Racehorse giant was never a gambler - Donovan ‘The Clockman’ Cunningham remembered for knowledge of sport
Ainsley Walters gave a heartfelt tribute to his lifelong friend and co-worker Donovan 'The Clockman' Cunningham last Friday during a thanksgiving service for the late 'punter' who died shortly after collapsing at work last December.
Walters, who is the editorial and production coordinator for the Gleaner's famed Track and Pools publication, said that Cunningham will be missed for his unmatched contributions to the local horse racing industry.
"I personally believe that Donovan Mark Cunningham's contribution to the racing industry and the RJRGLEANER Group should be properly recognised by naming a trophy race in his memory," Walters said as he paid tribute to the 56-year-old at the funeral held at Perry's Funeral Chapel in Spanish Town, St Catherine.
"Mark's dedication to this job was unparalleled. To be getting up at 5 a.m. seven days per week, to go to Caymanas Park to clock horses then report for work at The Gleaner Company (Media) Limited, and to be at Caymanas Park, Saturdays and Sundays, every public holiday, except Christmas and Good Friday, is not an easy job," added Walters, who is more popularly known as 'Jimmie'.
In his 15-minute tribute, Walters described his association with Cunningham as a unique one.
"It is a personal and professional association that span in excess of 40 years. Mark and I grew up as childhood friends in Independence City in Portmore, a stone's throw away from the racetrack at Caymans Park. Mark, myself and his brother here, Michael, grew up as close friends.
"As youngsters we grew up doing the usual things that 1970s children were doing. We played football, ran through the same cane fields but a lot of what we did was racing. We raced every day. We had our board horses and raced them in the irrigation system there. We raced scooters in the car park at Caymanas Park, that was our playground. We swam the ponds of Caymans Park, much to the alarm and dismay of our parents, who would hand us a proper trashing whenever that was discovered," a reminiscent Walters said.
A gentle giant, Cunningham left an indelible mark on the industry with his work ethics and knowledge of the sport. He began his professional sojourn in horse racing in 1996 initially as plucker then as The Gleaner's official timekeeper at the racing ground.
"We started doing Track and Pools just around the same time. He built a reputation for himself nationally as one of the most astute horsemen in this country. People would call Mark from all walks of life, asking him to impart his knowledge. Even competitors in media would call on him because of his expertise," Walters added.
Although Cunningham dedicated hours on the race track, he was never drawn into the art of gambling, a discipline which garnered respect among his peers including Walters.
"He would be doing his punting but never a gambler. He was never a tout, in fact, he often told me that if someone were to ask him for a tip and the issue of money would get involved he would turn down that request because he would be so nervous that somebody would put their money on the line based on his recommendation," said Walters.
Cunningham is survived by five children. His remains were buried at the Meadowrest Memorial Gardens, also in St Catherine.