The 'dog days' are over for whippet racing fans
S ATURDAYS were always father and son days for Daryll Wall when he was growing up during the 1970s.
Daryll's father, Charlie, started whippet racing in the 1950s at Sun Street in Hanley. But it was the years racing whippets at Meir Airport that stick in the mind of his 47-year-old son.
Daryll, from Dobell Grove, Meir Hay, decided to share his memories after reading recent articles in The Way We Were about Meir Airport.
Daryll says: "I was seven years old when my dad started to take me with him to race meetings at Meir Airport.
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"My dad always had a couple of whippets which he would race. They lived in the home like any other family pet, but they needed a lot of exercise and a special diet.
"Every Saturday we would walk the dogs from our home in Sandford Hill to the aerodrome. We would spend the day racing the dogs and watching the other races, then walk the three or four miles back home. During racing season the whippets needed a lot of exercise to keep them fit, so I would walk miles with them through Park Hall. It certainly kept me fit."
Daryll, a process worker at Fenton Industrial Estate, is married to Diane. They have two sons, Liam, aged 16, and 11-year-old Toby, who enjoy hearing racing stories.
He adds: "I still like to continue the tradition of father and son days, but as both of my boys are into football, most Saturdays are spent at the match."
Daryll describes whippet racing as 'the poor man's greyhound racing' and believes its popularity in the 1970s was due to the cheapness of the sport.
He said: "Many of the people that raced whippets used dogs that were bred locally so they were cheap to buy."
Daryl recalls the open handicap race days were popular, attracting people from as far as Yorkshire, as well as local enthusiasts.
He adds: "It was great to be able to race the whippets against different dogs, it really added excitement to the day. There was two types of races, Tape and Lure. Tape racing is when each dog runs between their own tape or string and no crossing over the tape is allowed.
"Lure racing is where the dogs chase after a sack attached to an electric lure, which was run off a car battery."
Daryll has fond memories of the years he spent at race meetings with his father, many of which are triggered by looking back at old photographs.
Whippet racing ended at Meir Airport in the late 1970s, when a fire destroyed all of the race equipment.
Daryll recalls: "My dad stopped racing whippets after that, but we would still go to the Florence Colliery Club to watch the races from time to time.
"As I got older and started courting Diane I would sometimes take her to the greyhound racing in Cobridge. Both whippet and greyhound racing died out in this area in the mid-80s.
"It is sad, but I think as times have changed so has people's interests and the enthusiasm for those kind of sports has been lost. I still have great memories though of time spent every Saturday with my dad and our whippets."
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