Dorchester was born in the Angus Ridge district in 1911, grew up there
and then lived most of his adult married life at Westerose. At the age
of eleven he rode a horse in a race in Wetaskiwin and won. He
credits this win for his lifelong desire to race horses. In 1933 he
started racing cart teams and rode race horses at local competitions.
but it was in 1939 that he ran his first chuckwagon race in Rimbey and
it was the love of this sport that kept him
wins for the next 42 years.
Besides chuckwagon racing, in his younger days he competed in chariot races,
flat horses and Roman races winning many of these events at both the
Ponoka and Calgary Stampedes.
His first chuckwagon win occurred in 1944
at the Calgary Stampede, outriding for Theo Thage. He started driving
regularly in 1949 but it wasn’t until 1970, after 21 years driving his
own rig, that Tom finally won the Calgary Stampede, a feat he repeated
the next year. For six decades Tom competed in Alberta, Saskatchewan,
B.C., Manitoba and Ontario as well as the United States, and during his
career he had over 60 chuckwagon wins
five Central Alberta Championships (1960,66,69,71,72), four World
Championships (1966,69,70,71), and one North American Championship
Competing in the different races was not without risk and during his
career Tom suffered some terrible injuries. In 1946 he was run over in
a chuckwagon wreck in Red Deer. Another set-back occurred in July 1973
when he broke his back in a chuckwagon race at
Morris, Manitoba. That
year he was leading in the Canadian Chuckwagon standings and still ended
up second. The next year, he set a record for the fastest time at the
Calgary Stampede, apparently undaunted by the injury the year before.
of the Year
of his longevity, championship wins, and contributions to his sport, Tom
received many awards and honours. In 1973 the Canadian Professional
Rodeo Association named him “Cowboy of the Year”, becoming the
first chuckwagon driver to receive this award. That same year, the
Wainwright Stampede paid tribute to Tom and his wife, Joy, for their
contributions to chuckwagon racing, by having a “Dorchester Night,” an
event repeated by the Ponoka Stampede in 1990. Red Deer recognized Tom
in 1974 for his outstanding contribution to rodeo. The Lakedell
Agricultural Society honoured Tom and Joy for their contributions to the
community and rodeos across North America in 1976. In 1982, Tom was
presented with the “Pioneer of Rodeo Award” by the Calgary Stampede for
his contributions to racing for over 50 years.
In 1984 Tom was
inducted into the Canadian Cowboy Hall of Fame, again the first
chuckwagon driver to
be inducted, and in 1986 the Ponoka Stampede
awarded him with a lifetime membership for 50 years of competing at
“Chuckwagon Person of the Year”
the highest award of the World Professional Chuckwagon Association.
he was chosen “Chuckwagon Person of the Year” the highest award of the
World Professional Chuckwagon Association. Tom also raced and won in
front of Queen Elizabeth (1973 Calgary), was in the Grey Cup parades in
Vancouver (1974) and Hamilton (1977) and was chosen as “Parade Marshall”
for the Calgary Stampede Parade (1982). He also organized the first
ever chucksled races for the Wetaskiwin Winter Carnival.
competed as a driver at the Calgary Stampede in 1981, retiring at
age of seventy. Tom’s passion for his sport was passed on to his sons
and grandsons and to his pleasure, he was able to compete with and
against his sons. Because of his involvement in the sport of chuckwagon
racing, Tom Dorchester brought distinction and worldwide recognition to
Alberta, Wetaskiwin and his home community of Westerose.