By BRENNAN RYAN
THERE have been only three significant characters to have held the position of club secretary of the Launceston Greyhound Racing Club and Raymond Lawrence Foley was certainly among that trio.
Ray Foley was born on January 27, 1917 in Launceston, the youngest of 10 children. A very keen sportsman, Ray along with his brothers Len and Leo, were all excellent cyclists, both in Tasmania and on the Mainland. The boys once finished a race in the top three positions – a rare family feat.
He was also a brilliant sprinter having competed against the famous Bill Emerton.
Ray married Joy Smith in 1940 and they had a daughter Carolyn and son Raymond. A devoted family man, Ray was said to have brushed aside many opportunities in life to spend time with Joy and his children.
Ray was a man of great business acumen, and created a manufacturing and engineering company, Foley Industries, specializing in stainless steel fabrication. It remained in the family for 55 years, receiving numerous accolades, including Exporter Of The Year for products sent to Asia.
A fine community man, Ray employed a number of displaced people, especially from Hungary and other war-torn countries, and along with Joy, was a long-standing member of the Rotary Club.
For over 22 years Ray held the part-time role of LGRC Secretary having been regarded as an innovator of business, including the establishment of the famous Greyhound Guide magazine.
From early in the 1940s, Ray showed a great interest in greyhound racing. He owned a number of successful greyhounds and became increasingly involved with the Launceston club.
He saw a need in the greyhound industry to have its own publication and, supported by the LGRC and the HGRC, Ray’s brainchild ‘The Greyhound Guide’ commenced production in 1950.
Ray continued to edit the Guide up until its final edition in 1985. It was a much-loved publication.
For two decades Ray ran a most efficient LGRC and oversaw a stable period in the club’s history. He was also a former member and later Treasurer of the National Coursing Club and became Launceston’s inaugural delegate on what is now the Greyhound Clubs Australia (formerly AGRA).
As LGRC Secretary, Ray oversaw many positive changes at the club. He took the club from an 829-pound deficit to a profit within two seasons, and his early years saw significant stakes increases.
Always community minded, Ray allowed the middle of White City to be used by the Northern Junior Soccer Association and the Northern Amateur Athletic Association for a very minimal charge.
Ray’s time saw many changes to White City, including better access from Lamont Street, sealed parking, improved public amenities and better lighting. The 1970s also saw a new running rail, new tote and bookmakers area, plus the club gained a liquor licence during the 1975-76 season.
Ray was great friends with Henry Harrison, one of Australia’s most respected administrators, and Ray’s hard work at a national level saw LGRC host the 1981 National Distance Championship, won by Shamrock Jewel. The LGRC remains the only club outside of a capital city to have hosted the race.
Ray’s time as Secretary also saw the Tasmanian Derby and Tasmanian Oaks inaugurated in the 1973-74 season, initiation of some television coverage of racing at White City, as well as a Miss Greyhound Racing competition which was covered live on TV, exposing our sport to a far wider audience.
Ill health forced Ray to stand down as LGRC Secretary in 1985. He retained a keen interest in his beloved greyhound racing, as well as remaining busy with Foley Industries, and finding time to fly fish and race thoroughbreds (Century Proof and Wave Royale) with his wife Joy and son Ray.
Ray died aged 72 on September 4 1988. Richard Stamford, former club secretary who had worked with Ray for most of his time at the LGRC recalls Ray as a most quiet, polite, church-like character with strong resolve. Between his work with LGRC and the Greyhound Guide, Ray left a legacy to greyhounds in Tasmania that has been matched by very few.
He was awarded Life Membership of the LGRC at the 1984-85 Annual General Meeting, and at a later date, the Committee named the new White City grandstand the ‘Ray Foley Stand’.
The Launceston club annually runs the R.L. Foley Perpetual Trophy over his beloved long distance.
June 28 this year will see the 34th running of this up-and-coming stayers event over 720 metres, carrying prizemoney of $5190 to the winner, run alongside the Tasmanian Derby and Oaks finals.