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The Greyhound Days

Response to Th'Owd Sykers 'Burnley Really Went To The Dogs' article.

Burnley Express & News

Date unknown though probably April 1979.

I was most interested in reading Mr Rowland Kippax's article on the Towneley Greyhound Racing Track.
It brought back some wonderful memories to my mother and me.
My late father was head groundsman and hare controller there until its closure in late 1935.
He was born and bred in Burnley Wood, where his family were well known in those days, Brunswick Street Bakery having been founded by my great grandmother as far back as 1884.


My brother Alfred and I were young children at the time (he was later killed over Sicily in World War II).
When the race meetings were on, we used to stand at a vantage point at the top of what was called "Schodgies" field. It was either owned or rented by another well known Burnley Wood family called Schofield, who were coal merchants.
From there we could see the hare being released and the dogs were then let out of their cages and chased furiously after the electric hare. It was a wonderful sight.
When the nights grew darker it was floodlit, which in those days was more exciting than ever. We could see the people watching and shouting urging on their dogs to win.
I remember also dad bringing the hare home for repair. It had become rather shabby with being mauled about. Mother mended it temporarily with factory cotton. Originally it had either a rabbit or hare skin on it. It was replaced by fur afterwards.
The wallflowers mentioned by Mr Kippax were raised from seed by my father, who was so proud of his display. There were countless rows of them, and their perfume was quite beautiful and heady.
One particular occasion I remember well was a benefit match which was arranged to help raise some funds for the family of a retired policeman, a Mr Billy Mercer, who had worked part-time at the track and had died.
Dad and the Bill Knight who was mentioned in the article went out delivering the necessary literature to advertise the race meeting.
The territory stretched as far as Accrington, and so it was quite a night out for my dad and Bill. They delivered leaflets at every pub en route, and arrived back home somewhat merry, to say the least.


We thought Bill Night was great, and I think he had a brother called Ted, but am not sure. Jimmy Ramsbottom was general manager and a Mr William Spencer was the proprietor.
Other memories are of the auction which took place when the track was sold. We still have glasses which dad bought there. Also he bought several tins of chocloate biscuits which were received with delight by my brother and me.
Mr Ramsbottom went back to Accrington after the track's closure and joined his family's building firm. Dad went with him and was there until 1944-45, when ill health forced him to work inside.
Among other people I remember there was the late Jackie Gent, who looked after the dog's welfare and was a great friend of ours, along with his family.
Herbert Foster I think was the book-keeper. Mr Rankin, the veterinary surgeon, also went there quite a lot.
Jackie Gent went to work with him afterwards and during the war served in the Veterinary Corps. Later, when Mr Rankin died Mr Gent continued to work for Mr Black on Yorkshire Street. He loved his work and animals.


It gave my mother and me a sad but wonderful feeling to read that Mr Kippax's love of wallflowers originated with the ones that my dad nurtured so lovingly all those years ago.
We too remember them, and recall their association with a very happy period of our family life.
Incidentally, the greyhound track was used as a dirt track for a short time after its closure, but I don't think it lasted long.

Mrs. Dorothy Wills.

With kind permission of The Burnley Express.

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