Mount Gambier Greyhound Racing Club

Tara Raceway, Lake Terrace East, Mount Gambier, SA

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Club moves back in time

Saturday, August 18, 2018

It’s a story that’s been told before but in view of recent developments at Tara Raceway it’s probably worth repeating.

A couple of years ago, Warrnambool greyhound identity Norm McCullagh, of Bold Trease fame, had been at Tara Raceway – the first time since 2004 when he won the Mount Gambier Cup with Bay Rhode.

And on his return visit McCullagh was keen to check out the Mount Gambier Greyhound Racing Club’s memorabilia section but disappointed to learn that no such display existed.

The Tara Raceway memorabilia display.

If nothing else, though, his visit did get the local club thinking. After all, the South East was steeped in history, coursing meetings being run as far back as the late 1800s and plenty of top greyhounds coming out of the region.

Two years later, while continuing to be a work in progress, the South East Greyhound Racing Club (the club’s original name) memorabilia section is now on display in the Tara Raceway clubrooms with the MGGRC still looking for further contributions.

The display has a striking back drop of enlarged black and white photographs including a picture from a Mount Gambier coursing meeting in the late 1890s. Also featured is a fine-looking Dr. Mac, winner of the Mount Gambier Coursing Club President’s Cup in 1932, the cup also in the photograph and the original on show.

Missight, winner of the 1973 Mount Gambier Coursing Derby, also figures as does a terrific group shot that includes former key local players Dick Sealey, Newman McDonnell, Roy Douglas and Col Sims.

Coursing was where it all began, of course – no “tin hare” racing back then. Coursing slips used by the “slipper” are on display along with red and white knitted collars and a judge’s flag, white in this case, used to signal a white-collar winner.

While mechanical hare racing didn’t commence in Mount Gambier until 1979, there are interstate race programs – including Warrnambool – from as far back as the mid-1930s, a time when the track racing fixtures were often referred to as speed coursing meetings.

Initially, there was no computerised photo finish – just cumbersome cameras, a developing tray and a photo finish print that have found their way onto one of the memorabilia shelves, a big wooden “P” requiring to be displayed when a photo was required. And no electronic semaphore board, either, placings and race times posted via painted wooden numbers.

Also displayed, a set of greyhound papers, the size of an A4 sheet printed with a diagram of a greyhound, its relevant markings inked in, including the colour of its toenails. Unlike today when “papers” come in the form of a piece of credit card-like plastic.

Inside the Tara Raceway memorabilia display.

The owners, trainers and breeder licences on show are interesting inasmuch that they were issued by the atrociously-named SA Dog Racing Control Board, thankfully later to be renamed the SA Greyhound Racing Control Board and a forerunner to Greyhound Racing SA.

Allen Williams has donated a couple of bottles of greyhound port – Red Pulse and Tempix – Greyhound of the Year port at one time being all the go. Perhaps surprisingly, both these bottles are unopened, someone suggesting it must have been an ordinary drop or Williams surely would have drunk them by now!

In another time there was an abundance of greyhound publications circulating, with some on display including a 1981 issue of the SA Greyhound Trainer which carried an interesting front page story by Brenton Scott.

Scott, at the time a fresh-faced apprentice compositor in Adelaide but these days CEO of the NSW Greyhound Breeders, Owners and Trainers Association, wrote that he believed that the Southern Greyhound Raceway (Strathalbyn) was going to relocate to Murray Bridge.

Scott was right, of course, just a few years ahead of his time!

As was Norm McCullagh, the Mount Gambier Greyhound Racing Club now awaiting his return visit.

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