Remember when those famous monkey jockeys, Jacko and Molly, used to ride greyhounds over hurdles at White City? No?
What about the goat races, you know the ones where the kids would sit in wee carts pulled by billies? Anyway, that’s where the word billy cart comes from – a cart pulled by a billy goat – as if you didn’t know. But seriously, you don’t remember any of that? Really?
Wait a minute. You don’t even remember White City? Melbourne’s premier greyhound racing stadium, located just down the road from Tottenham station in the heart of Melbourne’s industrial West?
OK, I’m not really surprised that you don’t remember any of this as the stadium was shut down in 1955 and the railway station that served it and local industry was demolished in October 1981 when Tottenham station was upgraded. But it is a shame that such a colourful part of Melbourne’s history has disappeared so completely and so swiftly from our collective memory.
White City station served punters off to the track and also those who worked at the many factories in the area. Curiously, though, until 1949, the train only stopped at White City on its way out of town, to get back to town everyone had to walk the 500 metres to Tottenham station. Very convenient.
White City stadium (originally named Coursing Stadium) was built in 1927 on land that is now occupied by Olex Cables. For almost 30 years years it served as a mecca, not only for novelty animal races, but also for foot races, dirt bikes and, in the main greyhound racing.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday man’s best friend tore around the track cheered on by thousands. The stadium owners wanted the dogs to chase mechanical lures, but the State Government of the day, perhaps fearing corruption via dodgy machinery, insisted on the use of live animals. And so for the lifetime of its operation greyhounds and whippets chased down, and sometimes caught and ate live hares. Rumour has it that possums, cats and rabbits were sometimes used too, which caused quite a stir at the time.
It was a similar fear of corruption that led to the end of the billy goat races, as bookies were apparently bribing the child jockeys to lose races. There’s no mention of any of the monkey jockeys being bribed but I’m sure there were a few extra bananas floating around for anyone who was interested (insert gratuitous link to more monkey jockey madness here). But all scandal aside, how exciting would it have been to watch those kids hurtling around on their billy carts, in the oh so prestigious Sunbury Goat Race Handicap Cup? How cool would it have been to see the monkey jockeys? You could never stage such races these days, which is a good thing, but still…I’m sure I’m not the only one who wishes he could hop a train to White City to watch his favourite primate take the hurdles at a clip.
Monkey Jockeys pic sourced from stampboards.com
Photo of boy racing goat sourced from museumvictoria.com.au
Photo of White City Stadium sourced from: victoriancollections.net.au