Author Topic: A NIGHT AT THE DOGS WITH MY DAD  (Read 595 times)

Chalkie

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A NIGHT AT THE DOGS WITH MY DAD
« on: September 22, 2019, 01:24:27 PM »
A NIGHT AT THE DOGS WITH MY DAD[/size]

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My Dad never drank or smoked but he did love an odd flutter on the gee-gees or on the greyhounds when there was no horse racing on.  He would often take me with him to Dunmore Stadium off the Antrim Road, Belfast to watch greyhound racing.  In fact my Dad used to look after greyhounds when he retired from the shipyard.  Mr Seamus Boylan opened a mini food store and a grocery store on the Mountpottinger Road in the Short Strand area of east Belfast and so he must have had a few quid.  Well, compared to everyone else in our area I thought he was loaded.  I lived around the corner in Harper Street, with  Mountpottinger Police Station situated at the entrance of my street .  Of course, for all I knew he may have got a bank loan to open the shops, but there was no way he was walking into a bank and asking for a loan to buy a dog because one day I saw him with a greyhound and he asked my Dad to exercise and feed it for him.  Mr Boylan was not from the Short Strand and although I could not detect where his accent was from, I am confident that it was not a Northern Irish one.  He was a very softly spoken man and would have fitted in anywhere along the west coast of Ireland from Limerick, Galway, Sligo or Carrick-on-Shannon.  He was about 5 feet 8 inches tall and possessed a very pale complexion which, coupled with his ginger hair (around the sides of his head only), and long Noddy Holder style sideburns, made the freckles on his face and arms even more pronounced.  He was quite rotund, had a warm, welcoming smile on his face and was always very chatty and actually reminded me of a large plastic statue of a butcher - the type which used to stand outside a butcher’s shop. Mr Boylan was engaged to a woman from Beechfield Street so I guess he was slowly integrating himself into our community by opening a grocery shop in it.  He went on to open a fruit and vegetable shop which provided my brother with a Saturday morning job packing potatoes.  [/size]
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I could not work out why he asked my Dad to look after the greyhound, but I guessed it had something to do with a shared interest in gambling.  He was called Lucky Lad.  I know these dogs are built for racing but to say this thing was skinny was a bit like saying that a Sumo wrestler was slightly overweight.  I mean this animal was more like a chiseled whippet.  He was a light brown colour with some black and some white patches on his coat.  His markings made him look like a leopard but as we later discovered, he moved more like a leopard- colour tank than a thoroughbred racing machine!  My Dad walked the feet off this thing and I thought it was a certainty to win its first race.  It was as fit as a fiddle, and from what I saw it had meat more days a week than the families I knew.  [/size]
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Kind of reminds me of the episode in Only Fools and Horses when Del Boy and Rodney were paid by Boycie to look after his dog, a Great Dane named "Dukie",  and Del Boy ate the steaks Boycie gave him to feed the animal.  I can assure you that I never touched a corner of Lucky Lad's steak.  It never quite dawned on me how they managed to train this thing to bolt out of a trap and chase after a motorised hare.  I mean, my Dad had to take it out of our area just to find a patch of grass let alone a spot with sand or dirt it could run on. And I may not have known very much about greyhounds, but I had seen the greyhound derby on BBC's "Sportsnight" programme and I knew these skinny things did not run on grass.  To slightly digress, do you remember Sportsnight on TV?  Wasn't the late Harry Carpenter brilliant as its host?  Harry was such a loveable guy you kind of wished was your uncle.  [/size]
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Well, back to the greyhound and its first race.  I went along to Dunmore with my Dad and Mr Boylan and another man I did not know.  Maybe he was the guy who taught the dog to spring out of its trap or maybe he was just there because he had an estate car and the greyhound could fit in it.  My Dad was never into estate cars, in fact we never owned one, and neither have I.  When we got to Dunmore, my Dad told me to stay with Mr Boylan whilst he and the other man went and signed in and prepared Lucky Lad for his first race.  I did not mind too much as Mr Boylan bought me a burger and a can of coke as we waited on the race.  About 30 minutes or so later Dad came back and told Mr Boylan that Lucky Lad was entered in the third race of the night which was a race for first timers.  I wondered why the other man had not returned, but then I saw him with Lucky Lad shortly before a different guy in a long white coat placed him in his trap.  [/size]
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I knew most of the bookies at Dunmore, well I knew where they were anyway;but Mum was dead against gambling and besides I was too young to bet even if I’d had the money.  From memory I think Lucky Lad was about 33-1 and I could see my father and Mr Boylan rubbing their hands with delight. They knew something I didn't know. I may not have been a gambler, but even I knew that odds of 33-1 were usually reserved for a rank outsider.  I knew this because I had seen enough Grand Nationals on TV and I could not recall too many high priced winners.  Red Rum was always about 7-1 but with good reason as he won the race a record three times.  Mr Boylan handed my father a lot of notes, it's hard to say how many, but I guessed it was about £50.  [/size]
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We all watched Lucky Lad get put into his trap and then my favourite part: the wee motorised hare sliding along its rail.  As this fluffy wee thing got about 10 yards past the traps, a gun went off or was it a bell?  Anyway, the race was underway. Now let me transport you forward a few decades and ask you if you have ever seen the very funny 2004 Irish film called "Man About Dog"?  No?  Well watch it because you will love it.  And if like me you have, then you know what is coming next although not exactly as in the film.  In the film, the main characters want a greyhound but can’t afford to buy one.  So this hooky booky promises them one if they are prepared to sabotage a race in which his greyhound is racing.  The hooky booky wants the favourite nobbled.  When the race starts, the favourite comes tearing out of his trap and is coasting to victory when one of the main characters produces a kitten from a bag and throws it on to the track.  The favourite goes chasing after it and another dog wins the race.  They collect their dog and discover that "Boots" as they call him is not even a greyhound.  They are then propositioned by a wealthy lady to sabotage a race in which the hooky booky's greyhound is the overwhelming favourite to win the £50,000 purse.  When she shows them the dog, "Cerebus," they agree.  The race starts and hooky booky's greyhound flies out of the traps and clears the field, but suddenly as he comes halfway round the track, squats down to go to the toilet.  The main characters had given the dog a dose of laxatives before the race.   [/size]
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Lucky Lad made it all the way around without stopping off en route to do anything, but I think from memory he came home last.  I wouldn't say the animal was slow but put it this way: I reckon that wee hare could have given him a 10 yard head start and beaten him!  Mr Boylan looked at my Dad and the other guy and they both shrugged their shoulders with the guy saying "I think he got a wee bit tangled up in his trap Seamus and sure it was only his first race.  You just wait.  He will do a lot better next time."  Dad nodded in silent agreement. Trust me he didn't because I was there.  After a few more races Mr Boylan’s interest in greyhound racing ended and we never saw Lucky Lad again.  To be honest he was more of a pet than a racing greyhound.  I wonder did his new owner paint him black and take him coursing at Clonmel, Ireland?  Just a thought. [/size]

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Just one of the memories I have written about in “Kicking Through The Troubles- How Manchester United Helped To Heal A Divided Community.”[/size]

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http://empire-uk.com/kicking[/size]
And, I would love to just have one more evening with my Mum and Dad to tell them how much I miss them and how much I love them and thank them for all of the sacrifices they made for my brother, David, my sisters Donna, Michelle and Danielle, and me.[/size]

Billy Fish

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Re: A NIGHT AT THE DOGS WITH MY DAD
« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2019, 07:46:47 PM »
Great memories, I'm sure. Thanks for sharing.  :)
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Chalkie

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Re: A NIGHT AT THE DOGS WITH MY DAD
« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2019, 08:21:57 PM »
Billy
Thank you.
Chalkie

FLYINGBOLT

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Re: A NIGHT AT THE DOGS WITH MY DAD
« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2019, 07:23:27 PM »
I enjoyed reading your memories of Dunmore Stadium,it was a brilliant place.  It was a sad day for many when it closed its doors in 1997.

Chalkie

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Re: A NIGHT AT THE DOGS WITH MY DAD
« Reply #4 on: September 23, 2019, 09:31:02 PM »
Nice comment.

misssmyth1

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Re: A NIGHT AT THE DOGS WITH MY DAD
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2019, 06:21:58 PM »
what an interesting and enjoyable story chalkie  my Dad took me a couple of times to the dog racing  i loved it. my brother was quiet and not interested.  i was  12 . first time we went  Dad gave me a few bob to place a bet I won three times  out of four he c years old  He couldn't believe it or me either  what did i know?!

i just liked the name of the dog or the look of the dog I came away with a fortune {to me} and went on a shopping spree  bough lots of records clothes etc and  also bought my mum perfume and my dad a bottle of black bush .
happy memories


Chalkie

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Re: A NIGHT AT THE DOGS WITH MY DAD
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2019, 07:39:42 PM »
Great memory.

Goatski

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Re: A NIGHT AT THE DOGS WITH MY DAD
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2019, 11:27:31 PM »
Me and my mate used to regularly attend Dunmore Stadium, but not for dog racing.  We were avid fans of the Stockcar Racing which was held there on a Wednesday night.