Archive for June, 2017

I should mention a couple of new recent connections arising from my Salisbury research.  One chap is a member of a family that has sponsored a race there in honour of an ancestor for many years.  He is busily trying to find out all he can about his relative, who started as an illegal bookmaker.  This was in the days when the only off-course betting was via credit.  Before the introduction of betting shops in 1960 the vast majority of people relied on the local bookies’ runner to go round pubs, clubs and workplaces to collect their little cash bets and to pay out any winnings.  From ths sound of it there’s a good story to be told and there may be detailed records lurking in another relation’s loft.  My contact’s main problem is finding time to do this as well as the day job.

Another lady who is writing a novel asked me to help check some of her descriptions of racing in another era, which form part of her story. I confirmed some things, gave her a few pointers, and added to her information about actual results in the year her story was set.  I will be intrigued to see how much she adds fact to fiction.  The draft excerpt she sent me looked very good and when the book comes out I will report it here.  I hope it will do well (and have my name among the Acknowledgements).

My own Salisbury work continues to consume lots of hours sneakily. One doesn’t notice how many fly by.  Time in the British Library Map Room yesterday was fruitful, though it will mean returning to already-dredged sources to look again, using different search terms.

I was glad to hear after a long interval from D, who encouraged me to start this blog, despite having no interest in racing. The family health issues she has had to contend with put the triviality of racing research into perspective.  Her new blog should be required reading for anyone with a very elderly relative.  If she gives me the nod I will post a link to it.

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My search for historical Salisbury racing material took me to the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre in Chippenham last week.  Wiltshire can’t be doing too badly to afford a place like this.  It’s a modern building, with a generous amount of space, plenty of staff, all of whom were efficient and friendly.  Copious local records, indexes, general, county and town history books were on the shelves.  The archived documents I requested were provided within ten minutes.  Facilities in the reception area included a drinks machine, water cooler, lockers, a place to chat and eat your packed lunch, clean loos … there’s even a sandwich van that apparently stops by at midweek lunchtimes.  It’s open for eight hours, five days a week.  There’s an upstairs too but I had no time to explore that.  Others like me who were waiting on the doorstep at 9.30 looked like members of a club in all but name; they had all been working on their own family history trails for a while and were pally with each other.  They swopped stories about their recent holidays.  One of them, I heard, had had trouble with a nit abroad.  Foreign nits, that’s to say of the bug variety, are clearly not to be laughed at, as this chap was bitten so badly he needed medical attention.  You can never know what strange new insights your research may bring forth.

Next to the main archives area was a large adjoining roomful of people who, I learnt, were volunteers typing up sundry Wiltshire records for digitisation. Bravo, I say, making research easier for others, like me.

Inevitably not every item I requested was useful.  Some was racing-related but didn’t apply to Salisbury.  Others were relevant but trivial.  Even so, there’s a place for trivia in my books.  I found a few maps of the racecourse but one in particular has puzzled me, as the clearly-marked outline of the track doesn’t seem to be in the right place.  The scale was marked in chains, each of which is 22 yards, or a tenth of a furlong, and north wasn’t at the top.  Intriguingly it was overlaid with pencil marks that show the shape of the track that I expected, though that implied the scale was very different.  I have a photocopy and will need to study that more alongside other old maps.

I have a the usual sheaf of scribbly notes to type up and I must get on with them before they become indecipherable and I forget what I wrote down.

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