The year 1909 introduces into our chronicle one of the more colourful – if less attractive – of those dramatis personae to have owned a Derby winner. The man in question, John Brown, was born in 1850 at Four Mile Creek near Morpeth, the eldest son in the second generation of the Newcastle family coal firm of J. and A. Brown. It was a company founded by his father and uncle in the middle of the 19th century, and his childhood coincided with the move of the firm’s headquarters to Newcastle. John Brown’s uncle was the real guiding spirit of the firm in its early days. It was a privileged start in life but not one that fathered a man of charm or bonhomie with a liberal outlook. I think quite the contrary. John Brown was every inch the dour and taciturn Scot of his forebears; he shunned publicity although possessed of a strong element of theatricality and he seemed to relish the role of relentless capitalist.