Going To The Dogs
From Harry Foy's Book 'Growing up in Portadown in the Thirties and Forties'
As children we were weaned on stories of Master McGrath, the legendary greyhound owned by Lord Lurgan. Greyhound racing was very popular and every street had its own doggie men.
In the evenings men could be seen exercising their dogs by taking them for walks and then grooming them to keep them in tip top condition. When a dog was due to run in a big race he was always taken to Selshion Moss for a "kill". This helped sharpen his appetite for racing. Race tracks were not run under the rules and what were known as "flappers" sprung up in every area.
I recall one such track, during the Thirties, at Killicomaine. It was in a field near Fletcher's house, near where the shops in Killicomaine now stand. A cable with an artifical hare attached was wrapped around the axle of an old car which had its wheels propped up clear of the ground. The cable was then run out to near the starting boxes. The car was then put into gear and the dogs chased after the disappearing cable hare. If the car was slow in starting the dogs caught up with the hare and the race had to be run again.
A friend of mine invited me to go to a flapper track in Lurgan with him. The Lurgan track was quite posh in comparison as the dogs wore coloured jackets and there were bookies in attendance. There was no photo finish but a man raised coloured flags to announce the winner. My friend had a dog called "Stoney Broke" in one of the races and he realized that the only danger in the race was a small black bitch called "The Flyer" owned by Tom Forde, a well-known dog enthusiast from Portadown. My friend Billy decided on the morning of the race to feed "Stoney Broke" two loaves of bread soaked in milk to slow him down and that he would back "The Flyer". Armed with this information, we were going to put a fiver each on the sure thing.
After arriving at the track Billy gave the dog to the racing manager. He gave a tenner to his younger brother to place a bet on "The Flyer" in case the bookie recognised him and with smiles on our faces we stood at a vantage point to watch the race unfold.
The traps opened and the dogs flew out. All, that is, except "Stoney Broke". He lumbered out behind the rest. At first bend one dog snapped at another and a fight amongst five dogs ensued. "Stoney Broke" coming along on his own, the hare having long since disappeared, strolled past the other dogs and finished alone. We couldn't believe it! All our plans in ruins! Just then, Billy's younger brother came up with the winning tickets in his hand. Having disregarded his instructions, he had put the tenner on the family dog! We never did tell him the story of the two loaves.
Market Day in
Click below to go
Back to Main Menu