It was back in the early 1970s that Mount Gambier was granted a licence to conduct legalised mechanical lure greyhound racing in South Australia.
The controlling body of the day was the National Coursing Association (NCA) and licences were also allocated to Angle Park (city), Gawler, Strathalbyn, Port Lincoln, Whyalla and Port Pirie.
At the time the NCA, which operated out of a small office in Leigh Street, Adelaide with a staff of one, had made the call that it believed seven greyhound tracks would be quite sufficient. “SA didn’t need a greyhound track on every street corner,” it said.
But with changes along the way to the controlling body, further tracks were later approved for Kulpara (straight track), Barmera and Port Augusta. Those tracks have since closed as have Port Lincoln, Whyalla, Port Pirie and Strathalbyn.
So what remains now, in what has become a vibrant industry, are tracks at Angle Park, Gawler, Murray Bridge (which replaced Strathalbyn in 2018), and Mount Gambier.
The South Eastern Greyhound Racing Club (SEGRC)), as the Mount Gambier club was originally named, conducted its first registered race meeting at the Glenburnie racecourse on Saturday, July 21, 1979.
However, the recent reappearance of the club’s original minutes book, which recorded in handwritten form its first tumultuous five years, is an important part of the club’s history.
It all began when 60 people attended a public meeting held in the supper room of the Town Hall on Thursday, September 14, 1972.
And following a secret vote, Messrs. R. Clark, J. Cruise, E. Lewis, N. F. McDonnell, J. O’Brien, J. O’Connor, C. Potter, A. Steele, J. Taylor, J. Walters, R. White, J. Sullivan and B. Wittwer were elected to the caretaker committee.
Later that night, it was moved that two committee members meet with delegates of the A. & H. Society to ascertain the extent of their interest in greyhound racing being conducted at the Showgrounds.
But by April the following year the SEGRC secretary had been instructed to write to the NCA, informing the controlling body that negotiations with the Show Society had fallen through and that the club was now negotiating with the City Council and private bodies.
In the meantime, the sale of beer tickets had been introduced as a form of fundraising. As had the raffle of a greyhound – valued at $200 and donated by Jack Cruise, father of present-day trainer Lee Bartholomew.
And a motion that a Ladies Committee be formed lapsed as there had been no seconder. However, by 1978 the Ladies Committee had become an integral part of the SEGRC.
Then, in late 1975, following an approach to the Mount Gambier Racing Club, the SEGRC received a letter indicating its support for a greyhound track at Glenburnie. In March 1977 a 21 year lease was signed with the racing club.
Yes, things were really looking up. At around the same time the SEGRC had also received a letter from the Wimmera Greyhound Racing Club (Horsham) inviting the club to enter a contestant in the “Miss Wimmera Greyhound Racing Queen” competition.
By Sunday, June 24, 1979, the SEGRC was ready to conduct a Gala Opening Day picnic meeting at Glenburnie as a lead-in to the club’s first registered meeting a month later.
Nine races were conducted at the Gala Opening Day over distances of 289 metres, 476 metres and 667 metres. The distance race was won by the Eric Lewis trained Kori Amore in a time of 43.05 seconds.
Interestingly, the $5000 Eric Lewis Memorial will be run over 732 metres on Anniversary Cup day at Tara Raceway on Sunday, July 23 and complement the $8000 Exchange Printers Anniversary Cup (512 m) and the John Reid Memorial Maiden (305 m).
This year will mark 44 years of greyhound racing in the South-East – 1979 to 1996 at Glenburnie prior to the club’s relocation to Lake Terrace East in 1997.