Greyhounds

Catford greyhound track: gone but not forgotten

Lost Tracks RSS / / 13 November 2007 / 6 Comments

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Darrell Williams continues his series looking back at the 'lost' tracks, focusing on personal favourite Catford

Remember remember the fifth of November, and for those of us who used to call Catford Stadium 'our track' we always will. That was back in 2003, now just over four years ago, when the rumours that the track was closing finally proved right.

I first heard the news at around 9am that morning while preparing SIS's Sports Daily programme. My wife had received a call from Sonja Spiers, trainer of our Catford grader, Lockham Rosemary, to say that the track had closed. No final meeting. No chance to stand on the terraces for one last time. That was it. Catford was history.

Initially I couldn't believe it. I wanted to phone everyone and anyone and ask them what they knew, but sadly, after years of rumours of Catford's demise, it had finally happened. We started 'Sports Daily' that morning by replaying what had turned out to be the track's final race, the last BAGS race from the previous afternoon (won by Redders Senorita) and as if with heads bowed as a mark of respect, we played that race out in total silence.

I could scarcely believe it had happened. Yes I knew Catford had been in a state of disrepair for years and that investment and refurbishment just didn't happen there, but to those of us who used to go regularly we still loved the place.

Derek Hope, the racing manager at the end, told me he knew it was over during the BAGS meeting the previous afternoon when Bob Rowe, the GRA's Senior Racing Manager, had stayed to watch the final race. It was, according to Derek, something Bob never did, always leaving before the end to avoid the heavy south London rush hour traffic.

I had become a regular at Catford in its last couple of years, firstly through ownership of a couple of dogs, and then in the last year as the track commentator, after I persuaded general manager Stan Wolfe that they should employ a race caller again, something that had been dropped a few years earlier.

But my memories of Catford go back much further. Having been born in Lewisham, just a mile or so from the track, and with my Nan having lived within shouting distance of the stadium, I can still recall going to Catford as an impressionable seven or eight-year-old with my dad in the mid-70s. I was into my racing even then, and there was nothing better than a night at the dogs with all the noise, the bright lights, and the pushing and shoving to get a good view. I was in my element watching the bookmakers and taking everything in. I used to love to read the old Greyhound Standard, which probably explains how I ended up where I am today. Strangely, I also remember spending a lot of time picking up old discarded tote tickets in the hope that might have been winners, something my boys now also seem to do quite a bit themselves!

While my teenage years were spent living elsewhere, I took thorough delight in returning to Catford in the early 90s just after I moved back into the area and still remember the excitement of re-visiting the track for the first time. I had deliberately chosen a night when the John Humphreys Gold Collar, Catford's major event of the year, was taking place, and spent a lot of that evening re-tracing my steps. Standing between the first two bends as the dogs thundered round, and taking great pleasure in looking across at the old toteboard and just reminiscing. Wonderful memories, more of which I'll explore next time...

"Probably the most atmospheric greyhound track of all." Read Jonathan Hobbs' thoughts on the closure of Catford here.

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Comments (6)

  1. william stack | 13 June 2008

    I remember when I lived in Forrest Hill in the 30s. With my mother and father we went to the stadium every Saturday. My brother and I used to go around the crowds cadging cigarette cards. Sometimes we used to play in the park next door. (we would not be safe doing that now). It was a lovely experience I can look back on.
    I am now 78 years old. and look back with pleasure to those times.

  2. Erekagribre | 16 October 2008

    Hello.
    :)

    The images were released to celebrate the arrival on Monday of Emma Tallulah, the couple's third daughter.
    Bye.

  3. ali | 03 May 2010

    I remember when i was a kid, i used to go to crofton school which was not far from the track, my family used to go to greyhound racing in catford every weekend, i loved it, shame its gone.

  4. Mick R | 02 August 2010

    I have fond memories of the track from early 70s thru to its closure in 2003. What a shame there was no final meeting for everyone to say a last farewell to the place.Owned a couple of runners there in the 80s and went to have a look at the place a couple of years ago but was met by a security guard who wouldnt let anyone on the site.
    R.I.P

  5. rob mccutcheon | 16 January 2011

    i didnt go to catford much as im nowhere near london but i did have an itch to have a runner there so my bitch adrienne ran there a few times - it was a special place and i was gutted when closed- alison ingram trained her

  6. David Allen | 11 March 2012

    My deceased father Bill Gibbons was connected to Catford Dog Track in the 80's & I am desperately trying to find people that knew him. Please contact me on taomandave@gmail.com if you can help.
    Thanks and best wishes, David

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