In his heyday Cheshire’s Rushton Mac was acclaimed as the best English-bred greyhound ever. Having achieved a trio of victories in the English, Welsh and Scottish Derbies; recorded wins in 14 successive races and posted five track records, the description was beyond doubt.
Now, 50 years later, the magnificent silver trophy presented by the Greyhound Racing Association for Mac’s 1955 English Greyhound Derby win is to be sold. Chester fine art and antiques auctioneers Byrne’s will offer the trophy together with Mac’s trap No. 2 jacket worn for the race; the winner’s jacket worn by the dog during the subsequent parade and presentation, a photograph of the trophy presentation; an original race card from the meeting held on June 25 1955 and one of Mac’s stud cards. The collection is expected to fetch up to £3,000 when it is sold on the second of a two-day sale on Wednesday and Thursday, December 7 and 8.
Rushton Mac was bred out of Rushton News and Rushton Panda by the late Mr Frank Johnson and his wife Mary at Boothouse Farm, Rushton, in Tarporley, Cheshire, where they ran a greyhound stud and licensed training facility. Mr Johnson’s son, Peter, a retired farmer from Wrenbury, is selling the collection. He said greyhound breeding and racing was the great love of his parents’ lives.
“Boothouse was a small farm on the Oulton Park estate and they started greyhound racing with a bitch named Fly Joan soon after they were married in the early 1940s. They were granted a licence to train dogs on their own account in1953 and by then they were travelling to races all over the country,” Peter Johnson said.
“My sister, Ann, and I were always being bundled into the back of a van with the dogs and we used to help at the tracks. It was so exciting when we came home as winners. It was very unusual to run English-bred greyhounds because in those days most were bred in Ireland.”
Mac’s track record was unique. Apart from being a triple Derby winner in 1955, the grandson of Fly Joan, the Johnson’s original dog, Mac was awarded Silver Greyhounds in 1954 and 1955 for Best English Bred Greyhound.
A contemporary report of the English Derby run at the famous White City Stadium in London, said that “early round results implied this was a two dog race and the betting reflected this. While Rushton Mac was a well backed 5/2 shot, the clear odds on 1/2 favourite was the three dog Barrowside. All seemed well for favourite backers as Barrowside led from the boxes, with Home Straight and Rushton Mac following closely behind. Barrowside went wide at the first providing Rushton with the opportunity on the inside. Down the back straight Rushton maintained a length lead, always challenged by Barrowside, and these went clear of the others led by Home Straight and Coolkill Chieftain. Around the fourth bend Ruston was still in the lead as Barrowside mounted a strong challenge, but Rushton held on by three-quarters of a length, with the pair some four and a half lengths ahead of the fast finishing Coolkill Chieftain.
Mac was retired and put to stud in late 1956 or early 1957 having won more than £8,500 in prize money. Mr and Mrs Johnson retired in the early Sixties and the trophy and archive has remained in the family since. By the important London silversmith Garrard & Company, it weighs a whopping 64½ ounces and comes complete with turned wooden socle and fitted mahogany case.
The trophy and archive is one highlight in Byrne’s sale of more than 850 lots of fine art and antiques from various owners. The sale starts at 12 noon and is on view on Sunday December 4 from 11am to 2pm; on Monday December 5 from 10am to 5pm; Tuesday December 6 from 10am to 7pm and on the morning of the sale from 9am. Catalogues, price £8 (including postage) are available from the auctioneers and can be viewed online at www.byrnesauctioneers.com.