Almanac Racing: Greyhounds and circus performers

Greyhounds are running their last race in New South Wales, leaving tales and characters on the tracks. James Clarence Barclay is one of them. Born in 1873, he went by various names, including Jim Barclay, Wilson Barclay, Clarrie Wilson, and even Mr J.C. Wilson-Barclay. He loved to race dogs, and will forever remain a mystery.


Jim was one of 16 siblings. His father John Barclay tried his luck on the Ballarat, Bendigo, and Otago goldfields, became a Sunday School teacher, and joined the Sons of Temperance order. Jim’s mother Annie was an active suffragette and moved the family to South Australia shortly after 1895 when it became the first government in the world to give women the vote.


Jim became a newspaper editor and manager of various country banners around Australia, including the Cessnock Express and Cootamundra Herald during the First World War, and immediately afterwards at the Rochester Express.


Three of his sons served in the war, all by fudging their age. Jim’s 1st son James enlisted when he was 16 and wrote a remarkable account home of a Zeppelin raid on London. His 2nd son Les was 16 when he became a POW and was later a ballroom dancing champion. His 3rd son Trevor enlisted at 14 and later worked as a magician. A 4th son Keith, too young to get away with increasing his age, was a champion bull rider known for furious riding through the streets of Mundubbera.


While not attending to his newspapers, Jim was a keen a keen courser, the forerunner to greyhound racing. He was well-known particularly across New South Wales, and owned and ran dogs across four states. His war-time winners included “Comedy Pat” and “Flying Airman”.

“Then grandma seemed to lose track of him,” a grandson John wrote. “He was reputed to be in New Zealand, but I have no corroboration of that.”


With the New South Wales government banning greyhound racing, there won’t be any more like Jim. The mysterious newspaper editor who loves the dogs. No one knows where he was born, nor when or where he died. No photo of him has been found. There’ll never be another like him.


The family live on however. Today a great-grandson Zach is an architect and circus performer.

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About Harold Peacock

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