If a National Dog Racing Museum is to be opened here in England, then we really need to act fast! with so many private collections of memorabilia going to waste and various old trophies and salvers being melted down purely for scrap value, then we can all see that time is running out for greyhound historians and fans.
I believe the venue for such a UK Greyhound Racing Museum would best be located in London, and that the recent decision taken to close Wimbledon Stadium on the 25th March 2017 is extremely detrimental to our cause and yet another 'golden opportunity' to open a museum in London sadly missed!
This Museum should be built and contained inside a new state-of-the-art "Super-Track" which looking forward would ensure a secure future for British Greyhound Racing. Surely that's not too much to ask for our Sport?
As all 'Predictors' will know it is only by studying the past can we visualise the future! Therefore, if we cast an eye back to the beginnings, we see the first stadiums opened in the mid to late 1920's. The most famous track was the White City Stadium, London which was constructed from the Stadium originally built for the 1908 Olympics! We also find that many stadiums in-order to remain financially viable shared their facilities with other sports such as athletics, cricket, cycling, football, horse racing, motor racing, rugby, show jumping, speedway etc.
I therefore urge all concerned parties to please reconsider their plans for Wimbledon Stadium as there may still be a chance to "Save Our Stadium". If this means sharing facilities with AFC Wimbledon Football Club then so be it! Surely this is a better solution for everyone! In the past, many football grounds held races very successfully, although stadiums like Wembley were far too big and never specifically designed for modern-day dog racing! British Architects of Sports Stadiums up and down the country should now be producing new-plans to incorperate both sports in the same stadium. What we really need is a world class circuit 450 metres in circumference, 6 - 8 metres wide with heavily banked bends and ideal viewing facilities, would be a good starting point! and agree that the new 2017 English Derby distance of 500 metres is a good improvement for the sport!
I would like to thank everybody who supported and attended the "Show of Passion" held at City Hall 17/02/2014 in their efforts to retain racing at Wimbledon and furthermore pledge my own support to Paschal Taggart in his bid to transform the stadium and keep dog racing alive in London! Special praise must go to Diane McLean the main organiser of the WWW - WE WANT WIMBLEDON campaign, as the 1928 "Night of Passion" was later held at 'Plough Lane' on the 20th May 2014 in recognition of the 86 years the track had been operating. Another big thank you goes to Paddy Ryan the former boss of Shelbourne Park who organised the follow-up "Show of Passion 2" gathering outside Nama's headquarters in Dublin on Friday 12th September the eve of the 2014 Irish Derby Final.
Hall Green Operating for nearly 90 years and once considered to be "the finest track in Birmingham" becomes the latest venue to close as the Greyhound Racing Association (GRA) sadly announces due to financial circumstances that the last ever race meeting will take place on the 29/07/17.
Harold's Cross Shock News! as Irish Greyhound Board informs it's Dublin 'sister-track' that it will be sold-off and closed 13/02/17.
Swindon "Abbey Stadium" Great News! as go-ahead is given and redevelopment starts of their new Greyhound Track 11/11/16.
Coventry Stadium "Brandon" which had previously re-opened as an Independent Track sadly shut it's doors again on the 16/01/16.
Towcester became the first new circuit to be built in the United Kingdom for 19 years, staged it's official Opening Meeting on the 13/12/14.
Oxford Stadium "Sandy Lane" operating since 1939 ceased trading and joins the endless list of track closures in the last few years, 29/12/12.
Portsmouth Stadium "Target Road" which opened in 1930 and regularly featured five dog races held it's last race on the 27/03/10.
Walthamstow Stadium "The Stow" first opened in 1933 by William Chandler and run since by the Chandler family locked the doors on the 16/08/08. The closing of this iconic stadium was described quite rightly in the 'Racing Post' as another nail in the coffin for UK dog racing.
Out of an original 33 tracks in London - including the 'flapping tracks' at Batersea, Brixton, Crooked Billet, Dagenham (Old), Edmonton, Greenford, Harlington Corner, Mitcham, Perry Hills, Sidcup, Southall, Stratford (Temple Mills), Welling and the 'straights' at Edgeware, Feltham and Hounsfield, plus the NGRC / GBGB Licenced tracks - Catford, Charlton, Clapton, Dagenham (New), Hackney, Harringay, Hendon, New Cross, Park Royal, Stamford Bridge, Wandsworth, Walthamstow, Watford, Wembley, West Ham, White City and finally Wimbledon Stadium are all closed!
Since learning of the horrendous revelations concerning the 'Seaham Scandal' and the unlawful killing of innocent greyhounds, described in one BBC report as an 'open secret' running throughout our sport, I can confirm my own belief that a dog racing museum should be set up forthwith, with all future profits given back to the benefit of the greyhounds themselves in the form of welfare and the rehoming of retired ex-racing dogs.
As a keen collector of memorabilia, I remain in full support of the Greyhound Racing Historical Society in their ultimate aim to create a modern greyhound museum based here in the United Kingdom. Prominent greyhound historians have formed this society to build a further foundation on which to promote and perpetuate the memory of famous coursing and track racing greyhounds of English and Irish descent.
Our desire is for all generations to actively participate and benefit from our own extensive research into the history of our sport, in the safe knowledge that many previously uncatologued collections could be housed under one roof as a permanent home and showpiece for everyone to enjoy. Many original artifacts and photographs were given by owners and enthusiasts who have since passed away. This leaves my colleagues and I with a great moral responsibility to fulfil their wishes and unselfish desire to establish a lasting monument to the famous greyhounds and people associated with them.
Our objective is to show exhibits including films of old classic races, paintings, sculptures, various literature, old dog racecards, newspapers comprising from now defunct publications, famous photographs of greyhounds, owners, trainers, kennel staff, photo finishes, cigarette and postcards, NGRC / GBGB calendars etc. in the aim of creating an unparalelled greyhound racing libary, the facilities of which we hope to make available to all who wish to use it. The tangents are enumerable, to include the famous history of greyhound coursing and racing and the transition from course to track.
The opening and participation in this museum would not only show people's interest in the world of greyhound racing, but would allow them the opportunity to expand their knowledge of the sport and breed by meeting people who also shared their enthusiasm. The Society it is hoped in time would invite gallery talks by famous trainers, veterinary surgeons etc. and to hold special exhibition previews for Museum members, to which all would be invited.
This proud tradition of our English and Irish heritage is too valuable to defer any longer and we really do have a strong moral obligation to recognise the achievements of our late friends and animals! (extracts taken and adapted by kind permision from the late Chairman's address.)
If you would like more information on the Greyhound Museum Project please contact me.