Bridie Sheehan of Canada recently contacted me saying, “on viewing some aerial photos I see there was a greyhound track that abutted the Craighead Rows. All I can find online deals with the use of this track as a motorcycle speedway starting in 1977. Can you tell me when this was constructed as a greyhound track and how long it was used for greyhound racing.“
Knowing Greyhound racing to be a relatively modern sport, my first port of call was to check the 1910 map of Blantyre. There was no greyhound track there, but the narrow strip of land, hemmed in between Craighead Rows and Auchinraith railway junction was at that time still used for sport, but at that time was a football pitch.
Going for a more direct route, I found online that Greyhound racing was first introduced to Britain in 1926 and by 1927, some forty tracks were in operation. The local Motherwell times in November 1927
confirmed Motherwell contained the only track in the area of that year, attracting interest from other nearby towns. The Dundee Courier of that same month, carrying a story of some protests about the sport and perceived cruelty to animals.
Gary Doonin told me, “My grandfather bought the area and a house in Auchinraith Road for a total of 300 pounds. The track was used as a Whippet racing track when bought in 1925 and he was first to introduce greyhound racing to scotland in late 20s“
Racing cards for Blantyre’s Greyhound Racing commenced appearing in the newspapers in 1932. The earliest race card I could find published was in the Edinburgh Evening News 9th June 1932 leaving me to conclude that the Blantyre Greyhound Track was formed in Spring 1932 and opened soon after. The old football ground had stopped being used for that purpose in the first world war and since 1919, this ground had been the venue for open air boxing! However, when the greyhound track was formed, it was just a rough oval shaped track, nothing fancy and literally the topsoil removed from the field. It was far from being a premiere sporting venue.
In December 1932, National Protests against greyhound racing were diminishing and at a meeting of the league, their campaigners voted not to continue , accepting that the sport was being recognised as popular. Many protesters actually feared that Greyhound racing would distract from the large crowds attending football, and it may have been this reason alone that founded the protests.
By 1933, Greyhound Racing was most firmly established in Scotland and how popular it was! Enough money was coming in to establish a proper venue, and plans to upgrade were discussed. The Motherwell Times reported on Friday 22nd September 1933 that Blantyre was to get a proper Greyhound Track. The report was “Formerly the locus of the whippeting sport in Blantyre and later the venue of open air boxing, the Craighead racing grounds for some weeks past have been in the hands of workmen who have completely reconditioned the ground for greyhound racing. The circumference of the track is slightly over 400 yards and there are two racing distances, one of 300 yards and the other 500 yards. There is being erected a covered in stretch on the Western side extending a distance of 150 yards.” The first race of the proper track occurred on Friday 6th October 1933, lit by electric lights and capable of seating five or six thousands spectators. There was also kennel accommodation for 75 dogs (much to the annoyance of the nearby homes!).
The location of the new track is supported by the 1936 Blantyre map, which clearly shows the Greyhound Track in operation.
In June 1950, licensee Frank Doonin (miner and bookmaker) was granted permission to race greyhounds on the track on appointed Fridays and Saturdays. In March 1965 the Greyhound track was extensively renovated. By 1977, the Greyhound Track had a further use. As well as Greyhounds, it was used also as Blantyre’s Speedway. Gary also added, “The stadium also held boxing matches but it wasn’t until July 1977 that my dad Frank through Jimmy Beaton introduced speedway. The track remained open until April 1982 (the last race) and closed due to building EK expressway and a Strathclyde Regional Council and the family got paid an utter pittance Compensation. A bloody disgrace to be honest like a lot of other small businesses and properties.“