly afterwards opened a business, the Thoroughbred Bureau, drawing up one-page pedigrees as we know them today. They were not paid for their services. They formed the Rhodesia Bloodstock Agency in 1972 and became the official auctioneers and secretary for the Rhodesian TBA. They also produced the magazine “Rhodesian Racehorse. “I remember making my debut as an auctioneer, chuckled Robin. “It was the last thing in the world I wanted to do. But then Peter announced that he had a treat in store and that I would be auctioning the next few lots.

In 1978 Peter moved to the TBA in South Africa and a couple of years later went to California to work for the Fasig-Tipton sales company. During his five-year stint there he auctioned at horse sales in America and Australia as well as continuing to work at sales in South Africa and Zimbabwe. He engaged many fans, including racing journalist and bloodstock agent Dan Kennedy, who wrote: “Peter Lovemore was an international star when it came to selling at auction. It might be horses or it might be tobacco; it might be Sydney or Kildare. Peter returned to Zimbabwe in 1985, a couple of years after Robin relocated to Johannesburg, “and continued where hed left off. He got involved in all aspects of racing and breeding and revived the trade magazine, Zimbabwe Thoroughbred Yearbook, says Robin.

“He was the principal commentator at Borrowdale Park and his Shona-English commentaries were very well received by all racegoers, particularly because hed say things in the vernacular like `and here comes so-and-so, roaring through like a lion, which would get everybody chuckling. “He encouraged the racing industry in Zimbabwe to introduce the annual Spey Bridge Awards (the equivalent to our Equus Awards) and redesigned the national sales ring to reflect modern trends. He also produced a weekly racing publication called `Keeping Pace. He played golf as often as possible his business partner Brian says: “Peter loved his golf – he even taught me to play and I got membership to the Royal Harare Golf Club through him. Two years ago he was made president of the seniors, which he really enjoyed. Golf was a big part of his life.

Peter met Brian in the tobacco sales ring in 1992. He noticed that Brian had huge potential as an auctioneer and took the young man under his wing. They opened Hammer And Tongs Auctioneers in January 1999 and, though Peter went into semi-retirement in 2004 and spent almost half the year in Cape Town, he still played an active role in the business. Said Brian: “Peter trained me to become a tobacco auctioneer and got me involved in racing a Saturday afternoon job at the races and also pulled me in as a bid spotter at the yearling sale. “He brought me down to Johannesburg a couple of times as a bid spotter and then got me to start auctioning horses in Zimbabwe and then South Africa in the mid 90s. I was the first black auctioneer in the world.

Brian wasnt the only young black man Peter took under his wing. “His mission was to break the barriers, to get recognition for young aspiring blacks and create opportunities for them in the racing and tobacco industries, said the Zimbabwean. “Hed identify youngsters and want them to have the best opportunity to succeed. And he made sure we got accepted. Peters whole family – his wife, five children and three sisters – all met up in Port Elizabeth around a month ago, says Brian. It was a lovely reunion and Peter said he was thankful and happy that he managed to get the whole family together.

Peter also wrote a column, “Not necessarily racing, in the Financial Gazette and the Independent. Peter leaves his wife Soni, ex-wife Helen, four daughters Tracy, Leanne, Ursula and Jessica and son Alex. His funeral took place in Stellenbosch, Cape Town on Monday May 3.

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