Time to stop and smell the flowers

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Life is full of interest particularly if you take the time to stop and smell the flowers along the way. I recently had cause to visit Galston in Ayrshire and was surprised at how interesting parts of the past were in this small town.

To start with the name Galston is derived from the Gaelic word gall meaning a stranger and tun the Anglican word for a hamlet. In other words the ‘Place of Strangers’. It proves the Gaelic presence in this part of Scotland and in the 12th. 13th century it was an ecclesiastical centre. The Burnawn River runs past the town and this name is derived from Burn of Annie named after St. Anne the mother of the Virgin Mary. It must also be noted that Sir William Wallace had a notable victory in 1296 at nearby Loudon Hill. But to get to the particular point of interest which caught my attention was that at one time the favourite pastime of the locals was dog racing. A greyhound track was first opened in 1933 and ran for some 34 years finally closing in 1967. It had a circuit of some 350 yards with an inside hare. Racing took place on Thursdays and Saturdays but Saturday was the busiest time with trains arriving at the station carrying both handlers and dogs eager to get to the track. Few people ventured out along the road between the station and the track at that time, as although the dogs were muzzled they were quite a tough job for their handlers .

There were usually six races each night with six dogs to each race. The track was floodlit and the glow could be seen for miles around at the same time the noise from both the dogs and their backers could be heard from a long way off. It was said that if a pay packet was not lost on the dogs then it was spent in the pubs where most gathered after the meeting. The track was run by the McGhee family of whom ‘Bookie McGhee’ obviously handled the betting. The track was taken over during the second world war as a holding area for troops before moving to mainland Europe. Sadly the McGhee family lost a son at the D-Day landings. After the war the track re-opened but there was no longer the interest that there had been before the war and the track closed in 1967 with no more store pies needed to nobble the favourites. The Galston dogs then had to travel to Auchinleck or Powderhall in Glasgow to race, but fond memories still linger on over the Galston track. Times change and we have to change with them, but it is still nice to reflect on the past.