St Andrews Day Races

St Andrews Day Races

Featured Image: David Macintyre and the author marching with the pipe band on the main track a St Andrews day Races at White Park in 1974

It’s fast approaching the celebration of St Andrews’ Day on the 30th November each year. St Andrew is the patron Saint of Scotland; as well as Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, Sand Andres Island, Colombia, Saint Andrew, Barbados and Tenerife! We couldn’t fit them all in at White Park! I’m nonetheless reminded of two special events which celebrated the Scottish Heritage of Scone in the grandest manner. They were two contiguous related events:  the Scone Race Club St Andrews Day Race Meeting and the Scone Scot’s Dinner at about the same time. I’ll deal here with the former and later revisit the latter.

“I freely admit that the best of my fun I owe it to country racing”

(Not quite Whyte Melville – Horse and Hound)

I had a ball as much as I can remember!

Since 1947 the Scone Race Club (SRC) has had direct or indirect veterinary involvement. It was with a feeling of immense pride that I agreed to replace Lionel Israel on the SRC Committee. I joined my boss Murray as well as ten other Upper Hunter notaries. It began an association lasting until today. Some of the happiest and busiest years of my life were the six of my Presidency 1978 – 1984.  I’m proud to have been the only non-grazier or stud master to hold the position. At various times I have been a member of the following race clubs: Scone Race Club, Australian Jockey Club, Sydney Turf Club, Newcastle Jockey Club, Tamworth Race Club, Quirindi Race Club, Aberdeen Jockey Club, Denman Race Club, Merriwa Race Club, Upper Hunter Race Club (Muswellbrook), Upper Hunter Amateur Race Club, Gunnedah Jockey Club, Muswellbrook Harness Racing Club, Wallabadah Race Club and perhaps more! Mad? Was this ‘obsessive compulsive disorder’?

Murray had grand ideas, none more so than when he was able to marry his Scottish heritage to the Australian culture he so loved. Scone was an ideal pace to be! Scone Scots was formed to commemorate St. Andrews Day in late November. Hogmanay was always celebrated in grand style at Tinagroo with Murray addressing the haggis Burns style resplendent in tartan kilt! Bob Mackay and Murray were respective patrons of two Newcastle based pipe bands who rotated the honour of coming to Scone at Anzac Day. With Murray’s energy, inspiration and drive the St. Andrews Day Race Meeting was born! For at least a decade it became an institution but sadly Murray did not survive in good enough health to actually witness the first one held. The inaugural St Andrews Day Races were held at White Park on Saturday 1st December 1973. An official ‘by invitation’ luncheon was held at the Scone Golf Club. Patrons walked up the straight to the races. It could have been a ferocious mix!

The death knell of the concept was heralded some ten years later. Murray’s old pipe band had been invited at Mace’s behest to provide the highland flavour. It was very hot! The band was very thirsty. Traditional ‘Athol Brose’ did nothing to satiate the arid thirst. The Pipe Major demanded and was supplied with abundant Dr. Toohey’s. Alas the potent brew stirred the demons in the Drum Major. He took an instant dislike to anyone not dressed as he was who comprised most of the crowd at the bar! Being a massive “don’t argue” steel-worker type he elected to attack! Inevitably by sheer weight of numbers he was upended. Much to the shame and chagrin (or should that be bemusement?) of the female contingent he was ruthlessly exposed as an adherent to the true Scot’s tradition of rendering underwear redundant when wearing the kilt! Mace was mortified! End of the St. Andrews Day concept! The band has not been back!