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Importance of Coursing

Sup Hare and other senior police were great supporters of the sport of Coursing which involved greyhounds chasing hares over open ground. This was before the present day sport and the dog track were thought of.

Heather B Ronald in her book Wool Past the Winning Post, a history of the Chirnside family gives the following details of this sport

'By 1873 hares, introduced into Victoria by the Acclimatisation Society and other, had greatly increased and coursing became legal. The laws followed were almost identical to those arranged by the Duke of Norfolk during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and were drawn up by the National Coursing Club of Australia.'

Sir William Clarke of Rupertswood formed the Victorian Coursing Club. Werribee Park the home of the Chirnsides became the headquarters of the Australian Coursing Club. In a short time that Club had the Governors of New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania as joint presidents with Thomas and Andrew Chirnside.

'Thomas and Andrew (Chirnside) had imported some greyhounds prior to 1875 and now Robert, who had become very keen on the sport, imported two more in time for the inaugural meeting of the A.C.C. This took place in April 1877 in the presence of the Governor of Victoria and was an unqualified success. Newspaper reports said that 'sport was shown there which had never been approached for its excellence or legitimate character'; and 'no such coursing had ever been witnessed south of the line'. This would be gratification indeed to the Chirnside brothers, whose one aim was to show good sport to all, and whose organising ability was outstanding.

"Although the new house with its magnificent tower dominated the landscape, it was, much to the family's great disappointment, still only a shell. Italian craftsmen headed a team of plasterers working on the interior, and the delicate modelling and gilding took far longer than expected. On this occasion therefore, marquees were set up near the plantation, where a splendid luncheon was provided.

"The A.C.C. at first had a bigger following than the older V.C.C. and instituted the Australian Cup to counter the rival Waterloo Cup, but both Clubs continued to flourish. Special trains carried hundreds of enthusiasts out from Melbourne to Rupertswood and to Werribee Park, where Janet Clarke and Mary Chirnside respectively hostessed superb luncheon parties for their friends. …

"The sport was carried on by beaters stirring the hares and when a hare was afoot and well away, the official 'slipper' would unleash two opposing greyhounds to chase it. Points were awarded for the fastest and cleverest at the chase. judge and stewards were always mounted, as were a few special guests, but the rest of the spectators had to walk. They had to be fit enough to walk for miles and miles, often running to keep the dogs in sight. Whisky flasks kept out the cold - only the judge, slippers and beaters had to stay sober. Old-fashioned coursing was a good sport, the sleek beauty of the greyhound and his skill at fast turning and pick-ups at speed being quite enthralling.

"For ten or twelve years open coursing was followed avidly by the elite of Victoria, substantial bets were made on the outcome by the numerous spectators as well as the participants. Plumpton (named after the English village near Lewes in Sussex, where the grounds were fenced with wire netting) was introduced to Werribee in 1882, but [this inovation does not seem to have been a success] and coursing was gradually brought into disrepute"

At least by July 1879 coursing matches were be held in Benalla. Hare went to this match even though it was cold and wet and he had to be relieved of duty by Nicolson because of the state of his health (RC16460)



The KellyGang's involvment

The KellyGang were great horse men and they would have understood this sport but they were never invited to attend these grand events. But Paddy Byrne had a grey hound.(RC13860)

Det Ward had to take three or four greyhounds who went every where he went. (RC13882)

McBean, Hoskins, Sadleir, Nixon, and Gray were members of the Benalla Coursing Club. Messers ET Dunne Craven, F A Clark, W Walker, R Roe, W Little, J Ryan, D Heany, S Osboldstone, J Norton, F Dreyer, and T Peel. Messrs McBean, Watts, Duncan, Hamilton, Hoskin, and Norton were elected stewards for the season.

There was also the Benalla Coursing Club (OMA5/4/1879)

Ned Kelly was seen at the Oxley coursing matches Easter 1880. He was seen sitting on a fence. (Argus7/8/80)