Inductee Hall of Fame 2022
James William Dickson was a larger-than-life character who bred, owned and trained greyhounds from the earliest days of racing at Hobart’s T.C.A. in the late 1930s, until his death on 23 November 1978. Amazingly, he died of a heart attack, whilst attending a race meeting at his beloved T.C.A. with his son Jamie, when only 67 years old.
Known to most as Jim, he was a big man, had big opinions, could be brash, humorous and sometimes loud, but had the great respect of his peers as one of the leading figures in our sport spanning five decades. Jim Dickson was born in Beaconsfield on 6 October 1911 to James Dickson and Hilda Page. His early life was around the Beaconsfield area, and his first full-time work was in the mines there and at Rossarden. On 2 January 1940, Jim married Liffey born Doreen Elsie Bennett (born 14 June 1919). Jim (or Jamie) Valentine Dickson, born on 21 July 1953, was their only child.
Jim Dickson enlisted in the Australian Military Forces during World War Two and spent from 1 February 1942 until 23 September 1944 in service at St. Marys and had the rank of Corporal upon his discharge. Post WW2, Jim and Doreen had moved south and spent the remainder of their life in Moonah. Until 1954, they lived at 36 Hopkins Street but had moved to nearby Orchard Road, where Doreen had the corner shop, before 69 Gormanston Road and finally 34 Bayswater Road. It was during the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s that Jim Dickson really ramped up his greyhound involvement, albeit in rather refined backyard setups. Also, from this period until his retirement, Jim Dickson, like many greyhound men of the time, was a wharfie on the Hobart docks. He was a strong Trade Union voice during that journey. A workplace accident ended his employment days there. Doreen worked for quite some time at the Derwent Park Ammunition Factory, as well as providing great assistance to Jim with all his greyhound pursuits.
Jim Dickson was involved in all aspects of the sport of greyhounds. He bred, reared, broke in, and trained his charges. He bought and sold dogs, often moving on good chasers, simply to make room for the next crop coming through. He trained for others, and often housed star Mainland dogs making their raids on Hobart’s biggest races. Jim was great mates with Eric Gilroy, a top trainer/breeder who moved to N.S.W. with considerable success in the late 1960’s. Jim bred and reared many of his pups at Eric’s Bagdad property. In an era of elite but boutique trainers, Jim Dickson had close ties with such highly regarded mentors as Bob Usher, Howard Delaney, “Nip” Smith and Peter Pettiona, all of whom lived nearby. Top Launceston trainer Ron Fraser, of Social Dancer fame, was also a close associate of Jim’s. Like many a dog trainer of that time, Jim Dickson was also a serious pigeon racer and fancier.
As a strong Union man, Jim Dickson was said to have an answer for everything. As such, it’s no surprise he was a longtime member of the Southern Tasmanian Greyhound Owners Trainers and Breeders Association; his strong advocacy for the people at the end of the leads, eventually landed him Life Membership of the S.G.O.T.B.A.
Before looking at the prime greyhounds under his care, it’s always illuminating to look at the “old-time” methods that made top trainers such as Jim so dynamic. He was a dedicated walker and in fact, never drove a car. He relied on close associates Bill Wells, Allen Kelly, and greyhound enthusiast Dr Peter Pitt to drive him and his charges where needed. Later in life, it was wife and son on driving duties. Around four miles by foot was regular work in the mornings. In fact, Jim and Doreen were often known to walk their trial dogs from home to the T.C.A. for the early morning Monday trials (which is some walk!). After trialling, Jim would stroll down to the Hobart wharf and work, whilst Doreen marched the greyhounds back to Moonah. Another regular aspect of his training regime was walking his charges from Moonah to the Buckingham Rowing Club at Cornelian Bay, where the dogs would swim, prior to the long walk back home. That’s a hardy breed of dog and trainer!
Jim’s key training pointers were feeding, feet and muscles. The main meal, and always at 5 pm was beef, dog biscuits, grated carrot, celery and parsley. Mornings was a raw egg, milk and a tablespoon of Glucodin. His nickname among his peers was “Meat Safe Dickson”, no doubt from a handheld meat safe he carried for many years, to and from the butcher’s shop. He was fastidious about each dog’s toenails, pads and quicks, and thought nothing was better for a dog’s feet than mutton bird fat. Jim firmly believed in kidney pills after a hard run. He was convinced that what many confused as muscle soreness, was in fact kidney trouble. He never used vets except for immunization and was a top checker of not just his own charges, but those of many others. In fact, in the early 1970’s he was approached to set up a training clinic for younger enthusiasts in Hobart, but it failed to eventuate.
Jim Dickson was in and out of greyhounds pre-WW2 with mild success, and it wasn’t until his post-war move to Hobart that he ramped up his greyhound involvement to a more serious level. Apart from a 17-month stint with Doreen and Jamie at Revesby in Sydney’s southwest (where he did enjoy success with Go Far at Dapto in particular), all his major success was from his Moonah base.
Jim Dickson had many star performers, but two champions, namely Time Paid and Bow Rock, stood high above the pack. Time Paid was one of two pups Jim Dickson bought from a March 1960 whelping of Fine Earl – Susie’s Dream. The other was Doreen’s Time, a useful bitch that later whelped Jim’s star sprinter Triple Speed. Time Paid, a hardy and magnificent sprinter, was a dominant force over three seasons in an era of champions. Considered an unlucky top-notcher despite 32 victories at the T.C.A. and White City, he never nailed a “biggie”. He did set one record that won’t be broken. In 1962, 1963 and 1964 he failed to make the semis of the Hobart Thousand, but in each year won his way into the Hobart Thousand Consolation Final (still a magnificent field). And he won that Final all three times. In the 1962 Consolation he ran 29.8, 2/10’s quicker than Ophir Doll won the Hobart Thousand. In 1963 he won it running quicker than Ophir Gold won the “Thousand”, whilst in the 1964 version he beat champion sprinters Macdillon and Ulverstone Lad. That’s longevity! Time Paid also posted victories at Hobart in the 1963 Show Stakes and Christmas Stakes. At White City he was just as effective and was 2nd in the 1962 Launceston Cup behind Dottie Too. He also was beaten by Launceston track record holder Price Tag in a much-debated Match Race there.
Upon retirement, Time Paid, or “Smokey”, was a Stud success at a fee of 25 guineas. The great Proud Knight was his best son. A 26-time winner, he made a Hobart Thousand Final and was the Launceston track record holder of 29 14/16’s, before himself standing at Stud also. Other high-class Time Paid progeny included Fair Silencer, Sample Time, Quality Time, Good Talent and Pay Cherie. Always residing with Jim, the great dog lived to fifteen years of age.
Bow Rock, an April 1957 red fawn son of Dasher’s Bow — Jet Rock, gave Jim Dickson his greatest victory when he demolished a crack line-up in the 1960 Hobart Thousand Final. Purchased by Jim soon after his initial White City win in December 1958, he was a brilliant chaser at both major tracks. He posted a slick 30 6/16’s with an 8 ½ length Heat win of the 1959 Launceston Cup, before his Semi 3rd to Tagula left him short of a Final berth. At the T.C.A. he was a more dominant force. After his Heat 3rd in the 1960 Thousand, he stepped right up in the Semi-Final, beating Bow May by 3 lengths in 30 2/10’s. Exiting box two in the 13 February 1960 Hobart Thousand Final, Bow Rock began like a shot and won running away by 5 lengths in a brilliant 29 7/10’s on a damp night, with dual Thousand runner-up Woodford Chief 2nd, and the 1959 Thousand winner Peter’s Treasure 3rd. This would be Bow Rock’s last appearance in Tasmania.
In March 1960 Jim sent his great charge to Melbourne for a crack at the Australian Cup, which ended up going another mighty Tasmania in Meadow Vale. Bow Rock performed well in that series without making the Final. Nevertheless, he stayed on with considerable success at Sandown and North Melbourne and was beaten a nose when 2nd to 1959 Melbourne Cup runner-up Audio Boy in the 1960 Moomba Cup. In unusual circumstances, Bow Rock was leased to English comedian/actor Bill Maynard, a self-confessed greyhound tragic, and finished his career with him. He maintained winning form and was narrowly beaten into 3rd place in October 1960 in the Lord Mayor’s Cup behind the Australian Cup runner-up Fairs Orders.
Triple Speed was a great sprinter bred by Jim Dickson when he mated Time Paid’s litter sister Doreen’s Time with Victorian superstar Chief Zephyr in 1963. A prolific winner, he won his Semi of the 1965 Devonport Cup before being 7th in that Final to Domenic’s Black. He also won his heat, and ran 2nd in the Semi and 5th in Macdillon’s 1965 Launceston Cup. His big claim to fame took place in July 1965, running 2nd in his Heat, then winning his Semi of the Winter Stakes, a new feature that would see the winner represent Tasmania in Sydney. It was the precursor to what is now the National Sprint Championship. In the July 16 Final at the T.C.A., Triple Speed blitzed a stellar lineup by 6 lengths in a quick 29 6/10. In Sydney, Triple Speed flew the Tasmanian flag with great aplomb, placing in both his Semi-Finals before winding up 7th in the Millers National Championship Final behind the champion Best Sun. Well after his Tasmanian return, Triple Speed was still matching Tasmania’s finest and ran a close 2nd in the Show Stakes Final in October 1965. His litter brother Sports Time was also quite successful for Jim on all three Tassie tracks and was a Launceston Cup Heat winner.
Jim had two runners in the 1959 Hobart Thousand. Time Enough won his Heat, was 2nd to the star Silver Crofton in his Semi, before 5th to Peter’s Treasure in the big one. Time Enough went on to win 24 races with 20 placings from 51 starts, and Jim stood him at Stud as well. Vampire Chief, a useful chaser, ran 2nd in both his Heat and Semi, before his last of ten in the same Final.
Jim’s excellent Interstate connections saw his race-smart N.S.W. chaser Light Dandy here in 1971. He was a litter brother to the mighty Tara Flash who was not only the 1971 N.S.W. Greyhound of the Year but the grand dam of Promises Free which threw the “litter of the century” to Brother Fox. In a year of superstars in Tasmania, he did post a win over Summer Idol at the T.C.A. before 2nd to a Thousand winner Beau Palomino in his Heat, and 5th to the freak Victorian Plunder Road in his Semi of the ’71 Hobart Thousand. He also ran 2nd and 4th in his Heat and Semi of the Launceston Cup.
Sheehan Lass was an interesting chaser trained by Jim in the late 1940s. She won a Launceston Cup Heat in 1949, but her owner Kevin Sheehan from Campania sold her to a young Launceston newcomer Mr L. Bennett. At big odds, she took out the 1950 Launceston Cup. Many other useful types such as Bingola, Suave Princess, Beady Eyes, Bonny Bev and Rock Time all passed through the Dickson kennel. As late as the mid-1970s Jim Dickson was having good success, though Jamie was now the listed trainer. Royal Bibray was a beauty. Already successful before moving to Tasmania, he won twelve races here, mostly in top grade. On 21 May 1976, he posted a blazing victory over champions Mystery Bridge and Beaut Dina, and was the Heat and Final winner of the Harpers Chow Stakes at Devonport. Seven-time winner John Doremus was the last dog that father and son had success with prior to Jim’s sudden death.
Jim Dickson was certainly a character; a man with an answer for everything and well-known by all Tasmania lovers of the leash. Despite relatively small numbers at any one time, he finished many seasons near the top of the trainer’s list. In fact, he was the leading Hobart trainer for 1957-58 with 16 wins and 1025 pounds in stakes. In 1960-61 he was runner-up to great mate Eric Gilroy, before repeating as leading Hobart trainer in 1961-62 with 20 wins. As well, Bow Rock was the leading money winner for 1959-60 with 1497 pounds.
Jim Dickson’s deeds across so many aspects of our sport, and over many decades now lands him in the Tasmanian Greyhound Hall of Fame. I’m sure he would have something to say about that
BY Greg Fahey