Vale Ray Byron

By Neil Brown, Chairman of Sandown Greyhounds

It is with great sadness I acknowledge the passing of Sandown’s longest living Life Member Ray Byron on Monday December 27.

Passing at the fantastic age of 95 Biro as he was affectionately nick named made an extraordinary contribution to our club right up until his death. Ray was a West Coburg boy and a handy footballer as a youngster. He had a run with the Essendon Reserves, a club he supported all his life, and played VFA at Yarraville and Mordialloc. He worked in the Lincoln Cotton Mill during the Second World War and five years after the War became a bricklayer, during that time he met his Wife Joan. He joined the Board of Works as a Brickie working his way up through the ranks to a District Maintenance Officer for the Dandenong area. He retired from the Board after 39 years of service.

The first bet he had on a greyhound was a hurdler named Blue Lip at Napier Park. He worked at Napier Park for track manager Frank Morgan and was paid two bob to slip the pacemaker and clean up the catching pen. In those days he also attended the Maribyrnong track, Ray’s father always raced dogs, so he helped out from a young age and also assisted his uncle, former Carlton footballer Rod Mclean. He knew and learnt from legendary West Coburg trainers Sid Barrett, Jack Kelly and bookmaker Joe Bell.

Ray started training a whippet before greyhounds and had a break when he got married. After moving to Dandenong in 1958 he assisted leading Victorian trainer Paul Hogan, also a Sandown Director for 33 years, with his team of greyhounds. Ray branched out on his own in the 1960’s training without a break until the late 1990’s.

He raced many top performers and considered his best Welcome Girl, a bitch he bred and raced in the mid 1970’s, even though All Promise won the 1980 National Distance Final at Sandown. Another he bred was Perfect Promise who made the Silver Chief final in 1977 which was won by Satan’s Legend. Along with Rupert Lee, Fred Booth, Fred Abel and a few others Ray was in the original group that started the Cranbourne Club and was involved for many years of its early success.

He joined our club at Sandown during the 1960’s through his association with the legendary Jack McKenna, a man Ray always acknowledged as one of the most important contributors to greyhound racing of his time. Ray was elected to the Sandown Board as a Director in 1980. He at all times tried to represent as he called them the ‘dog blokes’. He was made a Life Member in 1995 and retired as a director in 1998.

The best greyhounds he ever saw race were Zoom Top (by a mile), Cheltenham Lass, Black Top and Highly Blessed. Recently giving mentions to Kantarn, Fanta and Fernando Bale. It was for me a privilege to have known Ray after becoming great friends in the early 1980’s. He was a wonderful family man, extremely good company and had a profound knowledge of our sport. He could be a funny man, loved a bet and people of all walks of life. He was certainly a larger-than-life character.

On behalf of the Sandown Club we send our condolences to Joan and Ray’s extended family, we will miss him.

Vale Ray Byron.

Ray Byron’s funeral will be held at Sandown Greyhounds on Wednesday January 5 at 2.30pm. All attendees must be fully vaccinated.