Life and Times in the Dighty Valley
KRUSCHEN FEELING registered a victory in the County Handicap
Longhaugh ‘A Day at the Races’ A publication in the Dighty History Series
Introduction The Dighty Burn runs eastwards from its source at Lundie through the northern boundary of Dundee, before flowing southwards along the Broughty Ferry and Monifieth boundary to its confluence at the Tay – a distance of around 16 miles. The Dighty has been a source of both water and power to the communities living beside it and its changing uses have reflected changing priorities and economics in the wider world. Today the industrial past of the burn is a historic footnote, with but a few signs left of the many mills and structures that previously dominated its landscape. The burn now winds its way through mainly residential areas and is an important walking, cycling and wildlife corridor through several Dundee communities. Many people are aware of the burn and have an attachment to that part closest to their home, perhaps unaware of all the fascinating facts and stories of its past. This series aims to look at some of its history and some of the people who lived and worked alongside this modest, but locally important waterway in Dundee. One long forgotten piece of Dighty history was the popular, but short lived racecourse at Longhaugh. There are no physical remains today but it has been brought to life again by the Whitfield History Group who have researched its origins and early demise through newspaper clippings and other local history sources.
How the Racecourse Started In 1923 the Dundee Telegraph first reported that Dundee was being seriously considered as a site to establish a new flat racing course to match those of Ayr, Musselburgh and Perth. A piece of land, some 50 acres, on the Craigie Estate, bordering the Arbroath Road and the Strips of Craigie was first considered, with the proposal to hold 3 meetings a year; spring, summer and autumn, with each meet being held over two days. However, by the following year an agreement had been reached between Dundee Race Meetings Ltd and the owners of Longhaugh Farm, Messrs F.M. and G Batchelor, to lease land to the north-east of Longhaugh Quarry, in an area where today’s police station and Longhaugh school are situated. It had been decided by the handicapper that the land at Craigie ‘was not of sufficient dimensions to procure good racing’. The first meeting was scheduled for the Dundee Spring Holiday, 12th and 14th April, where 5 races would be held each day, and work began to erect stands and prepare ground for car parking. The proposed race track would be a mile in circumference and the site was authorised by Mr H. Dunn of Bishop Auckland, who was the official handicapper of the Amalgamated Racing Association. Although the first meeting would be run independent of the National Racing Calendar, it was hoped to include Dundee in future within the Scottish circuit of Aberdeen, Ayr and Musselburgh. An interesting link between old-time racing in Forfarshire and the new Longhaugh development was reported in the Evening Telegraph of the 11th April, 1924. A model known as ‘Black Bess’, which topped the winning pole at Buddon Races in the 1820’s, was discovered by a Mr Alexander Tocher of Commercial Street, Dundee, in the loft of an old building in Buddon. The races at Buddon were an important social function in Forfarshire in their day and ‘Black Bess’ is described as, ‘a fine model ... Black Bess is, of course, black, and the jockey wears a scarlet tunic, white breeches, black boots, and a black velvet cap.’ The model was to be presented to the Longhaugh course in the hope that it may be placed on the winning post there, linking the old races at Buddon with the new course at Dundee.
Race Day – 12th April 1924
Longhaugh Course Takes Shape The construction of the course was something of a novelty for the people of Dundee and many of them visited the site while it was still under construction – often making unfavourable comparisons with the established courses of Newmarket or Doncaster. The grandstand itself, however, was capable of holding a respectable 800 people. Owners, jockeys, stable hands, bookmakers and fifty-six horses descended upon Dundee for the first day of racing, a number of the horses having a trial gallop over the course and ‘everyone who saw the horses in action were greatly pleased with their appearance.’ Most of the horses entered were from the North of England and Ireland, although there were a few runners from closer to home to raise local interest. Race card sellers appeared in the Dundee streets, on the morning of the race, and a large contingent of bookmakers from the West Coast of Scotland arrived with their ‘bulky equipment’.
The prize money for Dundee’s inaugural race meeting was £450, in addition to a silver-plate and silver cup. The first race each day was scheduled for 3 o’clock and the race programme was as follows:Saturday, 12th April 3.00 Spring Trial Handicap, £35; 5 furlongs 3.30 Selection Handicap, £20; 5 furlongs 4.00 Inauguration Plate (Handicap), £70 and a piece of plate, value £30; 1 mile 5 furlongs 4.30 Corporation Handicap, £40; 1 mile 5 furlongs 5.00 Strathdighty Handicap, £35; 7 furlongs Monday, 14th April 3.00 Tay Stakes (Handicap), £35; 6 furlongs 3.30 County Handicap, £20; 5 furlongs 4.00 Longhaugh Cup (Handicap), £75 and a silver cup, value £25; 1 mile 3 furlongs 4.30 Mains Handicap, £40; 1 mile 5.00 Consolation Stakes (Handicap), £30; 7 furlongs Many of the races had over 30 riders in each one, making them more akin to a Grand National field than the present day flat races. Several horses were also entered into more than one race on the day, with some competing in as many as 3 of the 5 races which would be unheard of today. The smallest field of the day in the 3.30 Selection Handicap is listed below to give a flavour of the runners and owners:3.30 Selection Handicap, valued 20 sovs. Distance about 5 furlongs. First 15 sovs., second 3 sovs., third 2 sovs.
The above photograph shows the grand-stand at Longhaugh, where the Dundee race meeting takes place on April 12th and 14th.
Tishy 4 Lolo 3 Preston 4 Little Scotch a Once Again 4 Wonder Why a Stoble a Florizel 3 Kia Ora a Silver Boy 4 Petit Corona Money Spinner 4 Peggy 4 Laddie 4 Kruschen Feeling 3 Lonely Boy 4
(Mr H Fletcher) (Mr L Gibson) (Mrs Ferrier) (Mrs Robbie) (Mrs J Ward) (Miss Gladys Trail) (Mr C Gloag) (Miss G Beavis) (Mr George) (Mr T Shaw) (Mr W Ovanagh) (Mrs J J Miller) (Mrs Burns) (Mr J Rennie) (Mr J Bradwell) (Mr T E Pallister)
10 7 10 3 10 1 10 1 9 11 9 10 9 7 9 4 9 3 9 3 8 12 8 11 8 7 8 6 8 3 7 11
Race Day Excitement The Dundee Telegraph reported that, ‘from early forenoon there was continuous traffic to Longhaugh, and in the afternoon racegoers will make their way to the course by road, tramcar, and charabanc. The course is twenty minutes’ walk from Maryfield car terminus, and many will do the journey by car and shanks naigie’. Even a heavy fall of sleet and snow on the morning of the race did not dampen the enthusiasm and by early afternoon with the sun out and the ground drying there was an air of anticipation among the racegoers for a good day. Some 8000 people were estimated to have turned up for the first day of racing and were described by the Telegraph as, ‘cheerful and keenly interested in all the adjuncts of a racecourse’. The ‘bookies’ were among the more notable characters present on the day, some with a distinctive attire. One in his red tartan coat and huge feathered tam-o-shanter was known for his ‘Glesca patter’, while another wore the jacket of a naval commander, the cap of a merchant seaman and a pair of grey morning trousers. Music was provided throughout the afternoon by the local regiment, the 4/5th Black Watch and gave further glamour to the day’s proceedings.
Telegraph Reports on the Day of Racing An interesting paragraph in the Telegraph of the next day indicated the perhaps less than professional methods in place for the first racing day:‘Better Starting Methods Needed False starts were numerous, and in the four o’clock race some of the horses must have been pretty well played out before the bunch finally got away. In some of the false starts 3 or 4 of the entries travelled a longish distance before they were pulled up. These were mainly the same horses, and in the actual race they finished well to the rear.’ Other improvements were suggested by the Telegraph in relation to the race timings:‘Keep to Timetable One must always remember Saturday was a first attempt, and no doubt the programme will keep to its schedule better at today’s and subsequent meetings. On Saturday the four o’clock race did not start til five o’clock. It was to be noted, however, that many of the people were surprised to find that the hour was five o’clock. Time had slipped past so quickly and interest had been occupied with the racing and surroundings that people had not thought about the time. Many people left after the third race (at five o’clock) but they were quite satisfied with their afternoon’s outing and had no complaints.’ Finally the Telegraph offers a descriptive on the stunning location and countryside providing the context for the racing and quite a different picture to that of the area we know today:‘Longhaugh’s Bracing Air ... Longhaugh has brought under notice what may be called the Highlands of Dighty Valley. People returning from Longhaugh on Saturday found their cheeks aglow, and with something of the sensation of sunburn that one experiences after a walk on the heights above Pitlochry ... Can it be that on the ridge of Longhaugh there is a bracing Highland resort at Dundee’s doorstep?
The above photograph shows the grand-stand at Longhaugh, where the Dundee race meeting takes place on April 12th and 14th.
On Saturday there was more wind than sun at Longhaugh and the sunburn glow came from the breezes that swept along the valley of the Dighty.’
Left to right: Director Mr Dalgliesh, ctor r Pringle, Dire Mrs Pringle, M
‘Wonderful View Longhaugh commands a wonderful view - one of the finest in the environments of the city. On the east the eye ranges along the Dighty Valley to the tree and castle-topped ridge of Balgillo Hill and beyond that to the sea and the hills of Fife, and to the west is the high ground of Maryfield, with a silhouette of houses and the great mass of the Law.’
Dundee’ First Race Meeting – A Big Success An estimated 20,000 people attended the second day of racing at Dundee’s first meeting, totalling 30,000 for the two days. Newspaper reports indicated that it was a popular and well enjoyed event for the townsfolk – as well as a lucrative event for the 200 or so bookmakers who did a brisk business over the two days. The Telegraph reports ‘.. . ladies indulged freely in ‘flutters’, some of them backing their favourites with quite substantial sums.’ Professional tipsters were around to part unsuspecting punters from their cash with the promise of a dead cert tip. One of them was described in the Telegraph as, ‘... resplendent in silk topper, morning suit, and white spats ... selling his tips for each race for the nimble ‘bob’.’ The race ground was also abound with ‘itinerant pedlars’ selling watches, rings and other trinkets who were kept on their toes dodging the ‘ever-vigilant detectives’. It was described that police, from the Forfar County Police; assisted by the Dundee City Police, were constantly on the lookout for rogues preying on a ‘guileless public’. However, several bookies were seen to take down their signs after the last race a bit too punctually, with punters making ‘... a frantic scramble in search of their winnings - and some of them are no doubt still searching’. One bookie was tracked down by a man and his ‘two determined daughters’ but two decamped after the fourth race and one who left behind his books in the haste showed that he was owe a considerable sum on Amboyna’s victory in the third race.
Not all the press reports were favourable about the racecourse and one headline in the Dundee Courier and Advertiser described a ‘Boozer at the Racecourse’, where the ‘refreshment’ bar at the racecourse was the subject of much criticism at Dundee Police Court. A man who became intoxicated at the course caused a ‘fracas in a Union Street tearoom ... taking hold of the tablecloth and sweeping the crockery to the floor. He ended up by seizing hold of a 7lb jar of sweets and smashing it on the floor, causing damage to the extent of £3 18s’. The ‘boozer’ at Longhaugh’s racecourse was termed scandalous, especially on a public holiday while the county had a bye-law prohibiting the sale of drink on a Dundee holiday within a certain radius of Dundee. The Dundee Gospel Temperance Union wrote protesting against the Longhaugh license and hoped it would not be granted again. (Edwin Scrimgeour was the MP for Dundee at this time with his Scottish Prohibitionist Party.)
A Contemporary View of a Day at Longhaugh Races A diary written by a local Dundee man, James Gahan’s Diary A Year of my Life and the People I have met (1924), gives us an eye-witness account of the second day’s racing at Longhaugh. Monday 14th April, 1924 “see in Saturday’s paper a paragraph regarding the ‘tipsters’. This is what I read.. a gang of card-sharpers, from Glasgow, practising the 3 card trick with some success. “Four arrests made.” 12 o’clock. Lock up, home, have dinner, then down to Albert Square. Get into charabanc, am discharged 1s fare. Landed. Pay 7s 6d to get into the paddock. I don’t know why it is called the “Paddock”. It is just the same as the 1s 6d enclosure, but not so large.
Autumn Trial Betting, Mark Sabre
When I entered I saw a lot of ‘bookies’ - Belby Chaworth, William Murphy, Billy Smith, Sam Cowan, Charles Ramsey, Harry Hobs, E.Grant. They came from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester, not forgetting Dundee. Man running around the bookies shouting 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,10,13. They put the numbers and names up on the blackboards with chalk. Then the fun began with the bookies. Old and young rush to put their money on their “fancy”. I pay 2s 6d now to get into the ‘Grand Stand’. You see the Race there from start to finish. Race over I go out again, up to the numbers for the next race. Same thing over again. I was standing not far from a bookie, another one came over. ‘Hallo, Bill! I haven’t seen you for some time.’ He spoke with the Manchester tongue but wore a big Tam o’ Shanter. I may tell you that I wasn’t there to bet, I was there to hear the talk of the ‘tipsters’, to see the men losing their money (with the 3 card trickster) searching for the ‘lady’. There was none of that where I was. However, I was well enough pleased. I left before the last race came on as I am of no use in a crowd. I got the charabanc to Albert Square, another shilling, and of course I also paid when on the field a sixpence for my catalogue. I never looked at it. I bought it in the belief that there might be something in it worth mentioning here but there was nothing. On our way in the charabanc, our driver was stopped by the police, his name and number taken. I asked him at Albert Square what was wrong. He said when going to the races, the policeman held up his hand signifying a stop but he held on not noticing him.
A bookie from Glasgow
Runners arriving at Tay Bridge Station
Tishy winning 3.30 race
Second Race Meeting – A Big Disappointment Dundee’s second race meeting during the first week of the July ‘Dundee fortnight’ proved less of a commercial success than the inaugural meet. Blamed on bad weather fewer than 3000 turned up for the first day of racing and only around 2000 for the second day. Three bookies were reported arrested by the Telegraph for ‘... alleged welshing and other shady tricks associated with the sport of Kings’. One bookie decamped after the favourite, Preston, came in on the first race owing debts of £20. Apparently, several players from Dundee Football Club had placed their money with the absconding bookie. A reference to the third race meet of the season at Longhaugh comes in Gahan’s Diary, an entry dated Thursday 16th October, 1924:‘Two young men and a lady come in to see about some painting and George leaves with them to see about it. George comes back. He says one of the gentlemen told him a good joke: A young sailor landed in town. The races were on. The markings on the bookies boards gave the different starting prices for the horses. There was one, ‘Prince Rose,’ an outsider that stood at the long price of 40 to 1 The sailor said, ‘I’ll put £5 on ‘Prince Rose’ for luck’. It came in first. He went to the bookmaker and got the money. Bookie said, ‘You are not a customer of mine. Why did you back that horse?’ ‘Well!’ said the sailor, ‘it had the same name as a ship that I sailed in for five years. I went twice round the world in her, so when I saw the name on the board, I just put a fiver on it for luck!’ The bookie said, ‘You got the luck all right, but I wish to God you had sailed on the ‘Titanic’!’
Dundee Racing Venture Comes to a Close The Telegraph of Saturday 28th March, 1925, reported news of the winding up of Dundee Race Meetings Ltd, ‘... the Company cannot, by reason of its liabilities, continue in business...’ It was moved that John Rattery Flockhart, chartered accountant, be appointed liquidator for winding up the company and distributing the assets. It is not known who all the directors of Dundee Race Meetings Ltd were, however, one was a Mr McIntosh who owned a public house license in Dundee and was also a Director of Dundee Football Club. Although the business was formed the previous year with a capital of £5000 and the inaugural meeting had indicated good signs for the new venture, the second and third meetings failed to live up to the early promise and attract the necessary crowds for commercial success. The final winding up notice showed a deficiency of £401 in the accounts with realised assets amounting to creditors and share capital being paid at quite a generous amount of 15 shillings and tuppence in the pound. It seems that the company jumped ship quite early on for such a promising enterprise, almost expecting instant success after only one season before the Longhaugh races had really become an established part of the racing calendar. What would the area have become if the races had succeeded and endured like the Perth and Ayr racecourses? There may have been a completely different future and experience for all those people who lived and raised families in the housing estates of Whitfield and Fintry, which absorbed the racecourse area in the post-war years. And what of all those children who have passed through Longhaugh Primary school - right at the heart of the old, ill-fated racecourse? Where would they have spent their formative years had Longhaugh continued to resound with the gallop of hooves and cheers of the crowd?
Acknowledgements This booklet is dedicated to the late Janice Mack who’s idea it was to research the history of the Longhaugh Racecourse and was a member of the Whitfield History Group. The Whitfield History Group, comprising; Stan Draper, Tom Smith, Cath Reid, Evelyn McLennan, John MacInnes and Jean Tully is grateful for the help of the following people:Alastair Cameron who has tutored the group throughout this research. The staff of the Local Studies Department, Dundee Central Library. The librarian and staff at Whitfield Community Library. Christine Ferguson of the Leisure and Communities Department. Christopher Ferguson of D.C. Thomson & Co., Ltd. The booklet makes reference to texts and uses images from Dundee Newspapers with the kind permission of DC Thomson and Co. Extracts are used from ‘Gahan’s Diary – A Year of my Life and People I have met’ (1924) by James Gahan. Published by Lorimer & Chalmers, Edinburgh, 1926. Newspaper images © D.C. Thomson & Co., Ltd.
DightyConnect a confluence of people and nature DightyConnect is a voluntary organisation established in 2009 with funding from the Voluntary Action Fund, to help connect local people living along the Dighty to their local environment and their cultural heritage. DightyConnect also aims to help the different communities along the burn to connect with each other. Volunteers from DightyConnect have taken part in environmental projects on different sections of the burn; planting trees, creating new wetland areas, surveying the wildlife and controlling invasive species. Other volunteers have taken part in various cultural activities such as historical research, creative writing and film production inspired by the landscape and people along the Dighty Valley, creation of mosaic installations and performing drama based on stories of the Dighty. We have organised various events to celebrate the Dighty and its culture including walking the Dighty from source to sea (16 miles), making traditional coracle boats with the aim to paddle them down the Dighty, taking part in a UK wide world tree planting record and performing a site specific drama event. If you want to find out more information about DightyConnect or want to take part in a Dighty project then please contact Debbie or Ann:firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 0777436809 or 01382 436932
Published on Jan 16, 2014
A publication in the Dighty History Series. Researched by the Whitfield History Group, this booklet tells the story behind the short lived...